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Thursday, April 29, 2010

To Caps Fans: I Apologize

Wow, are the next few days going to royally stink if you're into sucking up every word, every video, every second of media coverage.

Fingers are going to be pointed in every direction. Someone will call for McPhee's head, someone (or more than one someone) will call for Boudreau's head. Sidney Crosby is a winner, Alex Ovechkin is not. You'll hear that a lot. What do Alexander Semin and the Invisible Man have in common? Everything. They're the same guy.

Once I finish posting this, I'm going to ignore it all. I can't deal with it. My stomach hurts badly enough as it is and, besides, I know the real problem here.

Me. I jump hard on the bandwagon and this happens. For whatever reason, my teams have that little storm cloud of Joe Blpstk hanging over them.

I apologize to all of you. I assure you it won't happen again. I'm going to make like Michael Phelps and swim as far and as fast away from it as I can. I have enough crap to keep me awake at night, give me ulcers, make me mumble. I don't need anything else.

As a nod to the Kentucky Derby (the greatest single event in sports), I'll quote an unknown trainer's response when he was asked if he bet: "Bet? No way. These sumbitches have me talking to myself enough as it is."

Exactly. I'm out. But before I go - do not change the GM, do not change the coach. They've put together a team that is light years ahead of where it was a few short years ago. Now it is on them to rearrange some of the pieces and fix this so you remaining Caps fans don't have to deal with this nonsense anymore. Losing to the eighth seed is not like a 16 over a 1 in the NCAA tournament. It happens - didn't it happen to San Jose just last year? But you go up 3-1 on the eighth seed? You win that. Easy. In five.

Not the Caps. What they did was drain the life right out of me.

But, hey, HOW 'BOUT THOSE NATS! My Son The Braves Fan tried to cheer me up this a.m. by saying, "At least you root for a good baseball team." Seems his squad is up to eight straight and counting on the loss side. Normally, I might take pleasure in that.

Not today. Instead, I wonder if I ought to get out of the Nats business before I ruin them, too.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Head Hurts

You'll have to forgive this as it has little to do with the Nationals. Well, nothing actually, except they play baseball and this is about baseball. I could write another post professing my never-ending Man Love for Livo but I think my small cadre of followers gets the message there. I could write the Pirates another thank you note for Mr. Capps but I don't want to get too cocky in April.

Instead, I want to send a bill to the Sabermetrics folks for the truckload of Advil I just ordered. MY HEAD HURTS. STOP IT ALREADY.

I've poked fun at what I call Slide Rule Baseball before and most of it is just that. The fact that I don't understand all these convoluted, made-up stats doesn't mean they aren't legitimate. It means you have to be a lot smarter than I am to figure it all out.

But this took me over the edge.

Some background - I spend time at a site most for sports journalists called, yeah, I'm one of the moderators. The site has been a great resource for me. I've made some friends from the site, seen my network grow considerably. And lost a lot of hair.

Lots of SABR types there, too, and some were out in force when the discussion turned to Ryan Howard's new deal. For the record, I think it is excessive because I don't think anyone is worth that kind of money. I also had no idea until my first game this season that Howard was 30. For some reason, I thought he was 26 or so.

I do concede he's one of the better players in the game, something some of the SABRs are arguing otherwise. Though one of the arguments claims convoluted stats show he's 40th best. Really? You know, that pretty much puts him in the top five percent. I think if you are better than 94 out of every 100, you are one of the better players.

I cut this verbatim from one of the posts. The guy who posted it is a good guy, just a little over the top with his slide rule stuff. The following is why I need Advil by the score:

Wins Above Replacement is derived by taking the average number of runs per win in baseball and dividing that into Runs Above Replacement. RAR is calculated by taking the following: Batting Runs Above Average, Fielding Runs Above Average, a positional adjustment and a replacement level adjustment.

Batting Runs is derived from a linear weights formula (basically, they do a regression analysis to decide how much, on average, a batting event is worth. On average, a HR is worth 1.7 runs more than an out, a single is worth 0.77 runs more than an out, etc. Then a player is credited each time he does those things with the determined run value).

Fielding Runs is derived from a stat called Ultimate Zone Rating, which credits fielders with making plays on balls hit in their area and debits them for plays tha't don't get made.

A positional adjustment is the average number of runs the average player at that player's position is worth compared to the average hitter in general. A first baseman or corner outfielder will get dinged, but a middle infielder or catcher or CF will gain some value because those are positions where offenses is scarcer, and thus more valuable.

The replacement level adjustment is just a cosmetic change that shifts the scale. Average players have value, so instead of comparing the players to average, they compare them to the theoretical "replacement player," which is the player any team could have for nothing of value anytime they needed one. Your basic AAAA scrub free agent type.

WAR has become a popular "total value" stat because it is listed at, which is the best site on the web for baseball information (Their pitch data would be fascinating to non-statheads as well. It records things like what percentage of time a player was thrown a fastball, curveball, slider, etc., what percentage of the time they swung at pitches out of the zone, what percentage of the time they made contact on those swings, etc.)

All of the stats can be found in slightly more detailed explanations here: but it's a little convoluted.

Me again - A little convoluted? Ay yi yi yi yi. Quit screwing with my simple game. That's why I enjoy it, it's simple enough for a simpleton like me to understand.

And I'll throw out this challenge again. You pick a team based on Slide Rule Stats. I'll pick a team based on guys I think, through observation and regular stats (like HR, RBI, average, that kind of thing) can play a little.

I'll kick your ass 10 ways to Sunday, paying no attention to BAPIP, VAPIP, ORP, GORP, VOMIT, GAS, HOSSCRAP and DUNKADOO. The only SABR that will matter is my made-up one: SWS (go through the archives for an explanation - Sir Strasburg has it).

Anybody have any water? The first 10 pills went down easily enough, I need help with rest. Oh, and let's go Caps. Make the old joke (What's Red, White and Blue and plays golf in May? The CAPS!) moot.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Sucker's Bet

A few random thoughts on a sunny (for now) Monday a.m.

