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Half-hot + half-cold= MEDIOCRE!



Updated: 2016-06-18T05:28:44.831-04:00

 



Every new beginning is some other beginning's end . . .

2005-10-04T22:36:41.080-04:00

. . . YEAH!

Anyway, I started this thing on Wednesday, January 19. As my first post indicates, I didn't have any grand designs for Nationals Inquirer; in reviewing my content since then, I can only conclude I met such high expectations!

To every thing there is a season, of course, and at the sake of infusing mock-sentimentality, I'm here to note that NI is shutting down about 48 hours after the Nationals' season did. You see, in the recent past I received an offer to join up with the Sports Blogs Nation network. I was very flattered by the offer, mulled it over, and concluded, "Why the heck not?"

And here we are. NI is shutting down, but we're basically looking at the same blog---only it'll be better-looking. As the one who's looked at this blog the most in the past eight or nine months, trust me on that one!

So, here's where you can find me, starting . . . now: FederalBaseball.com. Thanks for reading in the past, thanks for continuing to read, and---most of all---thanks for being you, fans of the Washington Nationals. I like you guys.



Where do we go now, sweet Bodes of mine?

2005-10-04T12:52:34.403-04:00

Remember when you played sandlot football as a kid, and one of the scrubs kept on insisting, every time you huddled up, that his play would most definitely work? Come on, guys, this'll work! Two plays later: I'm telling you, give this a try. I'll catch it, I promise!I reckon Jim Bowden was one of those guys (that's why he's a GM who never played, right?), and he's got a plan. Ah, that's a relief!And what, pray tell, does the plan entail? Here's what: GET A LOT OF GUYS WE DON'T HAVE TO DO THINGS THE GUYS WE CURRENTLY HAVE DON'T DO SO WELL. Awesome!"It's that simple?" you ask. Sure, baby. But if you don't think I'm doing his plan justice, I'll review it:---> Get power hitters.---> Get speed guy.---> Get starting pitchers.---> Get "power lefty."---> Get veteran leadership.*Results to follow.Yep, that's it. Now, that's a plan, gang! If only the new owner(s)---if he/she/they actually exist(s)---would give Bodes the chance to implement it, he knows it'll work. (And, considering he thought the current edition was underachieving, despite its midseason 100-win pace, this time he's serious; he was just joking back then.)* I wonder if Carlos Baerga is available . . . ________________Retrospectives galore!---> Harper assumes the third rail and blog-rolls the concept (good links in there), while also kind of subtly mocking the concept. He also says the Nats' season could have been so much more (rather than could have been so much less) and predicts the Stankees will win the World Series. Boo!---> Capitol Punishment, in a transparent yet effective attempt to give the old comments meter a few extra cranks, requested nominations for Nats-specific MVP and Cy Young awards. Today, Chris releases his picks. Like many (most?) commenters, he praised Brian Schnieder but eventually named Chad Cordero the team MVP and John Patterson the team CYA guy. I guess I'm conflicted; Cordero's definitely worthy of something, but I can't wrap my head around a guy being an MVP of anything yet also losing a Cy Young award (of any sort) to another pitcher.---> Yuda provides his list of the top games of the Nats' (current edition) inaugural season. He also wants to know your list. Obviously, that bizarre June game in the Los Angeles Suburb of Anaheim is going to rate highly on anyone's list. I'd also nominate an April game in Atlanta. After a rain delay, the Nats rallied against then-Braves' closer Danny Kolb (heh!), capped by a Schnieder double. That was probably the moment when I suspected that this team could be something special. In a sense, it might be a more appropriate memory than anything from the ten-game winning streak in June, since that early game only gave hints of glory, not the full-born fool's gold of June. Ah well . . . _______________New blogs!I've been meaning to add these to the sidebar, and still will:---> Just a Nats Fan---> Curly W---> ¡Blog! (I've been really derelict in failing to add this one; sorry!)There's another one (is it called "Nats Triple Play"?), but I can't find it right now. A little help here? [...]



You're gonna make me lonesome when you go

2005-10-03T13:19:43.956-04:00

The Phillies just plain spanked the Nats yesterday, yet it didn't seem like that mattered. It kept the Phils in the wild card race (the actual one) for a moment or two, and it ruined the Nats' shot at a winning season, but that was sort of tangential.Sunday afternoon completed baseball's first season back in the DC area (and, more specifically, in DC) in over three decades, and I am overjoyed I had a chance to attend this final game of the 2005 season. The game itself was not tremendously memorable---aside from, perhaps, Ryan Church's upper deck homer and maybe my circuitous adventure trying to replace someone's beer I accidentally spilled. But I had a great time nonetheless, and this being only my third trip to RFK this season, I felt a good dose of vicarious pride and commitment at the end, after the final out was recorded, when the Nats---both on the field and on the video board---thanked the fans for a truly special year.My satisfaction was all-the-more enhanced by the opportunity to take in the game with a couple of Nats bloggers. I can now add Chris Needham (Capitol Punishment) and Ryan Moore (Distinguished Senators) to the list of Nats bloggers I've met in person. The list now stands at four, but that's only if you count me. Otherwise, I had previously only met Brick Barrientos (Eucalyptus), with whom I enjoyed a June victory. The Nats did not come particularly close to pulling one out yesterday, but as I noted (and, as with the game with Brick in June), that didn't seem to matter, at least on a certain level. I had a great time taking in the game with Chris (and his old college roommate, Shaun) and Ryan (and his better half, Karen). Thanks for a fun afternoon!___________________And now it's all over, at least until the Hot Stove League. All that's left are the dedications and retrospectives. Boz has a nice one today, but all in all, I prefer Rocket's.Well, I might as well add one, I suppose. Periodically, I've employed the somewhat lame and probably cliched schtick of converting Bob Dylan's material for my own blogging purposes. I would give thousands of reasons why I do this, but usually it comes down to two factors: 1) I get lazy, and 2) I like Bob Dylan.Maybe that's the case here, or maybe the old mumbler has provided a song that fits the occasion. If you're an old diehard who ached previously for the Senators II (or, if you're a bit older, Senators I) and year-after-year suffered in unrequired dismay, or if you're like me who cheered and supported great teams but maybe didn't find true sporting love until this season, this one's for you:I've seen love go by my doorIt's never been this close beforeNever been so easy or so slow.Been shooting in the dark too longWhen somethin's not right it's wrongYer gonna make me lonesome when you go.Dragon clouds so high aboveI've only known careless love,It's always hit me from below.This time around it's more correctRight on target, so direct,Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.. . . Fortunately, though, we get to see our Nats again next spring.[...]



ADJUSTED PLAYOFFS!

