Saturday, March 05, 2005

Fred Manfra has a really nice voice . . .

. . . but Buck Martinez doesn't---and other comments from "Nats/O's I"

First Inning

* Either Fort Lauderdale has been completely eclipsed by one of those Mother Ships from "Independence Day," or Comcast SportsNet is having technical difficulties. Considering the mother ships are from a fictional movie and CcSn has technical difficulties every hour on the hour, I'm betting on the latter.

* Daniel Cabrera is really, really tall. He's got electric stuff (whatever that actually means . . .), but unless he drastically improves on his 2004 MLB strikeout-to-walk ratio (89/76), he's going to have trouble staying in Baltimore's rotation.

* Fancy Fred and Boring Buck pay some attention to Jose Guillen's anger management,
which must gratify Ryan. They clearly know very little about the Nats, though, and in that sense I can tell the telecast is going to be a disappointment. I am interested in the O's (concededly, unlike many fans of our new Nats), and I haven't paid much attention to them this spring, so it's good to catch up a bit on that beat. Thus, I don't mind the O's focus, because I'll watch O's games on TV, and besides---MORE BASEBALL = GOOD THING. However, you're not going to learn much about the Nats in this game, I suspect.

* In the bottom of the inning, Fancy Fred is completely deked by a Miguel Tejada fly ball; Manfra thought it was gone off the bat, when in fact Tejada caught off the end of the bat a bit. Hey, it's spring training for the announcers, too. (By the way, the Buckster now considers Tejada the best offensive shortstop in the game---especially, Manfra adds, with A-Rod at third base. What, they've never heard of Virtual Guzman?)

* LIVAN! looks a little stiff out of the box; he's fidgeting a bit, rotating his arm trying to get loose.

* Sosa, interestingly, is the fifth-place hitter. I thought he raised a stink in Chicago upon being displaced from the cleanup spot. I guess he's playing the good soldier for now. Sosa gets called out on one of those sloppy, slow curves that LIVAN! loves to throw. A bit of jabbering by Sosa; it was questionable.

Second Inning

* Sideline reporter Brent Harris---you can tell he's going to focus on O's-related sideline stuff---says the O's have "a shot to pressure the Sox and Yankees." Appropriately ambiguous; nice job, son.

* Has Sosa been ejected? He has! By the second base ump, C.B. Bucknor? Yep! Now the umps are conferring with Mazilli; Sosa is kind of steaming but not really hot, standing off to the side. The TV guys cut to a precious shot of Frank Robinson chuckling in the Nats' dugout. Buck Martinez, you can tell, wants to shout, "THIS IS RIDICULOUS! IT'S SPRING TRAINING, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!" But he's restraining himself, and resorting to policy-based rationales for why Bucknor (and why the second base ump?) should have shown more restraint (e.g., "Hitters like Sosa need at-bats to get their timing down. That's what spring training is for."). Manfra called the suspect pitch "clearly high," which is strange, because if it missed, it missed inside. They shown another replay, and I think I'm right. Whatever, no big deal; it certainly wasn't an "Eric Gregg strike." Sosa, resigned to his fate, has now lightly tossed his glove in the direction of Bucknor's feet in---as Manfra noted---symbolic protest. Well, that was interesting.

* Nice double by Carlos Baerga, DHing today. The double represents 50% of last year's total, by the way.

* It's Brent Harris Time again, our very own Jim-Gray-on-the-scene. Harris informs us that a fan in the right field seats taunted Sosa, who turned to fire back a jibe; Bucknor told Sosa to focus on the game, and Sosa apparently gave Bucknor some lip. Well, there you go; makes sense. Harris also added that Sosa---in the short time he was actually eligible to play, i.e., his one at-bat---fouled a ball off that landed in the parking line off of right field---RIGHT ON SOSA'S OWN CAR. Oh, the humanity!

* The O's string a couple of hits off of LIVAN! , score on a SAC Fly or something (I stepped out for a sec), and it's 1-0, Baltimore.

Third Inning

* The Sosa controversy has died down, and this game has been exposed for the boring spring training game that it is. Cabrera is making the entire team look like Inning-Endies.

* LIVAN! isn't getting shredded, but he's leaving some balls up in the zone, and the O's add another run. It's 2-0 after three, and I suspect Cabrera and Hernandez are both done.

Fourth Inning

* Nothing of consequence happening and then .............................. talk about the Orioles offense, and then .............................. talk about the Orioles pitching. (Buck Martinez turns the general topic of "pitching uncertainty" on its head, asking, "How many camps have this kind of competition for the fifth spot?" He's referring to Eric DuBose, Bruce Chen (who's pitching pretty well currently), Matt Riley, and Kurt Ainsworth. Sounds to me like a team with four question marks battling for the fifth starter spot; sounds to me like probably 15-20 other major league teams.

