Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A vicious circle

That's what is going on right now.

If you are in the other team's dugout, does it matter how far behind you are?  Don't you think they KNOW they can come back?

And if you are in the Nats dugout, don't you know that no lead is safe? 

The feeling is palpable even through the TV screen.  As much as stat heads like to deny a human factor in baseball, can you not think of times when you thought your team/cause whatever was hopeless and it turned out that way?

I liken it to a golfer, standing on the tee and making his club and shot choice.  If he isn't fully committed to the shot, fully believes that his ability and decision making is correct, he usually shanks it into the water or a hazard. 

Right now, no Nats pitcher (well leave JZZ out of this for now) can say for certain that they can get people out on a regular basis. And so they don't pitch for maximum effect, they think and end up not making the kinds of pitches necessary to get major league hitters out.  (Don't think Meat, you'll only hurt the ball club!)

I doubt yelling and screaming is going to do much good . . . that works for a team that thinks its more talented than it is and doesn't give effort.  That's not a problem, at least I don't see it.

The only way out is to have some success.  Rebuild that fine line between ignorance and arrogance necessary to excel at the highest level in a demanding profession.  That means a manager who puts full confidence in his guys whether they've earned it or not.  Cause unless those guys believe, the manager's cooked.  Finished. 

The only other option is to blow up the management.  Turn everything up side down.  That seperates you from the past failures and may give you a fresh start. 

I end on a positive note.  In last nights lineup, with Kearns and Flores hitting as well as they have been this season,  we're down to only 3 terrible hitters in the lineup. 

Guzman's return brings us down to 2 (note- please Manny don't put him back in the 2 spot. Leave NJ there!) and on the days Ronnie B plays it's just the pitcher who I would assume an automatic out.  I can't imagine a manager looks forward to facing the Nats in a series from a pitching perspective, the long AB's, the walks and the power all mean a staff worn out after a four game set.  (Now of course that manager's hitters will be salivating but we're not going there.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

5 minutes

Can we really say that no other National player has been 5 minutes late before?  Really. We know that because they have treated every incident like this one. 

I imagine it went down something like this:

Hey Dukes, you're late!!!

Hey Dawg, I was high fivin' some little leaguers and I had to get everybody.

Did the dog eat your homework too?  Is the support check in the mail? $500 and a benching for you.

<searches images in cell phone>

Fast forward to today: Hey, he was telling the truth. D&*%% it, another PR disaster.

Dukes got killed on baseball tonight last night too over this and the Diaz "double".

But does anyone recall how the Nats got run number 3 (aka the wining run?)

Would that be Dukes legging out an infield single?  Hmmmm. Escobar bobbled the ball for a half a second and Dukes, busting his a*&% out of the box beat the throw by a fraction.  But do the baseball tonight guys go back and show that highlight?  Nope. Easier to throw that faux indignation around.  Will this hustle play be remembered? Nope.  But the 5 minutes sure will be.

I'd really like to see what they'd say if Dukes re-enacted any one of a million scenes from the life of beloved Yankee centerfielder Mickey Mantle?  Guy doesn't take the game seriously, he's a menace, out of control . . . he needs to be banned for life!!!

So that's what a pitching prospect looks like

I was dead wrong about all the other must watch games this month (so far) but not April 20th.

You mean you can have a 22 year old who can blow mid-90s cheese past major league hitters then drop a Blylevenesque bender for good measure?  That's legal. 

One mistake in 6 innings.  Just one.  On a 2 strike pitch too. 

I'd really like to meet those scouts who said J Zimm's upside is a #2/#3 starter at best.  He looked like all those young Florida starters did back in the first series of the year.

The only thing I need from the denizens of Nats Town is a promise to join my posse to kidnap J Zimm after he throws his 160th inning.  It is the only way to keep him from being overworked this year.  (For the benefit of any FBI agents reading, this is not an actual plot)

Tooting my own horn again, check that 4th inning rally:

Johnson leads off with a walk
Zimm singles to right
Dunn walks
Dukes singles in a run to right
Willingham Ks?
Flores misses a granny by 6 feet but gets the SF anyway.