2005-10-04T12:50:51.600-04:00

Load up the catchy rock music snippet, FOXSports. Hey, FOX Entertainment, prepare that memorable one-liner for your next hit show ("You're risking a patient's life!!!") ---or not ("Her father's the district attorney!!!"). While you're at it, bring back the cast of Girls' Club.On second thought, hold all that stuff. Why settle for "actual" playoffs, when we can have "should-be-actual" playoffs? "That can be done?" you ask. For sure:THE ADJUSTED PLAYOFFS!Yes! These adjusted athletes play for more than passion, more than pride, and certainly more than the love of the game. If you can believe it, they also play for more than money. Something better is out there, adjusting itself. That something is the Goblet of Third Order Wins.Well-adjusted!Okay, here's how the game works: the adjusted participants are determined based on the Baseball Prospectus' Adjusted Standings; as luck would have it, the Adjusted Playoffs assume the same form and (nearly; see footnote) progression as the far-inferior "real" playoffs. That makes it easier, you know. I have not yet decided what course the Adjusted Postseason will take---whether by running simulations on MVP Baseball '05, convincing a neighbor to play a game or two of RBI Baseball every evening, or seeing whether my dog selects the bush or grass in which to relief herself---but I've got time, because at current there's a hot adjusted wild card race yet to be determined. [UPDATE: SEE BELOW!]Here are the adjusted entrants as of the moment. All of these teams can fly Adjusted Flags, proudly and forever:---> New York Yankees (AL East adjusted champions)---> Cleveland Indians (AL Central adjusted champions)*---> Oakland Athletics (AL West adjusted champions)---> Boston Red Sox (AL adjusted wild card entrant)---> Philadelphia Phillies (NL East adjusted champions)---> St. Louis Cardinals (NL Central adjusted champions)---> San Diego Padres (NL West adjusted champions)As teased previously, one race remains: NL adjusted wild card. Prospectus is still entering the data, apparently; I imagine the Houston Astros might over-adjust the New York Mets, but we'll have to see. [UPDATE: Final returns are in, and . . . CONGRATULATIONS TO THE NEW YORK METS, 2005 NL ADJUSTED WILD CARD!!!]You might be wondering why there's such a thing as the Adjusted Playoffs, when the point of making the adjustments in the first place is to refine our perspective of who is stronger and who is weaker over a long season. However, I think the answer is obvious: to see if Billy Beane's adjusted $%#@ works in the playoffs.So, check back in periodically to see how the Adjusted Postseason progresses. I'll provide the critical information on my sidebar, and game recaps will be placed in this space. Survive and advance, baby!* Adjusted home field advantage throughout.[Lest I give you the wrong impression, the idea certainly isn't original to me. It might not even be original to the Yudites, but that's as far as I'm attributing.][...]



Well . . . hmmmm . . . ummmm. Crap.

2005-09-30T13:21:51.156-04:00

OR, Oh, I see. Then everything is wrapped up in a neat little package. Really, I mean that. Sorry if it sounded sarcastic.Initially, I theorized why Jim Bowden would designate Claudio Vargas for assignment. Then, I joined the cacophony of Bodes-ridicule, in part based on the belief that Vargas could have still been optioned to the minors rather than waived. Now, I realize that this belief was incorrect.In short, there are angles from which to attack the handling and surrender of Vargas---who, for six bright weeks or so, was pitching pretty well for Arizona. For one, you could argue that the Nats hurried Vargas back too quickly and then were forced to dump him when he pitched miserably in May; for another, you could be perplexed that Bowden couldn't swing a single deal for Vargas, for anything in return. But, to get to the "in short" part, it is mistaken, unfounded, and unfair to attack him for botching the MLB transaction rules---or, perhaps worse, to operate in contravention of them.On this point, Bowden didn't screw up.Why did we, in the Natosphere? The key, as it turned out, was something that we didn't know then but do know now: Vargas was on optional assignment with the Marlins in 2001.Everything flows from there; however, to make sure we're looking at it correctly this time, I'll show the work.First, on options:After three years as a pro, a player must beprotected on a team's 40-man roster, or he is eligible for the Rule 5 draft . . . . Once he's served those three years, and assuming he is added to the 40-man roster, his club then has what are called "options" on him. When a player is on the 40-man roster but not on the 25-man Major League roster, he is on "optional assignment." One common misconception about the rules is that a player may only be "optioned out" three times. Actually, each player has three option years, and he can be sent up and down as many times as the club chooses within those three seasons. When you hear that a player is "out of options," that means he's been on the 40-man roster during three different seasons, beginning with his fourth as a pro, and to be sent down again he'll have to clear waivers . . . Now, to apply that to Vargas:---> His first professional season was 1998. (Though he signed with the Florida Marlins in 1995, as a 17 year old.) He barely saw any action, and the first question---one which would contribute to our doom later---is whether that counted as a full "year in the pros" for the purpose of the date on which he needed to be added to the 40-man roster. I guess it did, as we'll see.---> In 1999, he pitched in the minors, not on the 40-man roster.---> In 2000, he pitched in the minors, not on the 40-man roster.---> In 2001, however, he appeared on the afore-linked March 16 transactions list:Florida Marlins: Optioned RHPs Hector Almonte and Gary Knotts to AAA-Calgary. Optioned LHP Geoff Goetz, RHP Claudio Vargas, and OF Abraham Nunez to AA-Portland. Optioned RHPs Wes Anderson and Josh Beckett to A-Brevard County. Re-assigned LHPs Benito Baez and Michael Tejera, RHPs Mark Brownson, Brian Edmondson, Gabe Molina, Johnny Ruffin, and Doug Walls, Cs Matt Frick, Mandy Romero, Matt Treanor, and Dusty Wathan, 2B Joe Espada, 3Bs Chris Clapinski and Mike Gulan, SS Derek Wathan, and OF Edgard Clemente to minor-league camp. (emphasis added)Well, Frick.That's our clue that Vargas had been added to the 40-man roster. None of us---the Nats bloggers with egg on our faces now---knew this until Yuda discovered it today. (And we weren't the only ones surprised.)Okay, so 2001 is Option Year No. 1. Vargas spent the entire season at Double-A Portland.---> In 2002, Option Year No. 2, Vargas spent the entire year in the minors.---> In 2003, Option Year No. 3, Vargas made his big league debut (and actually pitched pretty well for the Expos).---> In 2004, Option Year No. 4, Vargas again shuttled between the majors and minors, this time burdened by injury.Wait a minute; Option Year No. 4? How [...]



Smul-bhit?

2005-09-28T13:09:49.926-04:00

Wayne Knight is officially freaked out award, September 28

Capitol Punishment directs us to a nugget at DCRTV rumoring that "Emmis broadcasting head Jeff Smulyan probably won't land the [Washington Nationals]. Sources tell us that he's being "set up" to eventually buy the Cincinnati Reds . . . "

Why is Wayne Knight assuming an increasingly uncomfortable and spooked countenance today? Because this rumor was already noted at the Ballpark Guys forum yesterday:

From what's being said, it looks like the future Nats ownership may depend on (of all things) the Cincinnati situation. If Maury is right, and Reinsdorf is pushing for Smulyan, it may be less because of the labor situation (I doubt Malek or the Lerners are going to be very pro-MLBPA, and no one expects a major war over the 2006 CBA anyway) than because Reinsdorf wants his buddy Jeff back in.If Carl Lindner is in fact going to sell his 51.5% of the Reds(and that apparently is not certain yet), and Smulyan can buy it, Bud can make just about everybody happy, which he likes to do. D.C. will get its local ownership, Smulyan will get his reentry to the lodge, and Cincinnati will get an owner less objectionable to them than he would be to DC (he lives closer to Cincy, and no one thinks the Reds are going to be moved) who would just about have to be an improvement over Lindner.

This gets me thinking about where this rumor originated:

---> did the BPG guy get it from DCRTV Dave?
---> did DCRTV Dave get it from the BPG guy?
---> did they hear it from a common source?

My mind is dazed with the possibilities and ramifications; DCRTV Dave wouldn't report as a rumor something posted on a message board, would he? Anyway, I'm going to stop now, because I feel like I'm looking for "Quelle".

I just know that I don't want Jeff Smulyan to own that Nats, that's all.