*Last year, I took My Son The Braves Fan to Atlanta for the first weekend series of the year as his Christmas present. We had a blast despite the 0-3 showing (or 3-0 if you're MSTBF). It seems Washington and Atlanta played 30 times in the first 20 games of the past two seasons. In mid-March, we were planning our attacks on Nats-Braves games and I noted the abundance of playoff teams in Washington's first 20 games.

"Wow, that could get ugly," my son said. It could, I agreed. So he offered me a bet: The Braves would have twice as many wins as the Nats after 20.

We're not to 20 yet but the Nats have 10 wins. I haven't paid too much attention but I don't think the Braves are 20-0. Didn't the Braves just get swept by the Mets?

I love it when I don't have to wash my own clothes for a month.

*Yesterday's game was why I ranted about Scott Olsen being sent out in favor of Garrett Mock to start the season. I noted and several others reminded me that I was really splitting hairs. Does it matter? Take yesterday and take also Olsen's game against the Braves last July - yes, it does matter. Have we seen anything close to that out of Mock on his best days? Olsen needs to be closer to that level a little more often but the odds of getting a well-pitched game are much better when he's on the mound over Mock.

*Cribbed from The Sporting News, our old friend Mike Bacsik and Twitter prove to be a bad combination.

*Hit my magic mark again in last week's poll thank you very much. We got 103 votes and 38 think Adam Kennedy will be the surprise player this season. Ian Desmond got 20, Willie Harris 19, Mike Morse 14 and Roger Bernadina 12.

Poor timing for Morse and his injury. Not sure how close he is to being ready but do you want to disrupt things now? Who goes out to bring him back?

New poll going up as soon as I get this posted. Maybe I'll get greedy and start begging for 150 votes.

*Clicker night, with the Caps going and the Nats in Chicago. Caps need to close it out tonight. Is Alexander Semin really FLop without the attitude? Or does he have attitude? Where's he been during the playoffs and who is that wearing his uniform?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I May Have to Move

I've become a little unpopular in my own house.

When my new hero Tyler Clippard pitches, I've taken to standing up and pointing at the TV and screaming the Kenny Powers line.

Watch the video if you can't remember, just don't do it with kids or other impressionables in the room. Decorum prohibits me from typing the line here because, well, I try to be more classy than that. I'd never actually yell it in public. Just in the privacy of my own family room.

Probably only when I'm alone in the future.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I Want A Pair of Those Glasses

My wife and I were in Seattle in June, 2008 when Tyler Clippard made one of his two starts that season. In the sixth or seventh inning, the Mariners loaded the bases and Richie Sexson came to bat.

Yeah, I know. Most of the Mariners fans around me groaned and assured me the rally was over (Mariners fans are the nicest people in the world, by the way). Still, Sexson was a power hitter capable of turning the game ugly. It was not a particularly easy assignment for Clippard but Manny Acta opted to let him handle it.

Clippard struck Sexson out. Again, yeah, I know. Richie Sexson. You're just going to have to trust me. Something about the way Clippard carried himself, well, it was encouraging. I thought the Nats had found a reliable starter.

That said, I want the person who decided to make him a reliever to come forward and be awarded a medal. Even if it was JimBow. Tilt your head ever so slightly and let us hang it around your neck. Let us applaud. Great call.

Most of those kind of switches are made because a team either doesn't have room in its rotation or isn't too sure exactly what it has in a certain pitcher (coughMockcough). That's probably the case with the Clippard decision, too, but to use a bad cliche, he took to it like a duck to water.

There may not be a National I enjoy watching work more these days. He rares back, he fires and BAM. Go sit down. I don't think it's possible for me to like him more, even if he pulled a Kenny Powers after each strikeout.

And he looks so daggone cool in those glasses. Eighteen strikeouts in 13.2 innings, with four Ks coming last night.

He's the Nationals' All-Star rep at this point (never too early for that nonsense, is it). I'd even name him First Three Weeks Cy Young. To heck with Ubaldo and Halladay! OK, I'm way biased and way off base there. My point is, he's lights out and fun to watch.

Last night's real stars were Rip Van Dunn, finally waking up, and Luis Atilano, whose seven-letter last name was prounced a dozen or so different ways on television (at-til-lawn-o, my friend Jill says). A debut to remember, for sure, and I'm interested to see what he can do in the future. Is he a keeper or a spaceholder? Do we send flowers and chocolates to Atlanta as a thank you? Get back to me on all that.

Right now, I'm headed to eBay to type in "Tyler Clippard glasses" and see what comes up.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Floating what? Loose what?

I am not a doctor. I don't even figure out what's wrong with me, let alone other people. I'm easily confused.

But I'm really confused by this issue with Jason Marquis and his elbow. He has stuff floating around in there? He won't need surgery? This stuff is just going to dissolve if he doesn't pitch? It's going to float somewhere else? Or is it going stop floating and settle in for a nice rest while he rests, only to shake it up and start floating when he pitches again?

How do you get these floating whatevers the heck out of there?

Years ago, I had some stuff floating it my right knee. Cartilage is what it was, thanks to a softball injury. Yep, softball. I'm not manly enough to get hurt playing football. I was told I might be OK forever. Or I might have one of those pieces float somewhere it shouldn't and cause all kinds of problem if it did.

I would think stuff floating around in an elbow that is used for pretty strenuous stuff like pitching might be a problem, too, if not removed.

But what do I know?

Will we see Wang pitch before we see Marquis again. Who is this cat pitching tomorrow, speaking of elbows? Is the first round of the draft ever going to end? It seems as if the guy the Redskins picked is in his third year in the league already.

I do know this. The Nats will win tonight. Book it. The Caps and the Habs have played four games thus far and the Nats have won all four. Nats fans needs the Caps to win the Stanley Cup, with every series going seven games. That gives the Nats 28 wins.

Naw, forget that. The Caps need to close it out tonight.

Meanwhile, I'm headed to WebMD to figure out this elbow mystery.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I'm not a huge TV guy but I am watching more than I used to and I blame my family.

Monday and Tuesday have become unofficial TV nights around here. My wife and son sucked me into House. Then we go to Two and A Half Men (fading fast) and Big Bang Theory. That's Monday. On Tuesday there's NCIS and NCIS-LA, probably my two favorite shows. Now we have Glee! thrown into the mix.

I did see Modern Family once and liked it and would like to see more. But I don't even know its regular night.