That 2-5 part of the order did exactly what its designed to do.

And I had to chuckle when Bob and Rob kept talking about how strange it was for Jesus Flores to keep coming up with runners in scoring position.  I know it may seem strange but it really not.  Have a bunch of hitters in front of you that avoid making outs and that's what happens.

I'll set the over/under of Elijah's RBI totals (assuming he stays 5th) at about 90.  And I'd probably bet the over.

Washington Nationals Fact 'o the Day

Actually this is yesterday's but it's better than today's.

On September 11, 1985, Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds became Major League's Baseball's all-time hits leader. Singling against Eric Show of the San Diego Padres, Rose collected the 4,192 hit of his career to surpass National Baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb.

Was it absolutely necessary to throw in that bit about Hall of Famer Ty Cobb?  Would we not have known it was THE Ty Cobb and not another Ty Cobb we may have missed.  Or, is this Bud's way of reminding everyone that Rose ISNT a Hall of Famer? 


Monday, April 20, 2009

I guess you CAN fire the players

That's the old saying, you fire the manager or coach because you can't fire the players.  Not in Washington.

It's pretty clear that Saul's been sucked dry.  The WBC workload was just the icing on the cake.  Let him work once a week in Syracuse for a couple of months. Maybe his fragged out arm will revive. The amazing thing is: it's pretty well known that relief pitchers lose effectivness after a couple of years of heavy usage.  It can't be too surprising that Saul finally broke down after being flogged like a rented mule for the last two years? 

Mock was closing in Syracuse.  When (or more likely if) the Nats get another save opp, does it go to him?  Or is it Tavarez? Is Hanrahan finished as a closer?  Has he been Lidged?  And I suppose it's Bergmann's turn to be overused in a set up role for the next two years then scrapped (see Ayala, Luis)

Kip Wells is a starter.  Did they call him up to be the long man or to take a rotation spot?  Last time through, the starters pitched pretty well.  Lannan, Olsen and D-Cab all had decent starts and Martis actually got the win!  They can't make wholesale changes here, they don't have the options.  I suppose it's a good bet that one of these top 4 implode sooner rather than later.  Or J Zimm isn't ready for prime time just yet.

Yes, the last three games have been stomach punches of the worst kind. Season killers in early April. 

But, I put forth this optimistic note:  don't you get a good feeling once the #2 hitter (NJ) comes to the plate?  I mean I actually feel like there is a good chance something good is going to happen soon.  Nick will walk and that put Zim up with a runner on.  Adam Dunn could go deep at any time and Dukes has to scare pitchers. 

That's four in a row that pitchers have to fear which has to be a record for the Nationals.Our own little Murderer's Row.

Now 1 and 6-9 are still the disaster they have always been. But at least on offense, the hole is brightly identified:

Needed: one middle infielder with a .350 or better OBP.  Must be familiar with defense and be willing to hit leadoff. No power necessary but would be considered.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Worst Part

is having to stay silent while all the superficially interested opinion makers spout their nonsense about baseball in Washington.

Kornheiser is a perfect example.

Really, Tony. Washington sports fans don't support a loser.  I know you are a transplanted New Yawker but for god sake you've been in this town long enough to know that Washington hates ANY loser.  Why do you think Al Gore grew that beard and got fat?  Anything to get the stink of loser off him (and it didn't work by the way)

It's a cliche to call Washington a "football" town who loves their Redskins.  Three Super Bowl trophies will do that.  Look around now and you'll see more Terrible Towels than Jason Campbell jerseys.  This town worships winners, no matter how they do it. 

Say anyone got a Caps ticket?  Hmmm. A few years ago you could get a Caps season ticket package if you bought a seat to a Mystics playoff game.  Now, it's the other way around.  What changed?  Oh, yeah WINNER.

Tampa Rays were a national joke just one year ago at this time.  They hadn't won more than 70 games in 10 years.  Ball park rocked pretty hard last fall?