Lesson: the pros already know

2005-09-28T07:28:13.426-04:00

The Nats pounded the Marlins last night, and I mean really pounded them. Washington dropped an eleven-spot on the festering Fish. If you need evidence to underscore how far the Marlins have fallen in a very short time, read that previous sentence: the Nats scored in double figures.How long had it been? I resolved myself to exhaust two minutes of my life looking it up. I "discovered" that it had been a long time---I mean, an extremely long time.But then I realized I didn't need to look it up: the beat writers already went there. Oh, well.Notwithstanding St. Barry's strange, slight error (it had been since May 7, not May 11), all the big guys covering the Nats included the factoid that the last time the team had scored in double figures was early May. Rocket Bill Ladson wins the completeness award, noting not only "when" but "how many" (fourth time the Nats have hit double figures).Since I looked it up, I might as well note a couple useless pieces of trivia:---> the Nats are 4-7 in "games in which either team has scored in double figures"; and,---> the Nats' "worst month" in such games was, strangely, their storied "best month"---which would be June, when the Nats went 20-6 overall but 0-2 in the double figure games. Pythagoras says hi.Anyway, I'm definitely not going to look this up (help me out again, professionals), but I suspect the 11 games in which either side has hit double figures represent a very low figure, relative to the rest of the league. That would make sense, of course, considering the home park, the anemic offense, and the generally solid pitching.___________________Did you know? Andruw Jones is considered by many or most BBWAA-types as the late frontrunner for National League MVP honors. Suffice it to say Jones, who sports 51 homers and 128 ribbies, would not win the award based on his batting average.Quick: When was the last time an MVP batted equal to, or worse than, Jones' current .264 average? [answer below]Answer: Never! (at least among position players, of course).The lowest batting average by an MVP on record is Marty Marion's .267 in 1944.__________________An amazing streak ended last night, as Greg Maddux and the Cubs fell to the Pirates, 5-3, in Chicago. This loss thwarted Maddux's late bid to extend his string of consecutive seasons with at least 15 victories to 18 years.The practice of crediting "wins" to individual pitchers is, in my estimation, a beknighted one. Nevertheless, Maddux's streak, which began in 1988, is a monument to his greatness and durability. Consider all the top pitchers that have come and gone in the years 1988-2004. (Consider that some top pitchers essentially came and went in just the years surrounding one of those dates, like Teddy Higuera.) Consider that Roger Clemens, an even greater pitcher than Maddux, had:not one,not two,not three,not four,not five,not six, butseven seasons of fewer than 15 victories between '88 and '04 (and he's working on another one this time around, through no fault of his own, of course).Maddux's streak is nothing short than amazing, in other words. Of course, there's a reason for that characterization: the 17-season streak is a major league record. It's a shame to see it end.The streak nearly ended, in 1990, at two seasons. Maddux suffered through a severe mid-summer slump, and then-manager Don Zimmer actually promised to swim "across Lake Michigan" if Maddux ever won another game. Inevitably, he did---and Zimmer fulfilled his promise by swimming across a very small section of the lake.[...]



22 Short Films about Springfield

2005-09-27T12:58:04.550-04:00

I thought about composing a ballad (or ripping off someone better's) in praise of Hector Carrasco, but I think I'm suffering from tendonitis in my blogging arm. After giving it an aborted go in the blogpen this morning, I figured it would be best to give the ol' alto queso a rest. Instead, I'm going to employ Blogger's Copout No. 32 and just link to interesting stuff from the other Nats bloggers (in no particular order):---> Capitol Punishment has been a busy little bee. If you're in the mood for negative motivation, I commend you to this post on the price of winning too much between now and October 2: free agent draft pick compensation. Wonky goodness!---> Nationals Interest unfurls a grand welcome mat A.J. Burnett, current/ex- (or ex/current-) Florida Marlin. I'm not certain the Nats can budget both Burnett and a retained Esteban Loiaza, as the NI guys envision, but that sure would make for a nice four-man rotation. Whoa! Who are we to call Hector Carrasco a fifth starter?---> Ball-Wonk is using his creative powers for evil, as per usual.---> Distinguished Senators takes Frank Robinson to task for being a cranky and spiteful old man, also as per usual. In addition, look for the world's first comparison of Brian Roberts to Rick Short.---> Beltway Boys punishes us mercilessly by posting the worst picture of Hondo known to man. My initial reaction was, strangely, "Arvid Engin as a coal miner."---> Nationals Farm Authority reviews the Nats' dearth of upper-level prospects, starting at New Orleans. Quick, get me some quaaludes.---> Nats Nation reviews the life and times of Hall of Fame Negro Leaguer Buck Leonard. Did you know that, "[y]ears before the color barrier was broken in professional baseball, Senators owner Clark Griffith inquired to Leonard if he and Josh would be interested in playing in the majors, but Griffith never went through with the idea"?---> Nationals Opinion throws a resigned but appreciative white towel.---> Did you know that Nationalz personally witnessed our Natty Nats sweep the Mets in Shea a week or two ago? Iiiiiiit's true.---> Eucalyptus provides lots of interesting stuff, including a continuation of the "DC Baseball birthday" feature. Which former (old school) Nat committed suicide at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco? Let's just say it was a no-Win situation . . .---> Nasty Nats kills two birds with one stone: he praises Hector Carrasco and continues to be all over Tony Kornheiser like male pattern baldness on a columnist.---> RFK Cheap Seats (formerly "Section 527") believes the children are our future, teach Dutch well and let him lead the way. (Show them all the beauty Kory Casto posseses inside?)---> Just a Nats Fan innovates with an online magazine that looks like a "real" magazine, only it's online. Oh, and she loves Gary Bennett. (Don't ask!)---> Thurdl Sports ("Where I'm Not Cheering for the Saints") is noodling divisional realigment scenarios. I love that stuff!---> Nats Blog isolates some killer defeats. You'll never guessed which game ranked No. 1 in that category. (Actually, you probably will.)---> OMG finds solace in the fact that, although the Nats screwed up last time against Florida, at least they didn't aid and abet a Marlins' playoff run.---> Donutball, Donutball, wherefore art thou, Donutball.---> And, finally, District of Baseball and William World News continue to do their yeoman's work---among other things, making my breakfast informative.And that's it. I don't think I missed anyone, but if I did, you can find my blogging arm in the whirlpool.[...]



Order 86

2005-09-26T12:35:53.440-04:00

(Well, 86th loss probably tonight)

A few months ago, District of Baseball featured a poll about Peter Angelos, in which "Emperor Palpatine" was one of the choices for best comp to ol' Capt. Asbestos. (At least, I'm pretty sure it did, although the "older polls" page doesn't reference that particular one.)

Well, lest you think the comparison is an exaggeration, I (or, more accurately, FoxSports.com) present you with ¡THIS!:

(ready?)


(are you sure?)


(are you sure that you're sure?)

(okay . . . )


(image)

Remove the suit and tie; add a robe and cowl. You get this:

(image)

It works on so many levels, doesn't it?

By the way, in an effort to add even a little substance to this post, I'll agree heartily wtih Ken Rosenthal's conclusion: Angelos should get out---like yesterday. Unlike many Nats' fans, I have no inherent hate for all things Baltimore; I spent many years of my life rooting for the O's, and I think they have a great fanbase, full of passionate and knowledgeable fans. I'd love to be able to enjoy some success for the O's, but of course that would require the O's actually to have success.

That won't happen again until Angelos and his boys get out and stay out. And, while he's leaving, he could kindly hand back the Nats' television rights, too.