The point of all this? The Nats fell behind 10-0 just in time for me to go "click" and watch my shows. I have no idea what happened after that but I sat through one attempted comeback from 10-0 this week and that was enough.

We taped NCIS-LA and watched Glee! Great show, not a great episode. It ended just in time for us to catch the finish of the Phillies-Braves, which thrilled my son The Braves Fan to no end. Now THAT was a finish. And, with the Phillies on the other side, we're all Braves fans.

I like that Heyward kid. Time to work out a trade.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

MORE love for Livo

How 'bout those Caps? Oh wait, we're back to baseball.

Maybe instead of NationalsCapsFanboyLooser I ought to change the name of this thing to LivoFanboyLooser. Yes, I realize I gush about the guy a lot. Yes, there are two signed baseballs on my collector's case in the family room and he's one of them. Yes, I know I put a lot of faith in the guy because oh so many people think we're twins.

But I also really believe he's a good influence as well as a pretty good pitcher still. Great? Yeah, some days but not overall. He'll get lit more than once. I keep coming back to one thing, sounding way too much like Rob Dibble: He'll give you a chance to win more often than not.

The other thing I'm loving right now is the idea of Livo as Mentor. Kind of humorous that the Nats made a mentoring type of veteran one of their offseason goals and they had one under their nose (a big one, hard to miss) the whole time.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad Jason Marquis is on the club - sticking to that for a while anyway. He's been around awhile and will sort things out.

Maybe Livo can help him, too.

The Post wrote about it and Mark Zuckerman did, too. Livo and Stammen have bonded. Did you see who gave Stammen a high five and huge smile as they came out of the dugout at the end of the game? Livo. They talked in the outfield on Sunday.

Unless I'm reading things wrong, the guy is a good influence. And how can you not love a guy who can still go out and soft toss his way to a complete-game shutout?

Livo might be the answer to the Caps' power play as well. I have that much faith in the guy.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

From SeamHead to PuckHead?

First, let me make this clear up front - that's now 4-0 for "my" teams with me in the house. Nats 2-0, Caps 1-0 and Richmond Revolution 1-0. Boo-YAH. After going winless for so long in 2009, I'm going to puff out that chest.

Now on to the real point: Wow. Holy Moly. Sweet Mother. WOW.

It's not too much of a reach to say yesterday ranks among my all-time Top 10 days. Maybe top five. The baseball game was a lot of fun because, as I've made clear, I'm a major Livo Fanboy Looser and he pitched a pretty OK game. The MASN folks, as expected, did a major job taking care of us wretched denizens of Mom's Basement. Shout out to Todd Webster and Kristen Hudak for setting that up.

But as great as it was, it was NOT the highlight of the day. I may have to change the name of this here blog to NationalsCapitalsFanboyLooser. Very tempting, though I'm not sure I can handle another obsession. The one I have is borderline killing me - and I don't have room for more hats, shirts and other knick knacks. Nor the money.

In my previous life, I saw a lot of really cool stuff. I saw Francisco Cabrera drive that stake through the Pirates' heart back in 1992 in Atlanta. I did two Olympics. I could go on.

I saw the Zimmerman Walk Off of 2008 on Opening Night.

The Caps game may have been the coolest thing I've ever seen or done.

I went with my "krew" - blog correspondent Ryan Sonner, Michael Phillips and Shawn Fenner. Michael, who some of you may know from his days at, is some sort of ticket magician and he came up with amazing club level seats. So the company was good and the view was exceptional.

The game was incredible. Here's a news flash, picked up quickly by a guy at his first playoff game and first NHL game of any kind in six years: Backstrom is really good. In case you missed THE moment.

I love baseball, love to be at the park but it is way more low-key. Hockey is one of the few sports where live may be better for viewing than TV. You can see so much more of what happens, you can follow the puck a lot easier for some reason. Pretty much every time I see a goal on TV, I ask is it in? Didn't have to ask any of the ELEVEN times it went in last night (three by Backstrom and he would have had my Nats hat had I worn it).

I suspect all teams do this but I have no basis of comparison. All I know is the Caps do a pretty remarkable job of working the crowd, creating a tremendous atmosphere. Of course, the way the game developed and turned out helped. If it was 4-1 Habs late in the third, I suspect the buzz would have been pretty much gone.

Ah, but it wasn't. It was 4-1 Habs at one point and 6-5 Caps at the end. The wait between the end of the third period and OT was excruciating. I took a walk around the concourse. I told my buds if OT went too long, they'd have to drag my fat, dead ass out of there. Ryan said, "You can't blink at one of these games." It was his first live NHL game of any kind.

So they dropped the puck, paid a brief visit to the other end. Backstrom came flying down the ice. BAM. Game over. He had a window about as big as a mail slot and he drove that biscuit right through. The place went nuts.

So now that I'm some kind of expert, let me offer my analysis: The Caps need to go into Montreal tomorrow and snap their heads off. Two or three quick goals, remind those Habs that fun time is over and win this thing 4-1.

Goalies? Well, that's a tough one. I understand the move my new favorite coach made last night. He said on the postgame that the energy drained right out of his bench on the second goal. They were soft but Theodore didn't get much help. I can't put them all on him. Do you come back with him or just stick with Varlamov, in which case you better hope Varlamov is nails from here on out because Theodore is Capital-D Done.

I'm in too deep already. Somebody throw me a rope.

Aw, hell with it. When's the next doubleheader?

To answer a question in a comment on my previous post about gear, uh, ah, can I plead the fifth? My wife reads this blog.

I have no Caps stuff. That must change. I've added only two Nats hats this year, my annual St. Patrick's Day hat and the new BP hat. I usually buy a new white hat every year but did not this year. My daughter gave me an e-Bay gift card for Christmas and I used it on a Nationals picture frame (for a picture of us at the game) and a Nationals calendar.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

DH Day

That's DH as in doubleheader.

I never thought I'd see the day any time soon when I was more confident about the Nats' chances than I was about the Caps' chances. I'll be there live for both events today, putting the pressure on those teams to keep me unbeaten in 2010.

The fine folks at MASN are doing a repeat of their successful Bloggers' Day and I'll thank them in advance for the invitation. My kind doesn't get to hang in the suites too often so I figured I should take advantage. Don't worry. I'll be on my best behavior and won't embarrass the blogging community.