Repeat after me . . . large media market, tons of disposable income, new ball park . . . the fundamentals are strong.  The Tigers have been around since 1901 but I wouldn't give a plug nickel for them right now. downsized media market, incomes plummeting salary structure way out of whack.Tom Hicks in Texas is broke and that team has stunk for years.

It's only a matter of time and some fortuitous breaks.  In fact, it should be a great time to be a team with money to spend.   Wilbur Ross got stinking rich being a vulture capitalist . . . it's almost time to do the same in baseball. 

That's one way to clear the OF jam.

I am trying real hard to come up with a player who succeeded with the same club who has Milledge's resume.  And I can't think of one.  Maybe I'm not trying hard enough. 

Usually, it;s the next team that benefits. Carlos Quintin anyone? 

**** Carlos Delgado!!!!!  Hit like 8 dingers in his first month then ended up in AAA by June.  Did the same the next year I think. 

**** Jeff Franceour -- the jury's still out on that one.

Still a pretty dismal record. 

I'm sure the thinking is: this will be a wake up call. It will make him appreciate being in the Show and he'll start to apply himself.

I hope so.  But I'd be willing to bet he'll sulk and blame Manny.  And he'd have a point. He's not a lead off hitter.  That is apparant to anyone who watches.  He needed to be 6th or 7th but for some crazy reason Manny wanted a fast player to lead off even though they were unsuited to the role.

Managers can't do much to affect the outcome of the game but one thing they CAN do is make sure they put players in positions where they can succeed. 

And if the Nats have pushed the panic button, why not PEDRO!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Oh, I'm going to hold a grudge. You bet I am!

"One, it's time to stop blaming Omar Minaya for the Nationals' woes."

Not so much.

You don't like Lastings Milledge in CF. Well it could have been AL MVP candidate Grady Sizemore except for Omar.

Top of the rotation got you down. Nothing that reigning AL Cy young award winner Cliff Lee couldn't fix except for Omar.

Wish for some more production from 2B? How about 20/20 guy Brandon Phillips? Whoops. Omar dealt him too. 

Would Jason Bay have been an upgrade in left for the last few years?  If you say yes, you have Omar to thank for missing out.  But that's small potatoes next to the Lou Collier Experience!

Want the list of MLB players Omar drafted for us?

2002 -- Darrell Rasner, Mike O'Conner and Jason Bergmann. 

2003 -- Chad Cordero, Jerry Owens, Kory Casto, Daryl Thompson and Luke Montz

2004 -- Bill Bray and Brett Campbell???  Look him up. He pitched 4 1/3 innings in 2006 for the Nats.

Oh, by the way in case you are wondering if it makes a bit of difference to have an incompetent running your draft, see 2002.  Clint Everts 5th overall. Who was 6th?  Zach Grienke.  7th? Prince Fielder.  How about 17th? Cole Hamels.

How about that brilliant Erik San Pedro pick at #54 in 2004?  Care to guess who went back to back at 64 and 65? Hunter Pence and Dustin Pedroia.

In other words, there is precious little to reap in 2009 because nothing of value was sown in 2002-2004.  (For those who can't see the connection, imagine an 18 year old drafted in 2002 who's now 25 and in the prime of his career.) And you have to imagine it because there is nothing of the sort in the Nats organization.

All I can say is, thank god he's running the Mets.  They are in for a Loooooonnnnngggg dry spell.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

At least I can toot my own horn

About this particular prediction (off by a few runs here or there but it's generally correct.)

It was tough to watch as every flaw that had been identified manifested itself on Opening Day.

Weak starting pitching -- check

Substandard defense -- check

a butane bullpen -- check

And the shiv in the back that was Bonifacio's career day.  I'll take any action that he's more Tuffy Rhodes than the second coming of Maury Wills though.

There is always the counsel that you are not as bad as you look on Opening Day nor are you as good as you look. 

But I might toss that folk wisdom out when known flaws come so much to the fore.  It might not be an aberation, but a microcosm.