The Pursuit of Hector

2005-09-26T00:36:31.276-04:00

Remember that nonsensical line from Bill Clinton's second inaugural address? You know the one: "Nothing big ever came from being small." Everyone near where I was standing shrugged at that one, too.The line didn't tangle up Hector Carrasco, though. Why, if his quote in Rocket Bill's Sunday notes column is any indication, Hector's taken the big guy's words to heart:Last Thursday, Carrasco made his third consecutive start and shut out the Giants for 5 2/3 innings. He struck out a career-high eight batters and walked four. As a starter, he has given up two runs in 15 2/3 innings (1.15 ERA) and struck out 17. He has taken a liking to his new role, andwould like to be strictly a starter next season.Carrasco, exhibiting some rather "big-thinking," also noted this preference in a story by Barry Svrluga on Friday. In that article, St. Barry reported that Randy St. Claire has introduced a changeup into Carrasco's arsenal, and this addition was cited as a key to Carrasco's success. The article referenced a "conundrum the Nationals find themselves in now" concerning Carrasco's future with the team (assuming he's indeed coming back). Carrasco, of course, wants to be known as a starter; Frank Robinson seemed to envision a swing-man.Carrasco turns 36 next month and has appeared in 560 career games; over the years, he's made all of four starts, including his last three outstanding appearances. Let's imagine that, pursuant with his hopes and dreams, Carrasco successfully transitions to starting pitching next season. I offer that this accomplishment would be almost unprecedented in the history of Major League Baseball.Here's the all-time leaders in career appearances (Nos. 1-100); this list starts at 647 appearances. And here's the active leaders; this list starts at 588 career appearances, which nearly brings us to Carrasco.Has there ever been a pitcher who has done what Carrasco seeks to do? That is, has anyone transitioned from career reliever to starting pitcher well into his thirties and with at least 500-600 career appearances under his belt? Unless I'm missing someone, I see only one:Craig Lefferts.Entering the 1992 season, Lefferts was 34 years old and had appeared in 582 career games. He owned five career starts (just like Carrasco, as of tomorrow evening), and those five were a really, really long time ago---back in his rookie season of 1983. For much of his career, Lefferts had been your typical No. 1 lefty reliever/fireman, back before the emergence of the lovable LOOGY. After debuting with the Cubs in '83, he spent the better part of the next decade shuttling between San Diego and San Francisco. He was a key member of two World Series (losers') bullpens (Pads in '84, Giants in '89) and sported a work product good for an ERA+ around the 110s. Based upon my recollection of a subset of Giants' fandom back then (relatives in the Bay Area whom I'd visit in the summers), Lefferts was regarded as decent but not reliable.In '91, Lefferts had his worst season. Though he matched his career high with 23 saves, Lefferts posted then-career worsts in ERA (3.91) and ERA+ (97). It wasn't an excruciatingly horrid season, but back in those pre-offensive explosion days a near-four ERA from your bullpen ace just wouldn't do. (Come to think of it, such performance wouldn't even do in these days.)Lefferts, who started those aforementioned five games as a guy in his mid-20s nearly a decade earlier, converted to a rotation starter in 1992. I seem to recall the move was long-discussed, though I could be making that up. At any rate, Lefferts was purely a starter for both the Padres (27 starts) and, during a failed stretch run, the Orioles (five starts). The results, on the whole, were so-so (98 ERA+).The salient point is that I'm not sure this had ever happened before in the history of the major leagues. I co[...]



Tony, meet Tony

2005-09-22T20:40:30.576-04:00

With the Washington Nationals caught in a veritable death spiral, what better topic to discuss than hell?Call me crazy---or merely not of Jewish extraction---but the first time I noted Laura Blumenfeld's Sunday Post article, the aspect that most caught my eye was that apparently "Frank [Robinson] doesn't do religion."What, there was something more newsworthy in Blumenfeld's article? Something more newsworthy than Ryan Church's inarticulate overuse of the word "like"? Yeah, I guess there was.Those who know me, even some people purely on-line, know that I am a religious guy; I guess it's just part of my inimitable charm. Anyway, I wasn't going to post anything on the "Ryan Church Controversy" (see any of the above links for the specifics), and I'm sure not going to engage in "you say heaven, I say hell" discussions. That's not really part of the aforementiomed charm, I confess. Yet, when I returned home from work this evening and noticed Tony Kornheiser's micro-column on the subject, I found my muse. Cheers, Tony!Rocket has already given Kornheiser the business, as Ben Dreith would say. (Vigorous discussion also followed, and it was a true example of our American marketplace of ideas: some reasoned points and some dumbfoundingly inelegant.) Rocket's thrust is that Kornheiser pegged the wrong guy, Church, instead of Jon Moeller, the evangelical Christian chaplain who edumacated Church on matters of faith, including the proposition that those who do not accept Christ as savior---including Jews, as Church's ex-girlfriend is---are doomed to hell. Pleading for some discretion afforded to Church, Rocket proffers that Church was essentially relating the lesson Moeller taught him (and his intendant surprise to it), rather than affirmatively castigating Jews to hellfire. I don't know if that survives a more-likely-than-not standard, but if imaginary criminal proceedings were ever brought against Church on the charge of anti-Semitism, Rocket the public defender could throw a hell of an argument for the existence of reasonable doubt.I believe Rocket has the right idea here: take the focus off of Church, because he does come across more like a dupe than an agent of evil or even a raving anti-Semite (or, for that matter, a a raving anti-Dentite); seeing as Rocket beat me to the punch, however, I'll focus on someone else. Tell you what: I'll do that in a second. First, a few points on Mr. Tony:1. My first thought on the column---and admittedly a superficial one---is that it's so nice T.K. Stack Money notices the Nats exist. I'm not going to subject Kornheiser's last six months of work product to the Wilbon treatment, but I suspect we'd arrive at a similar result. This isn't to say that Kornheiser should be restricted from writing about whatever strikes his lingering sports fancy (and there doesn't appear to be much of that left, to be honest); on the other hand, Mr. Tony is, if not widely read these days, then widely-distributed---and it would be a shame if a national audience equated this fine inaugural season with a dumb quote from a forgotten fourth outfielder.2. My second thought is that Kornheiser is historically rather touchy on the subject of sports figures speaking of their faith. Admittedly, Kornheiser has in the past ranted on quotations of more innocuous content; then again, Kornheiser has in the past ranted on quotations of more innocuous content.Here's an example: five or six summers ago, Pete Sampras won (yet another) Grand Slam tournament. Since it wasn't the French, of course, it must have been Wimbledon. Sampras prevailed in a hard-fought final round and, in accepting the trophy, thanked God for "blessing him," or something to that effect. It wasn't a full-blown "Thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ for bringing me this victory" (which Tony really, really [...]



Dear Baseball Prospectus,

2005-09-20T13:50:25.660-04:00

Your Hit List stinks! Stinks!Yes, I've seen your apologia, and I understand to the best of my ability what you're trying to accomplish. In addition, I could care less who ranks first or second or third. That stuff's trifling; it's just a friendly shuffle of cards among playoff teams.No, I'm talking about the New York Mets---the No. 11 ranked New York Mets. Explain that one, Pendejos. Be advised that any sentence containing the phrase "first-, second- and third-order winning percentages" will cause me to hit the Red Button. Don't try me.Really, I understand what you're doing. And I understand what you're trying to do:In coming up with a means to rank the teams, I wanted to find a way that gave weight to various categories of performance without overcompensating for any of them. That includes actual winning percentage, but goes beyond to try to get a truer picture of what's going on than simple wins, losses and run totals will tell you.It's a noble goal, but shall I suggest that you might be undercompensating one category: actual wins? I shall.There's a reason why the season lasts 162 games. Well, actually, there isn't; that's as arbitrary as changing the college "Top 20" to the "Top 25" some years ago. But, after 162 games, the season truly ends. Adjusted Pennants are not distributed, and Adjusted Standings do not carry over to the next spring.The Mets might truly be the eleventh-strongest big league team this season (though I doubt it), but they haven't honored your good faith. Given fifty more games, they might eventually get around to challenging the Phillies (No. 10) or the Astros (No. 9)---but, blessed be Lord Selig, they won't get the chance. Well, they will get the chance to draw even, but it will be early next April, and the respective records will be 0-0.And what about those Florida Marlins? The Mets would have to condescend a bit on the list just to see those guys, as the Fish are ranked No. 16. (Actually, the Mets will see the Marlins soon enough, as in tonight. Go Mets!) The Mets are 73-76, partaking in an en foldo after getting hot in late August; the Marlins are 79-71, eyeing a difficult road ahead but at least still well in the playoff hunt. Yet, not only are the Mets ranked ahead, but by five slots!Please don't misunderstand; I don't advocate simple reliance on won/lost records. If I did, then this blogster would have been prepared to swing some playoff tickets back in early July. But, whatever your formula is to account for actual and first-, second-, and third-order adjusted records, don't you think that the actual won/lost results might be a bit underrepresented?I don't claim to know how to help you, but Yuda might: "Winning percentage needs to be weighted more heavily—perhaps even on a sliding scale as the year progresses." Sounds reasonable. If it's already weighed heavily, then hand it over to Eric Gregg for fixing. If it's already implemented on a sliding scale, slide it harder.Because, honestly, any system that informs you the Mets are the eleventh best team in baseball should embarrass you to no end that it has your name and goodwill attached.Sincerely,Nats blogger who aims not to project a dog in the fight, though he confesses to find it curious that the Nats, at an admittedly lucky 77-73, are ranked No. 20 and surrounded by teams eight and fourteen games below break-even.[...]