Fifth Inning

* Uh .................................... uh ....................................................... Hey, Anthony Williams is signing autographs! Eh ................................ I think some guy is running his weed wacker right next to CcSn's on-field mics. There's this constant buzz filtering in the sound mix. Or maybe there's just some small planes flying above. Let me try to concentra ......................................................

Sixth Inning

* Hmmm .............................. er ..................... Wait a minute; Terrmel Sledge just blasted a homer to center off a young O's minor leaguer named Hayden Penn (pretty decent prospect). It's a two run shot, so it's tied, 2-2.

* Brad Wilkerson, first Nats star, just hit an absolute bomb to right for back-to-back jacks. If the stadium is northernly-oriented, the ball landed in my front yard; if it's southernly-oriented, then Fidel Castro just renewed his love for the National Pastime. Wilkerson hit the ball that far, I swear.

Seventh Inning

* Nats add another run on a sort of freaky play in the right field corner. It's now 4-2.

* Most impressive feature of MVP Baseball 2005? It captures completely accurately just how pudgy T.J. Tucker is in real life.

Eighth Inning

* Manfra and Martinez are back to the bread-and-butter: Sosa. They're discussing the parallels between 'Cago-to-Balto Sammy and Cincy-to-Balto Frank Robinson.

* Gary Majewski is having trouble. The O's load the bases, Sledge makes a nice catching running in on the ball, but throws home, allowing the other runners to advance a base. Not that it matters; Majewski eventually walks the bases loaded again, and Calvin Pickering---er, Walter Young---strides to the plate, Biggie Smalls style.

* A CcSn commercial break is a steady progression of McDonalds' commercials and "SportsNite" promos. None of those cheerily cheesy Eastern Auto spots, though.

* Hector Carrasco in. Young hits a "sun chopper" that gets over Rick Short's head. (The ball took a big, high hop off the plate, and Short lost the hop in the sun. Or perhaps Short is in cahoots with his old organization.) It's now 5-4, O's.

* CcSn just ran last year's stats line for "Hector Harrasco." He went 8-8, 5.57 in Japan, so I'm glad the Nats have Hector Carrasco instead. I'm not sure if Harrasco or Carrasco is out there right now; whoever it was, he was wild-as-hell with the first batter.

* Hector Whoever induces a lazy fly ball to left, and the threat is extinguished. ("Electric stuff," "extinguished threats"---I wonder if Abner Doubleday was a volunteer fire fighter.) I guess I'll have to stick around to see if the Spring Nats (i.e., if you're not keeping score, you have no idea who is still in) can mount a rally in the ninth.

Ninth Inning

* B.J. Ryan is on now; I guess the "Proven Closer"(tm) has to get his work in during the spring, too. (Actually, I suppose Ryan isn't "proven" yet. Whatever he is, he's Just Plain Awesome.) His first opponent is Nepotista Jared Sandberg, who draws a quick walk. (Speaking of Sandberg: You don't hear much about him in Nats' camp. I guess it's assumed he's headed for New Orleans, eh?)

* Jeffrey Hammonds follows Sandberg, and man does his bat look slow. He's late on Ryan's off-speed pitch, and then just gets absolutely blown away by a fastball.

* George Arias---I nominate "The Heretic" as his nickname, by the way---lines a shot the just barely avoids snow-cone status in the glove of proven winner Enrique Wilson at second. So, it's now first-and-second, one down. The 36 fans still in attendance are stirring, as is the O's bullpen. And now Ray Miller is coming out for a word; I think I just heard an octogenarian fan yell, "It's 4:08! I've got an early-bird dinner to get to!" Now the fans are on Joe West's case.

* And Gary Bennett, back-up catcher extraordinaire, does it! He knocks a single to left, and The Nepotista scampers in to tie it at five apiece.

* Rick Short, the guy blinded by the light ten minutes ago (but who also tripled in the fourth run in the seventh) can bust this game open with another gapper. Instead, he strikes out looking on a make-up call by West.

* Ian Desmond (whose name strangely seems more appropriate of an Australian swimmer, in my opinion) lashes a triple down the line to left. All three runners score. It's now 8-5, and Sledge bangs out an opposite-field single to score the swimmer and increase the lead to four here in the top of the ninth. Ryan's been pulled, and I think I'm going to rap this up. If the O's rally, I'll add the details.

Okay, so a debrief:

---It was one game, so let's not cheer too much or overly lament some poor performances.

---When it was front-line-talent versus front-line-talent, the O's strung together some singles, whereas the Nats got nothing done.

---The Nats hit an O's minor leaguer hard.

---Some bench hopefuls ralled nicely against the O's best pitcher, who just didn't have it.

---The broadcast, Sosa ejection aside, was as boring as could be.

In other words, ah! (Breathes in the fresh grass of my mind.) It's baseball again!

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