Last year's event was very well done. We got to see the production truck, meet some of the key people and spend some time with each other. The only blemish was the Phillies were in town and Raul Ibanez hit a home run every time up.

This year's Nats are 2-4 against the Phillies and 3-1 against the rest of the world. The only solution is to stop scheduling Philadelphia.

It is very nice of Ryan Zimmerman to make his return to the lineup with all the bloggers in the house.

Afterward, I'm changing shirts and heading over to whatever they call the MCI Center these days. Last time I was there, I can't tell you who was coaching the Caps. Olie Kolzig was in goal. He beat Philadelphia 2-1 in the final game before the trading deadline and got a huge roar because everyone figured he'd be moved. He wasn't. I don't think I can name another Cap who played that night. A bunch were traded after that game. I'm pretty sure it was early March, 2004.

I tore the house apart to find the only red shirt I own that doesn't have a Nationals logo. I hope it still fits. Can't go to the WhateverCenter if I'm not rocking the red.

I'm very eager to see Alex Ovechkin live. I hope he takes a shot.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Uh, Gross - But Had to Share

Anyone see this lovely story from Citizens Bank Park Wednesday.?


And the Nationals fans thought their experiences with Philly fans were problematic. These people even turn on their own!

Let me repeat that I've never had a problem with a Phillies fan. And I've never been yakked on by someone outside my own family. But I did get a chuckle out of this story.

I just wish I hadn't read it right after lunch.

Here's a good read on Philly fans, and a good way to get a plug in for my new favorite Web site.

The DFA Blues

Jason Bergmann was part of the answer to one of my still-favorite trivia questions: Which players have appeared in at least one game every season since the Nationals came to D.C.

There's only one left on the active roster. A gimme, if you ask me, but I've asked three people this a.m. and no one got it on first guess.

There's a chance, I suppose, that Bergmann could return and make it seven seasons with at least one appearance but I suspect someone else will snap him up. He's shown just enough that someone will take the chance.

He had his moments but they were too infrequent. Seems like a very good guy. My media buddies say he was always wide open with them and it looks like that didn't stop when he got DFA'ed.

I hope he finds a landing spot. I can't argue with the Nationals' decision here, though. I don't think he made the progress anyone, including Bergmann, wanted to see him make.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


OK, so Zim is NOT playing tonight and the worry meter is indeed off the charts.

I'm starting a pool, give your guess in the comments section - what day will Zim go on the 15-day DL? Not the retroactive date, the day the club actually makes the move. Add your guess on when he'll play again, too, if you'd like.

I should have made it my poll question for the week, and I would have had time considering how slow the Nats are about making these kinds of decisions. It will still be "a little tight, just a precaution" in a week or so when he finally goes on the DL.

Also, I won't be repeating this post this season.

I'm watching the Orioles now and they're about to fall to 1-8. They look awful. They drew 9,100 and change the other night. The hotshot new closer is already on the DL and, apparently, on the managers Sh** List.

I don't much understand it. I don't pay attention too closely but I thought the Orioles were putting it together a little bit last season. Their version of Greatness, Matt Wieters, is still on the club.

This is about to be an 0-6 opening homestand. They could have a crowd of 11 when they come back from the west coast.

I still like their hats.

Livo and other scattered thoughts

Clearing a pretty uncluttered mind after an off day:

*Give Me Livo or Give Me Death! I've put on a suit of armor to prepare for the attack of those smarter with numbers. I'm sure there are a million new-fangled stats and reasons to say I'm crazy. Well, crazy this: If I'm told I can pick one Nats starter to throw a game to spare my life, until The Man arrives I'm going with Livan Hernandez. I may be dead by the second inning because when he gets lit, he gets lit hard. I'll take my chances. More often than not, to use a RobDibbleism, he gives your team a chance to win. What, six of eight quality starts last season in Washington? And his first outing this year was by far far far far the best the Nats have seen. I love watching the guy pitch. If he gets torched his next two outings, I'll say the same thing. I'm tired of watching guys who get all flustered by the first bad break. Stuff happens. Sack up and deal with it. Livan is the same guy whether he throws a perfect inning or gets taken deep three times.

*Results of the previous poll, which drew 97 votes (SO CLOSE): The Man didn't get as much love as I thought he would in the winningest pitcher poll. I didn't think he'd get the most votes but I thought it would be close. It was not. John Lannan got 45 votes, Jason Marquis 18, The Man 14, Livo 12, Craig Stammen 7 and "A Reliever" got 1. I voted for Strasburg and I'm sticking with that. A new poll will be up shortly after this post is posted.

*Has Elijah Dukes been picked up by anyone yet? No wiseguys, I mean a baseball team and not a random law enforcement agency. I don't think he has but I may have missed it. The thought came to me recently when I read one of Brian Oliver's always-outstanding reports at and noticed Glenn Gibson was back. He's the Class A pitcher Washington gave up to get Dukes. He's still a Class A pitcher, which appears to be more than Dukes is at this point.

*If Ryan Zimmerman doesn't play tonight, my worry meter will go into overdrive. I don't want to hear, "Well, he's feeling better but it is a little cool out so we'll give it another day." We've heard that line before. If it is minor, he'll be back tonight. If he's not back tonight, it says to me there's more concern than they're letting on and we've seen how that's worked out way too many times.

*Passing along as a public service:

Children’s National Medical Center is proud to partner with The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation to encourage area baseball fans to support children with diabetes. A portion of every ticket sold at for the Sunday, April 25 game between the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers will help Children's National Medical Center create a world-class Diabetes Care Complex. For every $24 ticket sold through Children’s National Medical Center, $8 (one-third of the ticket cost) will go toward construction of the complex.

In partnership with the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, Children’s National Medical Center is building a new Diabetes Care Complex to provide expanded state-of-the-art, family-centered, and personalized care to children in the Washington region and beyond. By supporting the Diabetes Care Complex at Children’s National Medical Center, you will help provide the education, medical, and emotional support that children with diabetes need to lead healthy and happy lives.