IsoPow? bang-zoom...

2005-09-19T01:11:02.913-04:00


During the Nats' halcyon days of late June, I noted that our boys enjoyed a tremendous advantage in peripheral stats at RFK Stadium. More than anything else, I figured this advantage contributed to some sparkling home field play:


So far, the Nats' opponents haven't really adapted to RFK, and as a result, every home game is a feast day for the Good Guys. Opponents are slightly less patient than the Nats at RFK, but their batting average is way down and their isolated power is half-a-man short.To reinforce the point one last time, let's see the side-by-side comparison of RFK-based figures, with Washington's listed first:



Who  IsoPat IsoPow
Nats .081 .141
Opp .074 .091

In short, this is a tremendous home field advantage for the Nats; thus, it of course comes as no surprise that Washington's 27-10 at home with a 2.86 staff ERA.

Let's review for a moment: A FIFTY POINT ADVANTAGE IN ISOLATED POWER! I don't know what that really means, but it sounds pretty good!

The effect was caused by several factors. In that post, I pointed out a "smarter" approach the Nats' hitters adopted at home. In addition, the pitchers were healthy, lucky, and probably lucky another time over. (The pitching staff is heavily flyball-inclined---a 1.04 G/F ratio, as opposed to an NL average of 1.26---and that inclination is not as severely punished in a vast crater like RFK.)

The Nats are 13-22 at home since then (and the home ERA has risen to 3.43), and as you might expect, the gap in the peripheral stats has closed. Well, that's half-right, actually: the gap in "Isolated Patience" (OPB-BA) has grown ever-so-slightly (though Nats' batters have been less patient since that earlier report), but the "Isolated Power" (SLG-BA) advantage has narrowed considerably:



Who  IsoPat IsoPow
Nats .079 .128
Opp .069 .115


To put it simply, RFK Stadium isn't the advantage for the Nats that it was back in the good old days of bouncy seats and "Bang! Zoom!" and an indomitable bullpen. But then, I guess we already knew that by now.



Broke Down Engine

2005-09-18T22:55:19.726-04:00


Feel like a broke-down engine, ain't got no drivin' wheel, Feel like a broke-down engine, ain't got no drivin' wheel. You all been down and lonesome, you know just how a poor man feels.

Been shooting craps and gambling, momma, and I done got broke, Been shooting craps and gambling, momma, and I done got broke, I done pawned my pistol, baby, my best clothes been sold.

Lordy, Lord, Lordy, Lord, Lordy, Lord, Lordy, Lord, Lordy, Lord.

I went down in my praying ground, fell on my bended knees, I went down in my praying ground, fell on my bended knees, I ain't cryin' for no religion, Lord, give me back my good gal please.

Can't you hear me, baby, rappin' on your door? Can't you hear me, baby, rappin' on your door? Now you hear me tappin', tappin' across your floor.

Feel like a broke-down engine, ain't got no whistle or bell, Feel like a broke-down engine, ain't got no whistle or bell, If you're a real hot momma, come take away Daddy's weeping spell.



MVP

2005-09-16T13:00:15.676-04:00

On the drive home yesterday, I heard Mets' general manager-turned-ESPN pundit Steve Phillips discussing the National League Most Valuable Player race. (I would say it's not really a "race" per se, as Andruw Jones and Albert Pujols, for instance, are not competing head-to-head. Then I remembered that, starting today, the Houston Astros are completely disassociated from the other teams in the NL wild card "race.")Phillips cast his radio vote for Jones. In doing so, he said something that seemed odd to me, that "If I were to start a team today, I'd take Pujols, hands down"---but also stated that this preference had nothing to do with selecting an MVP. I'm not sure how to disagree with him except to say that his first statement (the one in quotes) seemed to describe "most valuable" pretty well.In today's Washington Post chat,* Tom Boswell opined that the MVP is Jones, and "it's not close." Boz makes the positional adjustment argument in favor of Jones, but also adds what I'll call the "good-but-not-great bonus," which is expressed in lots of media outlets about this time of the year:Cards were going to win their division even ifPujols had an average year. Without a MONSTER career season for Andruw, the Braves might not even have made the playoffs as a wildcard. To me, Jones DEFINES an MVP year a great player rising to another level for months when his team desperately needs him. This line of thinking---which, based on my recollection, has really taken off in the wild card era---essentially punishes players on great teams, such as this year's Cardinals. It does so in two ways:1. It minimizes the player's contribution by placing a surcharge on the value of his teammates; invariably, this helps bring teammates, who are good-but-not-great (compared to the MVP candidate), to the fore of the discussion and dilute the star's value to his own team. To paraphrase Rob Dibble of XM's MLB Homeplate, who I also heard in yesterday's afternoon drive: "Look at David Eckstein. He works hard, plays great defense, is a sparkplug at the top of the order. He gets the thing rolling. Albert Pujols is a great, great player, but Eckstein's just as import to the Cardinals' success, in my opinion." This is a textbook example.2. The good-but-not-great reasoning simultaneously credits the candidacy of a star on a good-but-not-great team. With the great team's postseason berth all-but locked up (or now clinched), the focus turns to those berths that are still open. A star situated on one of these teams now can be seen as "carrying his teammates on his back"---either now or at some critical point earlier in the season, as Jones clearly did. The effect becomes strangely different than the one displaced on the similarly-situated player on a great team; instead of having his value muddled with the value of his teammates, the value of the star of the good-but-not-great team is sort of placed in a "separate segrated fund," isolated from that of his teammates. This year, it's a particularly strange effect, because rookie sensation Jeff Francouer (SI coverboy!) receives tremendous praise, but his presence seems to be forgotten when Jones' MVP candidacy is discussed.Note that I'm not advocating Francouer's contributions should at all minimize Jones' stellar season; no doubt, Andruw Jones has been a shining star this year. I'm only suggesting that Pujols' greatness is being overshadowed by the superior quality of his teammates. Re-read Boz's answer to witness this effect. He characterizes Jones' season as a MONSTER year, but says nothing praiseworthy of Pujols at all. He merely states the obvious that the Cards are a great team and then denigrates Pujols' defensive value (which, in the ab[...]