Of course, Scott Olsen could go out tonight and dominate his old mates like Bonifacio did and all would be well.  I won't take your action on that however.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The 30th Man

For those of us who complain about all the negative stories pushed by sportswriters and producers, I should be happier to read the Food Critic's profile of Kory Casto.

Sounds like the kind of guy we all envision ballplayers to be, driven, hard working and humble.

But let's not kid ourselves.

A good story is a good story but what we really want is to see our team win baseball games.

And Kory Casto isn't going to help us do that.

*update. Casto cleared waivers (to the surprise of no one).  OTBE baby.

Glad they found the old Redskin team doctor for Terrell Young.  Maybe he'll prescribe preventative Tommy John surgery.

It's easy to sit in the cold of winter and call for using young arms in the upcoming season for the future of the franchise.  But when the rubber is about to meet the road, it is much tougher to swallow.

Anyone else worried about another disastrous start thanks to starting pitching?  One or two of the youngsters going sideways is to be expected but what if all 5 crap the bed out of the gate?  Based on the last few games, it's a concern.  I wonder if things could quickly spiral out of control, you have locker room issues (the 1B/OF logjam isn't going to help matters) and the whole season turns into a five month long march to the #1 pick again.

There's no reason another organization would hesitate to pick him up. -- Nats Journal

Yes there is.  Tell me what Casto can do that couldn't be done better by Frank Catalanatto?

True that Catalanatto would be slightly more expensive but a guy with a career line of .292/.358/.449 in 4104 PA's vs. Casto's thin resume?  194/264/276 in 239 PA's No contest.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rated by watchability

The games I am looking forward to the most in the first few weeks of the season.

April 6 -- Opening Day. Easy. Even if it will be in the half-filled barn in South Florida. Will I see the first Adam Dunn TTO game? High hopes for a couple of E-5s for Florida and for no 'Nick Johnson went into the clubhouse and hasn't returned. We'll update you later"

April 7 -- @ Florida. Would have been a blah game except for the Scott Olsen sticking it to his old team factor. Hopefully he can find those extra few MPH's on the fastball with it.

April 8 -- @Florida I think I'm going to treat every Daniel Cabrera start like watching Vinny Johnson back in the Bad Boys days. If the first shot hit the back of the rim and went in, the Microwave was ON and you might see something great. If it missed, cold pizza today. We'll know in the first inning if we're gonna see Cy Cabrera or Daniel Dalkowski.

April 10 -- @ Atlanta ehhh. Martis vs. Atlanta's #4 starter. Only if it's dog day at the park and Mike Vick stops by.

April 12 -- @ Atlanta Just to see if Derek Lowe will throw a no-hitter. His pounding sinker plus get away day a bad combo.

April 13 vs. Phils -- OD at Nats Park. 5 stars in any event.

April 20 vs. Atlanta The phenom's debut. At least I assume JZimm will make his ML debut that day. Gonna clear the schedule and make sure I'm watching in HD. Don't let me down!

April 24th @ Mets We'll find out if (Broke Dick) Citi Field is a hitters park or pitchers park.

April 30 vs. St. Louis -- If you can't appreciate Albert Pujols, then I don't want to know you.

Fun Nats' Fact 'o the Day
(not a joke!)

Over his five seasons with the EXPOS, pinch hitter extraordinare Jose Morales collected a remarkable 57 pinch hits.

Let's examine the lameness shall we. First, Nat's Fact 'o the Day concerns someone who was technically NEVER a Nat. Second, pinch hits. That's the best you could do. The storied history of the Expos and the best you could do was a guy who averaged 11.4 hits a year? Third: why remarkable? Is that particular adjective really necessary at that point? You aren't fooling anyone you know. We've already plodded through the vast majority of your lameness, remarkable isn't going to redeem the trek.

Would the football equal of this fact be: Scott Player downed a stunning 62 punts inside the 20 during his 5 years as Arizona's punter. I know you are stunned (Although I just made this up and have no idea if it is either 1)true or 2)remarkable.