In order to participate in Children’s National Day, tickets must be purchased through this link

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

RIP Leonard Alley

This post has little to do with the Nationals besides the baseball connection but I will bet there are many in the Nationals organization who will recognize the name.

Leonard Alley, the longtime scorer for the Richmond Braves and International League, died Sunday night at 60. Leonard was going to be the scorer for the new Richmond Flying Squirrels, who play their home opener this week. Having a new team in town - and a team he could score for - had Leonard excited like the proverbial kid at Christmas.

Leonard was my friend for a long, long time. I met him when I was a freshman at VCU and I don't think I attended a dozen sporting events in Richmond in the ensuing years that Leonard didn't attend in some capacity. He helped out The Associated Press in town and was part of more stat crews than you could count. He was a stereotypical stats geek and I mean that in the best way possible.

If Leonard said, "Richmond has missed 17 of its last 18 shots" you didn't have to check. Richmond had missed 17 of its last 18. If I said in an offhand way, "Wow, this kid has been on fire," Leonard would instantly come back with "12 points in the last 2:02" and you didn't have to check. It was 12 points in the last 2:02.

The obituary in my old paper mentions he scored 750 straight games. Unreal.

He scored games firmly but fairly. He changed a few calls over the years. Not many. "There's a reason there's a rule and we'll go by it," was one of his favorite phrases.

Leonard took his work very seriously but didn't take himself seriously at all, which added to the fun. He could give and he could take and we laughed a lot.

One basketball game a dozen years ago led to what became a standard greeting between us. VCU was playing Liberty and a VCU freshman named Shawn Hampton was on the foul line late in the first half, shooting for his 20th point.

"I don't think VCU has ever had a freshman get 20 in a half," Leonard said.

"Half" was fresh out of his mouth when Hampton clanged the shot. Badly. I shot Leonard a look and said, "Look what you've done!" I'm not sure Hampton ever got his 20th that night. I know it took him about 10 games to score another 19 points total. After Hampton's fifth or sixth straight game with zero, one or two points, Leonard said, "I'm really starting to feel bad about this."

Pretty much every time I saw him after that, I'd greet him as either Leonardo or Leapin' and say, "Hey, Shawn Hampton is looking for you." And he'd come back with, "That's OK. If he takes a swing at me, I'm pretty sure he'll miss."

Rest in peace, my friend.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Report from the Altoona Bureau

I met my man Ryan Sonner years ago when he had the misfortune to attend a seminar discussion I was leading. We've stayed in touch over the years.

We're a lot alike, unfortunately for him. Both ugly. Both former newspaper guys. Both married up (way, way up in his case).

Ryan headed to Alabama for a while, working in Josh Willingham's hometown while finishing school. He came back to the D.C. area and got a job near the stadium. He also got a season-ticket package and curses me pretty regularly for dragging him into the abyss of Nats fandom.

But we need to be clear here: HE is the one who trucked it to Altoona, not me. I'm glad he did. He's been officially annointed as the Nationals Fanboy Looser Network and I appreciate his efforts in filing the following report:

Sunday started with cautious optimism. It ended with a smile so big, it couldn’t be wiped away with a catcher’s mitt.

Simply put, The Man was everything I thought he’d be. And then some. It was well worth the six-hour roundtrip drive from Alexandria to Altoona, Pa., on Sunday. Well worth missing what I’ve been told was an incredible final round at the Masters. And well worth the minor sunburn on my poor head.

I’ve boiled Sunday down to three key parts, and I’ll start with the most obvious.

*Stephen Strasburg: Dude was straight dealing. A minor hiccup in the first and a couple errors behind him in the fourth notwithstanding, no self-respecting Nats fan could walk away Sunday feeling anything but good about Strasburg’s professional debut.

After that first inning, in which he gave up a couple of two-out hits that allowed his only earned run of the game to score, he settled down nicely and started to mix in some off-speed stuff, which was just as effective as his heater. About that heater… it reportedly topped out at a cool 100 mph and was consistently in the 97-99 range all afternoon. Really, it was enough to make a grown man cry. Strasburg retired eight straight Altoona batters before his defense let him down, allowing the Curve (one of the coolest names in minor league baseball) to take a 4-0 lead.

Strasburg gave up four hits, struck out eight and walked two before the offense came around in Harrisburg’s 6-4 win. He even helped himself out in the bottom of the fourth with a hard-hit RBI double to right. That may have been his proudest moment Sunday, although he’ll never publicly say so. Here’s why: as he was taking his cuts in the on-deck circle, a few inebriated fans about 30 feet away started heckling him. Big time. They played all the hits, too – “You’re overrated Strasburg!”, “You ain’t worth all that money, kid!”, “You’re getting rocked, Strasburg. Go back to San Diego!”, “Fifteen million? Pfft. Too bad you can’t hit!” They just wouldn’t quit.

When Strasburg pulled into second base after crushing the ball into right field, he kind of glared back in the hecklers’ general direction. We didn’t hear another peep from those knuckleheads the rest of the day. Point is, Strasburg seems fully capable of dealing with knuckleheads. And pressure.

*The park: Absolutely beautiful, especially when it’s 70 and sunny and filled with Nationals fans. The facade, with its gorgeous brickwork, reminded me of Camden Yards. Inside, the price tags reminded me of 1985, which is a good thing. You know those 12 oz. beers they sell for $8 at Nats Park? Try $6 for a 32 ouncer. And on Thirsty Thursdays, you can buy a 16 oz. draft beer for -- wait for it, wait for it -- $1.50.

Also, on Tuesdays, you can buy two tickets, two hot dogs and two popcorns for the backbreaking price of a buck. My wife, Summer, and I each had a hot dog, split an order of chili cheese fries and split a large coke. For $12!! So yeah, that was pretty nice.
Fortunately, I ordered our tickets for the game about 2.3 seconds after the Nats announced the date of The Man’s debut. We sat just left of home plate, five rows up on the aisle. Two tickets, plus the service charge, for $24. Perfect.

It really didn’t matter, though. From the looks of it, there’s not a bad seat in the house. And just about every one of those seats was filled Sunday. I can’t imagine that happens too often in Altoona. One of the coolest things about the park is the gianormous roller coaster behind the rightfield fence. Doesn’t look all that safe, but apparently, it’s part of a neighboring amusement park. I’m still not sure about Altoona’s mascot, though. At various points, we saw a pitbull-looking thing, a fish (named Al Tuna. Ha!) and something that reminded me of Gunston, the former George Mason University mascot. Weird, but whatever.