Bangus Zoomius

2005-09-15T20:46:33.876-04:00

Meet the Mets, beat (the crap out of) the Mets! The Washington Nationals jumped out ahead of the New York Mets today, then fell behind, then caught up, and then won it in extra innings, 6-5. I neither saw nor heard the game, but it sure seemed thrilling.When Vinny Castilla singled home the go-ahead run in the top of the tenth and Gary Majewski, method-acting as closer for a "tired" Chief Cordero, slammed the door in the bottom, the Nats had swept the tank-tanking-tanked Mets for their first series sweep in a long time---about six weeks, I think.[A moment of rare but earned praise for shortstop/millstone Cristian Guzman, who had his second good game in three, going 2-for-4, homering, and raising his batting average to a comparatively rarified .204. Guzman, it should be noted in all fairness, is playing good ball in September, with a 777 OPS before today's game. His second half stats are now slightly better than those before the all-star break, though still wretched, of course.]The latest Metropolitan conquest puts the Nats at 76 wins, which blows the spring prediction of seemingly half the Natty bloggers back then, including mine. I'm delighted to be wrong."How wrong" is the really big question, isn't it? I've decided to do concurrent "Operation: X!" trackers above: 82 is for honor, and 87 is for glory. We'll see.As for more important matters, the wild card is still a (remote) possibility. Three games are down on the 12-game Mets/Pads/Giants/Mets spree, and we're three up in that ledger. I'll tell you this: take those nine remaining games, and if our guys win seven, then we've got a fair shot at seeing baseball beyond October 2 (even for one day).________________From Rocket Bill's notes:---> Jose Guillen sat today, but purportedly not in redress for his bat-chucking meltdown last night. Okay---Frank Robinson says he's 50/50 for tomorrow night's game in San Diego owing to a hamstring deal. (Not bronchitis?) Robinson also guarantees Guillen will be suspended but suspects the appeal will carry over to next season. Fine with me, as long as Guillen doesn't take that as license to impale the ump next time.---> Music update! No music. If ever there was a time for your vintage, Disney-fied "Ain't No Moutain High Enough" group number, it was after today's victory. Instead, Frobby sang. Talk about deterrence!---> There's nothing like seeing your hot prospect and future star wear women's clothing, but that's what we had today, as the rookies (including Dutch Zimmerman) bore the brunt of rookie hazing. No on the music, but yes on the blue maternity dress? Poor Ryan Church; that's two years in a row for him.---> Brian Schneider is missing time to a sore right shoulder. Given the alternative of Gary Bennett, the team really needs to splurge and bring in Mr. Miyagi for that clap-rub thing. Do it, Tavares.[...]



Vargas: "Why you gotta play me like that, dog?"

2005-09-15T19:56:35.033-04:00

You know who we haven't heard from in awhile? Claudio Vargas. Let's check in on what's up with I, Claudio:Claudio Vargas says he doesn't pay much attention to his old club, the Washington Nationals, but he knows enough torealize they could use someone like him right now.Oh, right. That. The whole waiving him thing.Well, when was that . . . late May? Time rolls on, bygones-be-bygones, seven-times-seventy . . . "I think now I'm in the real big leagues," Vargas said. "In the past, in Montreal and Washington, it's terrible down there."Hum.He said he has heard from a former teammate that players are unhappy in Washington. Vargas has said he didn't feel as though manager Frank Robinson had confidence in him . . . Frank Robinson doesn't have confidence in many pitchers under the age of 30 (they're not part of the solution; they're part of the problem), and Vargas' performance as a Nat wouldn't even have made Joel Osteen smile. But go on---[H]e doesn't seem to think much of the Nationals' general manager, either.Really? Nor do I! Do tell, Claudio:"People tell me that the GM they have now, Jim Bowden, he's crazy," Vargas said. "He doesn't think before he does a lot of things."Bowden seems to qualify as a megalomaniac; that's a kind of mental illness, perhaps. And his roster moves evince a sort of hair-brained whimsy that suggest a lack of foresight. Claudio's sources seem like gold. I wonder who they could be?I know, I know: sour grapes. That's certainly the case, and Vargas is an ex-Nat (and an ex-Nat who's enjoyed success in a new hometown), so we should care not a little bit about him. Maybe we should even dislike him--- and I'll tell you what, Vargas has aided mightily in that process. Early returns are in, and a rather vituperative reception is in the offing. I can see that, and it makes sense.Still, I don't know. Meh. Just insinuating myself in Vargas' shoes for a second, I can guess from where he comes. He signs with the organization, puts in his time, pitches well for the big league club in 2003, has an injury year, a new clown takes over the GM's seat, he comes back from injury and gets his brains bashed in, and the clown DFA's him, then waives him (when he had an option year remaining, mind you), and he's snapped up quickly by another team. He's in that team's rotation in no time, and he's trying to reestablish himself.It's certainly sour grapes, but I think I can understand the feeling. [...]



"It was a good death."

2005-09-15T13:08:48.016-04:00

"The ways of the Mets are long and pointless."The New York Mets have a 0.43885% chance of claiming the National League's wild card berth. What were their odds at the outset of the current three-game series versus the Washington Nationals? Probably not much higher; however, it's safe to say that the Nats have taken the Mets' closed coffin, nailed it shut and now, thanks to last night's 6-3 victory, dropped the thing ignominuously in the cold, damp dirt. It's kind of gratifying, in a sense, obliterating the last vestiges of a team's hope.Our team's hope, on the other hand, keeps hanging on---though it's hanging on life support. These two wins have kicked off a 12-game whirlwind in which the Nats play the Mets (in New York), the Padres (in San Diego), the Giants (in Washington), and the Mets again (at RFK---ah, blessed constancy!). Ten games remain of this below-.500 extravaganza, and I think the Nats need to win eight of them to keep hope alive. Such a peformance would still likely require taking four-of-six from the Marlins (down there) and the Phillies (at RFK), who just so happen to be in front of the Nats in the standings at current. There's also the Astros to worry about, who after tonight's game with the Marlins will be lone-wolfing it on a pretty easy schedule the rest of the way.So, come to think of it, sweeping out the Mets/Pads/Giants/Mets might be quite advisable, though not at all realistic._____________Last night's win was a nice one. Unlike Monday's game, which was rather dependent on poor fundamentals by the Mets, last evening marked a solid all-around offensive effort for the Nats. They squandered some opportunities, but still led 3-0. They then supplied the necessary finishing kick, and the progression from Loiaza-to-Majewski-to-Cordero was basically no worries.Solid performances abounded: Nick Johnson hit the ball with authority; Preston Wilson knocked the snot out of a home run ball; Brad Wilkerson played smart ball; Gary Bennett, breaking out of Frank Robinson's recent and strict left-right catching platoon because of Brian Schneider's bum wing, actually supplied offense, ducksnorting an RBI single to short right; and Vinny Castilla, bouncing back from a nonchalant first inning error that would make the rawest rookie (or Ryan Zimmerman) wince with embarrassment, cranked out a dinger of his own.Oh, and there was Jose Guillen's "performance," too. Mark Zuckerman notes in today's Washington Times that Guillen's been mouthing off more-and-more in the clubhouse lately, and that attitude spilled over to the playing field. Ejected by home plate umpire Bill Miller in the fifth inning, Guillen devoted the next few moments to a primo temper tantrum.I didn't actually see the borderline (Zuckerman's description) third strike that raised Angry Man's ire, but I did take notice when the Mets' television announcers said, "Uh oh." I immediately knew it was Guillen. By this point he was merely ejected, but he was only warming up just the same. He took a minute to select his projectiles, and then he hurled stuff from the dugout onto the playing field. MSG color guy Fran "Doofus Voice" Healy was impressed that Guillen could toss four bats at one time with such precision. Hey, Guillen's got plenty of practice tossing stuff!Honestly, if it wasn't so pathetic it would have been rather comical. But it was mainly pathetic. We---by which I mean Nats' fans, bloggers, etc.---make light and frequent mention of Guillen's anger management issues. We regard him, rightly or wrongly, as a timebomb waiting to go off. If it's "wrongly," it's wrong for the same reason why a defendant[...]



Criticism-by-classification

2005-09-14T13:25:10.173-04:00

What utility does a blogger provide? What is the purpose of blogging?If you say, "None," then you might be right. Really. However, this post also might not be for you.For the rest of you, I might suggest that a baseball blog serves as supplemental insight and commentary, generally in an amateur fashion and generally on topics that professional media outlets cannot or are inclined not to devote their resources. But let's strip it down to essentials: we're talking about criticism.Criticism is generally defined as the art of commenting, usually adversely. It comes in various forms; depending on the context, a given form might be appropriate. Sometimes a sheer, guttural rant is appropriate. Sometimes, a heady statistical analysis is appropriate. Sometimes, a call for protest is appropriate. Sometimes, a haiku might even be appropriate.And, sometimes, what I'll call criticism-by-classification can be appropriate and, hopefully, enlightening. You might recall that I tried this tactic back in June with a post ("dazzingly intelligent") that attempted to frame the Robinson-Ohka situation in terms of the "crime control" and "reasonableness" models of discipline. I wasn't trying to argue that one view was inherently better or worse; precisely, that is the point: your view of a situation depends on context. I don't know (glowing reviews aside!) whether I was successful, but that was much of the intent.Which brings me to the piece on Frank Robinson today at Capitol Punishment. For those who read that blog, you should know by now that Chris doesn't think much of . . . well, here are Chris' words:I think it's pretty obvious that I'm not FrankRobinson's biggest fan. Helluva player; Stinkpot of a manager.Think this is going to turn into a sheer, guttural rant? Think again. What follows is a good example of criticism-by-classification.There exist various different kinds of baseball teams: young, veteran, pitching-reliant, pitching-poor, take-n-rake, speedy, etc. A given manager will mesh well with some types (hopefully; why else would the guy be a manager?!), but he could be incompatible with others. This is truth; it's not offered for the sake of being "critical" (popular defintion: "a jerk").Chris makes the solid case---completely aside from his feelings of Frank Robinson "personally"---that Robinson is ill-suited to manage this club. He does so, essentially, by classifying Frank:[1] Frank is indicating that he prefers to work with a veteran team. That's fine. Different managers have different skill sets. Frankis, essentially, admitting publicly that this team isn't the right fit for him as a manager. [. . .][2] Frank demands respect, yet he infrequently gives it to his players -- especially his pitchersLet's take the second classification first, that Frank "does not work well with pitchers" (my words for sake of classification, not Chris'). Or maybe "some pitchers," if you prefer. Considering a team carries only 11 or 12 pitchers usually, "some" is still a substantial amount. And considering that, by a conservative estimate, about five have expressed displeasure with him this season, it's probably not unfair to say that "working with pitchers" is not Frank's strong suit.Guess what? Frank has to; the team has little-to-no offense. Now, I'm willing to castigate Jim Bowden for acting the wastrel with what used to be a bounty of back-end-of-the-rotation types, but let's be honest: he was a co-conspirator, not the lone gunman. During the first half, the team had one main strength: pitching. Without losing sight of the fact that the team ERA has dropped in th[...]



Never underestimate the Mets

2005-09-14T07:29:37.533-04:00

"And this is how you handle bunts, Mr. Met." "Interesting!"Overheard at Mets' spring training camp, Port St. Lucie, late February 2005:"Jacobs! No no no, Jacobs! When you field the bunt, don't triple-pump before you make the play. Load and explode. Load and explode, baby! Don't hesitat --- Castro! Castro! What in the Sam Hill are you doing? When you field a bunt, don't run three paces and then toss the ball high underhand! You'll overthrow the first baseman every time!"They didn't learn, coach.The New York Mets proved, among other things, incapable of effectively fielding bunts Tuesday night during their 4-2 loss at Shea Stadium---which is fortunate, because the bunt ranks highly among the Washington Nationals' favorite plays.Managing for the future, Frank Robinson broke out the following Nos. 4-8 in Tuesday's lineup:---> Preston Wilson, CF (free agent; gone).---> Vinny Castilla, 3B (old, perhaps replaced by a hotshot, and also really old).---> Deivi Cruz, SS (free agent; gone).---> Gary Bennett, C (fungible back-up catcher, de facto platoon partner).---> Cristian Guzman, SS (nonsensical free agent signing).Depressing!Yet, by happy fortune, Guzman last night enjoyed one of maybe a half-dozen good games this season; he went 3-for-4 all told, raising his batting average to a lofty .204. Leading off the third, Guzman stroked a ground-rule double to right field. The next batter, emergency starting pitcher Hector Carrasco, laid down a sacrifice bunt---which seconds later would be scored a sacrifice bunt/fielder's choice when first baseman Mike Jacobs, who had Guzman dead-to-rights at third, held the ball too long. Brad Wilkerson singled in Guzman, and the rally was on. Marlon Byrd and P-Wil also delivered run-scoring hits, and the Nats had wiped out a one-run deficit (acquired by the Mets when Castilla misplayed a Tom Glavine grounder into an infield hit).Guzman also marked his presence in the ninth, when the Nats added another run. Bennett's, uh, platoon partner, Brian Schneider, who entered the game in the bottom of the eighth, led off with a single to right. Guzman then laid down a well-placed bunt; catcher Ramon Castro fielded it in time to nip Guzman at first but instead took a couple steps and then tossed the ball high, high in the air. It arched high above the first baseman and landed well beyond anyone's reach. Schneider, hustling the whole way, scored from first.That was more than enough for the Nats' kitchen sink pitching staff, which was not quite so stacked last night. Carrasco---who apparently didn't know he'd start until yesterday afternoon, although we all pretty much knew it on Monday night---turned in a four-inning outing for the first time since August 6, 1998. (Thanks, Retrosheet!) He surrendered two runs but was generally in command, striking out six New York batters. Four relievers, including Gary Majewski, who was deemed the winning pitcher based on two innings of effective relief, closed the door.Majewski was enabled by Jose Offerman's baserunning gaffe in the bottom of the seventh. Offerman reached via walk and then, perhaps pondering how first baseman Brad Wilkerson could draw more walks by being more aggressive at the plate, induced teammate Kaz Matsui into an 8-4 fielder's choice when he didn't run on Matsui's sharp liner to Wilson. That was pretty much the Mets' last threat.A month or two ago, one could have reasonably expected at least one NL East team to fall off the pace. Who would it be? Philly? Florida? The Nats? Never underestimate the Mets._____________A game ball of sorts goes to d[...]



October 1, 2000: Boston @ Tampa Bay

2005-09-13T00:06:31.326-04:00

Bos: 2 9 0TB: 3 10 0This was a truly memorable game, witnessed by 28,043 fans at Tropicana Field. (Twenty eight thousand fans? In Tampa?) Lot of noteworthy things occurred on this Sunday afternoon:---> Steve Ontiveros, Boston reliever, appeared in his last big league game.---> Jesus Pena, Boston reliever, appeared in his last big league game.---> Sang-Hoon Lee, Boston reliever, appeared in his last big league game.---> Rick Croushore, Boston reliever, appeared in his last big league game.---> Dan Wheeler, Tampa Bay reliever, got his first big league win.Oh, and Hector Carrasco was referred to as "starting pitcher" for the first and only time in his career . . .. . . until Tuesday evening. (Well, maybe; Rocket Bill notes that Esteban Loiaza might go on three days' rest, and St. Barry refers to a mysterious "different approach" Frank Robinson plans to take with respect to his bullpen-by-kitchen-sink gameplan of late.)Carrasco's line? Not bad, though a little lucky, it would appear: 2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO. He also committed a balk---though, strangely, Paul Schrieber wasn't involved. (I looked it up!)If it is Carrasco getting the call tomorrow, what can we expect? Well, considering Robinson pulled his starter after getting two outs a week ago, I wouldn't even venture to guess. But his game log reveals a handful of two-inning appearances this season. Retrosheet informs me that the last time Carrasco went three innings in a big league game was 2001. Obviously, one should not expect any more than that, if that.[Insert snarky "I wonder what happened to all the Nats' starting pitching" comment here.]_____________It's White Flag Boz Tuesday at the Washington Post. Reality has sunk in for Father Foam Finger, and he's taken it with aplomb. Out with the old and in with the new, baby!Right now, the players about whom the Nats most desperately want answers -- Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Church, Marlon Byrd and (cue the "Bull Durham" theme) Rick Short -- are also the players who give them the best chance to score runs for a change and maybe make some noise down the stretch. [. . .]Wasting these last three weeks by playing thoroughly known commodities such as Vinny Castilla, Cristian Guzman, Preston Wilson and (still hobbling) Jose Vidro would be a disservice to both this season and next year as well. Really, the only guy among the top four who figures to be a mainstay for the next generation of Nats is Zimmerman; well, maybe Church will figure in somewhere, too. Nevertheless, as Boz notes, all four players are intriguing---which is more than you can say for the bottom four, who are mostly depressing.The column is one of those something-for-all-tastes type of ventures. It contains eclectic observations from a Baseball Man (Jack McKeon, who saw Dutch Zimmerman make two errors at short and could only say Zimm would be great) and derision of scouts who discounted Short. Boz also gets in a great collateral slam on Jim Bowden:"Load and explode, baby, load and explode," said GM Jim Bowden last week as he passed Byrd's locker, repeating a Paige mantra. "People are going to see a whole new MarlonByrd."Not if he's sitting on the bench. Boz also notes that the injury-prone Church is motivated because "some in the organization have questioned healing time in the past"---but, of course, doesn't acknowledge that he parroted the same lines in July.Anyway, there's something for everybody here. Well, that's not entirely true; there's no mention of starting pitchers to help out. But that's easily explained: there aren't[...]