*The fans: Remember how angry everyone felt when the Phillies fans invaded Nats Park last week? Sunday was just like that – on a much smaller scale, obviously. Oh, and the Nats fans were way nicer than those donks from Philly. I swear the Nats fans in attendance outnumbered the home fans 25-1. Maybe more. The lines to get in snaked around into the adjacent parking lots, and some of the locals seemed downright freaked out by all the visitors. It was nice to be on the other side of that deal for once. Even the Curve fans were awestruck by The Man. Every time he stepped into the on-deck circle, a few of them scurried down as close as they could get and had someone take their picture with Strasburg in the background. My wife wanted me to do that, but I passed.

All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The weather rocked. The stadium rocked. And The Man rocked. I heard Drew Storen picked up the save, but who cares? (We left in the middle of the fifth, before The Man probably even took a seat in the dugout.) This day was about Strasburg. And boy did he deliver. I wouldn’t consider myself a die-hard Nats fan by any stretch, but for those of you who are, get ready. This kid is going to be something special. It’ll be worth the wait.

I’d like to close by thanking Mike for allowing me to share my thoughts. You’re a good man, Mike. I don’t care what anyone says.

(Our Man Can Hit, Too - photo courtesy of Summer Sonner)

Strasburg Love Fest

The Nats' broadcast team pointed out that 75 media requests were granted for today's Stephen Strasburg Start in Altoona, Pa. That's about 70 more than usual, so the team dispatched PR guru extraordinaire Mike Gazda to help with it all.

Most of the usual outlets have someone there. Nationals Fanboy Looser didn't want to be left out, so we reached into our NFLN (Nationals Fanboy Looser Network). My main man Ryan Sonner is there, sitting in the stands of what he calls a great park. He'll file a full report once he gets home. He really seems to love the place but I'm a bit concerned about what he'll look like and what the report he sends will look like because this is the first picture he sent:

Into every sunny day

it seems we must get a bit of a dark cloud.

Yesterday was about as good as it gets, at least for me, sports wise. The Masters is probably my second favorite event behind the Kentucky Derby and we almost saw a guy eagle THREE straight holes. A non-Tiger guy, too, which made it even better. I'll save the Tiger debate for another day and just say here I hope he doesn't win. Ever again if I want to prolong this, but I don't.

In hockey, the Bruins scored three short-handed goals on the same power play. Stunning. If only it had happened to the Penguins.

I even ventured out last night to see our local indoor football team, the Richmond Revolution. Of course, the Revolution won because "my" teams don't lose with me in the house this season. Richmond was up 26 points going into the fourth quarter and needed two interceptions by the same player in the final 90 seconds to hold on and win 45-39.

And how 'bout them Nats? Yesterday's victory gave me the Willies! Or the Willys, take your pick. Dang, I should be writing headlines again.

I love Willie Harris as super-utility guy. I refuse to jump on the Willy Taveras train despite his career day. I'm still a little stunned he's on the team, though I will give him his due for yesterday. I do wish the broadcast booth would pick a pronunciation and stick with it. One called him TavAres and the other TavEras, which prompted my wife to ask which was correct. My guess, giving the spelling, is TavEras. Since he's the Nats' new best outfielder ever, I hope they come to a consensus.

Of course, part of the TV team would have to stop cheering, clapping and criticizing umpires long enough to work out this Taveras thing.

Tyler Clippard was fun to watch and I get some sort of odd pleasure out of watching Matt Capps. It takes me way back to the days of what's his name, Stanhouse? The reliever who used to make Earl Weaver go smoke in the tunnel?

More good news: just "tweeted" that Garrett Mock has been optioned to make room for Livan Hernandez. Good. No offense, Mock, but that's the right move. It gives the team a week to watch the relievers and then recall a deserving starter (smart money is on Olsen).

My rain cloud is this "precautionary" removal of Ryan Zimmerman because of a hamstring. He'll be out a couple of days, Nationals Journal said. We were told the removal of Jordan Zimmermann from the rotation was precautionary, too. No need to list all the injury issues once more. Let's just say I'll feel better when Z-single-n is actually out there playing and I hope it is Wednesday in Philadelphia and not next month. Jesus Flores was supposed to return last season in Philadelphia, too, though maybe they really meant Philadelphia in 2011.

Can't let it ruin my day. We have another crystal-clear blue sky morning here. The coffee tastes great. The dogs are outside chasing a ball and who knows what else. You never know what morning surprise they'll drag into the house.

The Nats are on at 1 and the back nine of the Masters is on after that.

I'll start worrying again tomorrow.

Friday, April 9, 2010

You can re-tweet, can you re-post?

I think back to my post from earlier this week while watching this awful display of alleged major-league pitching in New York.

Yeah, I know Scott Olsen didn't exactly tear it up today for Syracuse. I'd still rather have him out there over Garrett Mock 10 times a week.

To their credit, Bob and Rob aren't holding back in the booth. I get the sense lots of people are getting tired of watching Garrett Mock not get any better.

I'm still eager for the explanation of how an 0-4 spring with a high ERA earns someone a spot in the big league rotation. I'm not so sure it should earn you a spot in Syracuse.

I'm very willing to bet there are 4-5 guys in Syracuse right now who would be less painful to watch.

That's it. We're done.

My wife had a pretty difficult week after a couple of visits to the dentist. Keeping up with the media and blogs and all the discussion about the Philly invasion was out of the question. So I got a good chuckle yesterday about the sixth inning or so when she turned to me in our seats in section 133 and said:

"What the hell is with all the Phillies fans? Are we the only Nationals Fans here?"

From our seats, it was easy to think that way. I'd guess, conservately, that our section, the three to our right and two to our left were 90 percent Phillies fans. They were out in force but other than one yelling "Nationals Fans SUCK" during introductions, we have no complaints. Probably a dozen shook my hand on the way out, said congrats and "hang in there." One said, "Be patient, the Nats will get there." He couldn't answer when I asked when and didn't seem to care when I explained this was the start of my sixth year of patience. I'm running out of time here.