Clearly creamed

2005-09-12T23:01:36.546-04:00


I just watched the first at-bat back for Barry Bonds. On the tenth pitch, Bonds launched a shot deep into left-center. Initially, it looked like a homer; FoxSportsNet even did the "HR-Bonds (704)" scroll at the top of the screen.

Well, it turns out Jeffrey Maier was in attendance, or perhaps it was Jeffrey's ugly uncle. Either way, a fan reached out and caught the ball. What looked like a homer turned out to be a long, long double. Bonds scored a couple pitches later on a Ray Durham single.

Keep in mind that this was Bonds' first live at-bat of 2005. Love him or hate him, one has to concede that was pretty impressive.



Rob Dibble, wordsmith

2005-09-12T20:05:58.500-04:00

(image)

Heard on MLB Homeplate, XM 175, during the drive home:

"Albert Belle and Mo Vaughn were about equal in '95, but Mo was more egregious with the media, so he won the MVP."

Oooookay . . .



Bounce this!

2005-09-12T13:49:46.436-04:00

Would you believe a player could be so ugly that a team would consider him an attractive signing? That's Ben Weber for you, or so says Jeff "Certified" Angus, who explores the "Bounce-Back" player phenomenon at his Management by Baseball blog. Or maybe I should say "that was," though not because Weber is suddenly not-ugly. No, he's still quite ugly.Weber, if you'll recall, parlayed his subpar looks and funkadelic delivery into three fine seasons (2001-03) out of the (former) Anaheim Angels' bullpen. Then he imploded badly last season (is it possible to implode well?) and entered the market with, as it were, zero market value. Somewhat counter-intuitively, I suppose, that's precisely what made Weber attractive to Cincinnati Reds' general manager Dan O'Brien.That's because Weber was O'Brien's "bounce-back guy," and according to O'Brien, every team takes on one or two a season.Although Weber didn't work out for the Reds (to say the least), Angus still noted the signing as well-considered; to that end, a bounce-back guy signing is a somewhat common move precisely because it's generally a safe move:The key to correct application of a Bounce-Back Guy is to avoid the MBWT (Management by Wishful Thinking) lure of imagining he or she can lead you to a pennant. Bounce Back Guys are bad investments when you build a team around their success. [Julio] Franco was meant to be a bat off the bench and then a platoon partner; he succeeded beyond [Atlanta's] expectations. Low risk, good reward. Weber was meant to be a middle-reliever for a borderline maybe-contending team that couldn't fill up their roster with hot minor league relief prospects. When Weber's game didn't come back at AAA, they promoted a prospect. Low risk, low loss.Basically, the keys are a) not to give up too much and b) not to dream for too much.Who was/were the Nats' 2005 bounce-back guys? Without broadening the definition too much (I hope), we can point to at least three: Carlos Baerga (minor league free agent, envisioned as pinch-hitter); Hector Carrasco (minor league free agent, envisioned as middle relief depth); and Jeffrey Hammonds (minor league free agent, envisioned at most as platoon left fielder and fifth outfielder). One of those (Carrasco) hit big, and he's been used to substantial gain for the team; one of those (Hammonds) missed, but to no real loss to the team. The other one (Baerga) has done pretty much what the team expected.I can think of two other candidates, actually. The first is Antonio "Toasty" Osuna, who was much like Carrasco except he signed a guaranteed, big league contract and blew up in April. And the other one?Esteban Loiaza.Think back to when Loiaza signed. (The formatting! Oh, my eyes!) The deal was for one year, at the cost of $2.9 million---though there's an additional catch, as I'll soon note. At the time of the signing, Jim Bowden acknowledged Loiaza represented a risk. But while the "Natosphere" wasn't generally enamored of the signing (there were other back-end rotation candidates already, by golly!), let's credit Bodes by characterizing the risk as "not that great." In point of fact, the Nats avoided a bidding war because Loiaza was coming off a horrid second half of '04; thus, E-Lo received no other "firm offers" for his services.Further, did Bodes overreach in terms of Loiaza's anticipated contribution to the team? No, not really; he didn't even sound like he knew what he was buying:"You just don't know what you'[...]



The illusion never fades into something real . . .

2005-09-12T01:30:38.683-04:00

. . . and I can't remember the rest of the song---which is no great loss, since it was an insubstantial late-90s pop song. There was something about the Australian lady "lying naked on the floor," and that admittedly is a more intriguing concept than the rest of the Washington Nationals' season, in all likelihood.Ah yes, there was also something about being "all out of faith." And that---finally, lamentably, inexorably---is the only reasonable posture to take with respect to the Nats' wild card hopes, after this afternoon's heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Braves. The postseason? An illusion. A winning season? Now, maybe that'll be something real.The illusion has been a persistent one, I'll give it that. Pick a random date, progress week-by-week or so thereafter, and you'll see:---> On July 24, the Nats were tied for the wild card lead (and the NL East lead).---> On July 31, the Nats trailed in the wild card race by 2.0 games.---> On August 7, the Nats trailed by 2.0 games.---> On August 14, the Nats trailed by 1.0 game.---> On August 21, the Nats trailed by 1.5 games.---> On August 28, the Nats trailed by 2.5 games.---> On September 4, the Nats trailed by 2.0 games.---> And on September 11, the Nats trail by 4.0 games.How can you call your team out of a race when it (until the last few days) never dips more than a field goal out of the lead? In a sense, you can't. And, in another sense, you couldn't; the Nats had all those late-season home games in-hand, as Thomas Boswell kept reminding us. The home games could well coincide with the end of the Nats' "dry spell" (to use the term Boz inexplicably used to describe July and August), and this improbable season of joy might well continue past October 2 unabated.The home games, of course, have largely been duds. Yet, as with Friday night's games, there have been just enough salvationary moments to keep the faith alive; well, those and rather inexplicable recent crunk-ups by Philly (mid-week) and Houston (this weekend). Even now, it's still theoretically possible to noodle a final, super-attenuated last-stand scenario for the Nats, which includes a lot of fringe considerations (including the Marlins perhaps needing to sweep the Astros in Houston) but basically boils down to the Nats turning into Robo-Cop for these final 18 games.But don't.It's not going to happen, folks---and not even a big win or even a thrilling in-game comeback (as today's certainly qualified) is going to change the evaluation this time. It's lamentably simple:1) The frontrunners have games-in-hand on the Nats, which is a deficit when the Nats truly need that luxury.More importantly, however,2) The Nats aren't capable of sweeping-out an opponent, like Florida on the road in the final week or Philly at home to end the season.So we can't put off the inevitable any longer. We've used up "we'll get 'em in September, with all those home games." That reasoning ended with a 4-6 homestand, when the Nats really needed at least the reverse.Remember June fondly, but don't rely on it. June is not going to rematerialize and rescue the season. June's over, and the season soon will be, too.But what a season it's been.___________________One note on today's loss, in which the Nats wrestled victory from the jaws of defeat but lost anyway, as Chad Cordero surrendered back-to-back homers to the Jones Boys and blew his third save against Atlanta:There are two outs in the top of the n[...]