We decided on our way out that we wouldn't be going back. It has nothing to do with the experience. It was a totally fine day with my family. We're not going back because we want to retire unbeaten for a season. Last year, we didn't see our first win until early May. Only way to keep that zero on our 2010 loss record is to stay away.

Our ballpark experience was like it's always been since the move to Nats Park. If there's anything new, we didn't notice. The team store looked almost barren for some reason. Nothing struck me as a must have. I went with my usual food (Hard Times). The kids loaded up on dogs outside the gate but made Uncle Stan happy by drinking several eight-dollar beers. I won't drink ballpark beer. No way I'll pay eight bucks for ONE beer.

One interesting moment that I hope wasn't caught on tape:

When they shot those t-shirts into the stands, one of them landed about five rows in front of me in the aisle. Showing a nimbleness I didn't know I still had, I set off after the shirt. So did a woman who looked to be about my age, coming from the other direction. She was smiling, I was smiling. My kids were yelling. I got there first. Boo-YAH! I still got it!

That's when I picked up on what my kids were saying. There was a third competitor for the shirt, a young man who was probably six or so. The kids were yelling, "DAD, GET OUT OF THE KID'S WAY!"

Oops. Please don't be on the video screen blocking out a first-grader.

I did the honorable thing and gave the shirt to the kid (no way that would make the screen). Told him it was all his, I just want to see if I could still move at my age. We both laughed.

Ah, but that's not the end of it.

Five minutes later, he taps me on the shoulder and says, "Sir, thanks for the shirt. You can have this."

He handed me a sausage that felt like a brick. They actually do put sausages in the shirts?? I hate to be a naysayer about anything free but UCK. It was nasty. My son did manage to eat half of it despite my wife begging him not to even try.

They can't put a coupon for a free fresh, hot sausage in there?

I didn't get a good look at the shirt. I dig t-shirts. Is it small of me to admit I'm sitting here wondering if I should of kept it? Kidding, kidding.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Off to the ballpark

Should be an interesting late afternoon. Got some of the re-educating of my wife out of the way last night. Marquis. Kennedy. Rodriguez. She must have asked me "who are these guys?" 100 times last night as we watched Loss No. 2.

I just hope the weather holds. I got rained on way too much last year.

Not going to make as many games this year so I'm going to try and NOT stress over results. I just want to enjoy a nice, sunny afternoon with my family watching some ball.

Remind me of that about the fifth inning when I'm bashing my head against a railing somewhere.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A little context, please

Ticket-gate is gaining traction as a mainstream media story now, and I love it that the Washington Post mentioned my blogging buddy The Nationals Enquirer in the second paragraph. Recognize!

I do have a pretty big question about the closing quote from the Phils' Jayson Werth:

During pregame introductions at Nationals Park Monday, Phillies fans booed Nationals staff and players and chanted "Sucks!" after the public announcer bellowed each name.

"That was impressive," Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth said. "It felt like all of right field was only Phillies fans. This kind of started to be our home away from home a little bit."

OK, some background before my question. As much as I hate to admit this, I really like a lot of the Phillies because, well, they're really good. REALLY good. Werth is one of my favorites. I'd pay an arm and a leg to have him in right field for the Nats.

If he was speaking of the general turnout of Phils fans and all, I'm fine with that. It is impressive.

If he was speaking specifically of the "sucks" chants during introductions and calling that impressive, I'm not fine with that and I'll lose a little respect for him. That's not impressive. That's juvenile trash.

I'd really like to know.

Let me add, 90 minutes after my original post: My fear is Werth was talking about the "sucks" chants because Adam is not the type to intentionally write something out of context. If Werth was indeed talking about the fan turnout in general, I don't want my post to come off as a knock on Adam. Proper context is important, always, but you write a zillion stories over the course of a spring and a season and sometimes, well, sometimes it doesn't happen.

Update at 4:30 p.m.: Adam added this explanation at the end of his current NJ:

One very quick clarification: In the story I wrote for today's paper, I ended with a quote from Werth. A few people wondered if he was talking about the fans jeering Nationals or about the crowd in general. Werth was talking about the crowd in general, and it is obvious how it could be misconstrued that he was talking specifically about the jeering. It was unintentional, but I should have been more careful with the quote and the context.

Me again - never for a minute thought it would be intentional. Another reason why I love Adam. Things happen. He owns up.

Congrats, too, to my man Chico for winning an APSE award as noted in that Nationals Journal.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Great Day for Some Great News

You wait all winter for the first game. They call it Opening Day with capital letters for a reason. You buy into the optimism, work up a certain level of excitement and get really eager for the start of what's sure to be a better season.

I kind of went off the deep end after one game last year, a friend noted, and I promised I wouldn't do the same this year even though that 11-1 disaster sure looked a lot like last year right down to Nats Park being Citizens Bank Park South.

But I'm not going off the deep end. I'll wait a couple of days on that. I got so much good news yesterday that the game doesn't really matter.

I'm back in the game! You may notice a new line under the "masthead" for this little blog. It will direct you to the baseball page of a great sports Web site, AOL FanHouse (

I'm now a senior editor for FanHouse. My duties are still being defined but everything we've discussed is right in my wheelhouse and I'm excited beyond words to be joining this organization. Lots of former newspaper people there and that's part of what makes it so attractive. They take a solid newspaper approach - excellent reporting, writing, commentary and more - and apply it to a modern platform. The good ol' Web.

The job will keep me pretty busy, so I don't think I'll get to as many games this summer. Somehow I'll live. They are A-OK with me continuing this blog and with my continuing my teaching as an adjunct at VCU. Those are two things I enjoy so I'm thrilled to be able to keep them on my plate.

I loved the flexibility and freedom of the freelance life but the writing opportunities weren't there like they were so many years ago. Or maybe they were and I spent too much time trying to make Virginia Sports Now work that I whiffed on a few. I still love that site and had a ton of fun doing it. But I discovered that pay content isn't going to really take off just yet. I didn't sell a lot (though I did do three times as well as Newsweek). I had a modest goal for sales and I missed it by more than a modest amount.

Live and learn. The experience made me better and will benefit me in my position with FanHouse.

As for yesterday's game, yeah, I was glad to have some distractions. It was ugly and it showed the gap between the Nationals and Phillies is much, much wider than the short distance that separates the two cities. So short that half of Philadelphia showed up in D.C. for the game.

The quotes I read from Jim Riggleman about that were spot on and in line with what many of us wrote last year. We don't like it? Tough. It's on the Nats to improve to the point where they are the hot ticket and their own fans have trouble getting them. That hasn't happened. This team really can't afford another terrible start. If that happens, it's easy to guess there will be a lot of four-figure crowds on hand until You Know Who shows up. Philadelphia money is just as green as Washington money, so I'm sure the Nats will continue to accept it with a smile.

I'm going to Thursday's game. I'm eager to eat some of that $5 pizza I've heard about and see what other changes have been made. It will probably rain. It did that to me a lot last year. The team will probably be 0-2 when I arrive and 0-3 when I leave. It lost 18 of the first 22 games I saw last season, including the first six or so.

Whatever. It will be a while before this buzz wears off. Look for me. I'll be the big, bald guy - probably soaking wet but wearing a huge smile.

Keep that smile on my face by reading FanHouse - a lot.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Shocked right there with you Scott

Adam Kilgore posted a good Nationals Journal last night about Scott Olsen's reaction to starting the season in Syracuse. Actually, it's the agent talking about Olsen's reaction. I hate that. Not a knock on Adam, that's how a lot of this stuff is done these days and that's what I hate. Olsen can't speak for himself?

I digress, as usual. My point is I don't understand why Olsen isn't in the current rotation. The Nats wanted to see progress over the course of the spring and that's what Olsen appeared to show.

Spring aside, history has to count for something. I saw Olsen pitch a lot last year. I realize we're not talking about the original Stephen Strasburg here. I realize we're not talking about an annual threat for the Cy Young Award. But we do have a still-young left-handed pitcher with a modest record of success.

Last year wasn't a great year for Olsen and I still saw him pitch at least two games that were better than anything I've ever seen out of Garrett Mock. Nothing personal about ol' Garrett, who seems like a fine fellow. But his upside seems about even with Olsen's middle side. At their best, is there really any question? Didn't Olsen seem closer to being at his best at the end of the spring than Mock?

This line from the Post's online story today jumps out at you: Mock, 26, was 0-4 with a 5.79 ERA in five spring training starts.

Hey, that's Mock. He was 3-10 last season with a 5.62 ERA. Should we really expect anything different this season? Mock will win about a third of his games and have a 5-plus ERA.

Some numbers, basic instead of Sabremetrics that I don't understand: Olsen is almost a full year younger than Mock. He has 33 career victories. Mock has four. Olsen has twice won at least 10 games in a season. His career ERA is lower. During an awful, injury riddled 2009, Olsen won just one fewer game than Mock.

Olsen has proven over time to be a better pitcher and he was a better pitcher at the end of the spring than Mock.

Olsen also seems to have the best chance of the non-Lannan/Marquis part of the rotation of sticking around once the cavalry arrives. When Strasburg arrives and Detwiler and Wang get healthy (we hope), do the others have much of a shot of staying in the rotation?

Craig Stammen's spring was much better than either Mock or Olsen and rightfully earned him a spot, though I don't think he's a long-term answer either. I hope I'm wrong. Someone wrote yesterday that he "settled down" after allowing those two home runs. True. He still allowed two very long home runs to put himself in a 3-0 hole. It's like saying the Nats were 10-8 after their 0-11 spring start. They still had a 10-19 record.

I'm prattling on here needlessly, I know. I think Olsen's agent is right in that Olsen will be in Washington pretty quickly. I just think it is a little bit of a slap in the face to tell him to show progress throughout the spring and then send him out when he does. Even that isn't the real issue. He's a better pitcher than the guy they're trotting out there in his place - over time and during the spring.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Belated laughter

I've had an exceptionally hectic week. In a good way. Might have some news coming, which I'm sure everyone is eager to read. It's left me a little out of touch and I'm just now catching up on some of the April Fool's jokes the mainstream media and some of my blogging colleagues played this week.

I'm always game for a good laugh.

Willy Taveras is going to make the team and platoon in right with Willie Harris? Harharhar! I just spit coffee on my screen. That is so too funny! Oh, I love a creative mind.

Cristian Guzman, whose arm strength is apparently an issue, is going to play some in right field? My goodness, my sides hurt.

Always good to laugh.

Now, let me go find out who actually made this team. Was going to try and get to but the craziness of the week made it impossible. I think my first appearance will be Game 3. They ought to have the kinks worked out by then as Craig Stammen goes after the Nats' third victory of the season.

Willy Taveras! Guzman in right! This might be the best Aprim Fonl's ever!!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Happy Birthday and a new poll

First, I can't say a thing before I wish a Happy Birthday to the world's best, and my favorite (and only) daughter. Courtney Suzanne Harris 24 today. One of her gifts was four tickets to next Thursday's game and she invited her dear old dad to join her. Love you Honey Bear Bear.

Next, Happy April Fool's Day to everyone. I like a good joke as much as the next person and wanted to think of a great prank. But today is not a day for jokes. Just absorbing the news about the trade of Adam Dunn to Cleveland (and Manny) for Fausto Carmona has drained all the humor out of me.

Maybe it is because we're all fools but a lot of people are optimistic about the Nats' season, if you can consider an under .500 record optimistic. When a team is trying to avoid a third straight 100-loss season, well, small steps I guess.

We had 120 voters stop by last week - yes! I love cracking 100 so thanks to all who participated. Of those, 65 (including me) see the Nats as a 70-79 victory team. Pretty much the same percentage who thought that last year. I'm hoping for 75 but I'm not terribly optimistic.

Forty-four voters say the team will win between 60-69. Must hit 63 to avoid 100. Two pessimists (or realists) say the team will win less than 60. I love the optimism of nine voters who think the Nats will fall in the 80-89 range.

Shockingly, no one voted for 90-plus. Won't we all look like fools when the Nats win 97 games and the division! OK, I'll put the bottle down now.

New favorite poll will be up shortly, please go vote and tell your friends. Wish Dunn well as an Indian, I may try to get to Cleveland and see those games.