Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Reflections on a tap dance

Schadenfreude doesn't feel so good, actually

Capitol Punishment Chris correctly perceived that I was quite pleased with the decision earlier this evening to demote Endy Chavez to Triple-A. Quite viciously pleased, actually; by my recollection, I said that Chavez "sucks" not once, but twice.

As far as starting centerfielder/lead-off hitters go, the assessment is basically correct. I looked at Chavez's comps by age awhile back. Beyond that, what is he? Curtis Goodwin? (Giving some batting average and taking some plate discipline.) Brian L. Hunter? (Except not as hell-bent on the base paths.)

Actually, Hunter is an interesting point of reference. Back in 1999, Robinson did some color commentary for FOX Sports. In one instance that stuck in my mind for no particular reason, Robinson worked a game in Seattle. Hunter, who was something of a sensation for the Tigers in 1997, when he hit for a decent average and led the American League in stolen bases, had recently dumped to the M's, who were experiencing a two-year moribund phase between Griffey's absolute peak and the Griffey trade. Robinson was curiously surprised that the Tigers traded Hunter, he indicated. I remember Robinson asking the play-by-play man, "Was it something about his average?" I left my viewing of the broadcast believing (and curiously surprised) that Robinson thought highly of Hunter as a big leaguer.

Well, Chavez is the same type of player. It's not much of a surprise, in hindsight, that was he willing to give Chavez the chance to prove himself. It is something of a surprise, though, that he cut bait on March 29.

Nevertheless---and I'll try not to over-dramatize this---I feel bad for my sheer elation earlier, all of it at Endy's expense. At least Ryan, demonstrating why he is a distinguished blogger, focused on the positive aspect of this transaction. No, it's not really that Endy has been thrown under a bus; it's that Ryan Church gets a chance, presumably, to prove his chops in the bigs.

I haven't checked in on MLB.com's Bill Ladson lately, but I figured I would tonight. Maybe I read between the reporters' lines too much, but compared to the work of his peers, Ladson's material regarding Chavez has consistently been more positive, less dire, and more understanding. Look here, for instance. Or, even more vividly, look at this comment in his mailbag published as recently as yesterday:

As for Chavez, he will be given a chance to be the leadoff hitter for a while. Robinson is a patient man and feels that Chavez has improved at the plate. Robinson said that Chavez has been showing more patience by working the count.

Maybe Ladson is just behind on the times (Robinson has recently complained of Chavez's lack of progress, as well as some indifferent play), but I prefer to think that he was subtly advocating for Endy all along. Sports writers are people, too.

And so, it was with a heavy heart that I read Ladson's article on Chavez's demotion tonight. I think I sympathize with Endy because I've had times in my life where I've simply come up short, where I just didn't possess the skills needed to excel at a given field no matter how passionately I viewed the situation:

"We tried everything we could for Endy to be our center fielder. We wanted him to get on base more. We didn't see the adjustments," interim general manager Jim Bowden said. "We are not going to score enough runs if we don't do something about this offense. He needs to go down to Triple-A and he needs to work on his game, learn to get on base. He needs to score more runs for him to help us. "

Or maybe I sympathize with Endy because he's apparently rather blind to his situation:

Chavez suggested Bowden trade him, but Bowden told Chavez that no teams were interested in his services. "[I told Endy], 'Other clubs view you the same way as we do. We talked to many clubs about you. They want to see you get on base like we do. So instead of complaining, let's look in the minors,
recognize what we have done and work on your game. You need to get better to start in the big leagues,'" Bowden said.

Or maybe I shouldn't feel much sympathy for Endy at all:

Manager Frank Robinson said Chavez indicated to him that he wasn't worried about losing his job and was just getting ready for the season.

(Note: Also take a look at the first linked Ladson article above. Endy sounds rather dismissive of the situation, saying he always struggles in spring training---he's always working on things and stuff like that. While I agree that one's spring training performance is a limited and somewhat lousy way to evaluate a player's worth, it was plain as day to everyone interested that Chavez was thrown into an open or semi-open competition all along.)

So, what's the point? The point is that, irrational exuberance aside, I take no joy in anyone's failure---with the possible exception of Peter Angelos, of course. I still maintain---and wholeheartedly agree with the Nats' blogosphere---that Chavez's demotion is nothing but good news for the organization; it means, in a manner of speaking, that these guys aren't frickin' around. Nevertheless, none of us wish any kind of pox on the guy, and maybe---later and perhaps in a different organization, or perhaps Washington's---he can realize some worth in a part-time role better suited to his limited abilities.

---I'm not sure how to approach this, since Nationals Inquirer has never been publicized before, but William Beutler provided a neat little sample of some Nats blogs on DCist.com, and this one ("tawdrily---and appropriately---named") was included. The commenters seem displeased that none of us mentioned live inside the District, but---as my ol' granny loves to say---ti na kano? ("what can you do?"). We live where we live; we are who we are. That said, I want to express my gratitude to Mr. Beutler for noticing this rather spartan and sometimes spiteful blog---and to note that there are several others that deserve the attention, too.

---Speaking of Nats blogs, there's a new Nats blog-plus in town, The Washington Nationals Fan Site. Paul, the guy over there, seems like a really nice fellow, and I anticipate that the site will start filling up pretty soon.

---Speaking of bloggers being publicized, Seth Stohs, mastermind of Twins- (and other stuff) related SethSpeaks.net was recently profiled in his hometown newspaper in Minnesota. Seth seems like a nice chap---I've exchanged a couple of emails with him after discovering him via the Baseball Savant, an equally nice chap---and he does very good work on his site, so it's nice to see him get some pub. I speak only for myself here, but while I certainly don't do this with any expectation of being noticed to any great extent, actually being noticed for the work you do engenders a naturally satisfying reaction.

---Well, it's getting late now, and that's all I have for tonight. Preview for tomorrow? We'll have either:

a) a review of Baseball Prospectus 2005 (a largely Nats-centric one), or

b) a post on shedding interest in the Orioles (or, rather, having it shed from my conscience by perfidy).

As an added bonus (for the low, low price of . . . NOTHING!), we might get a little look at Steroids Scandal, NFL-Style.

I guess you're not worthy of writing about the Nats because you're not in DC, damnit!
Nope, guess not. Hey, at least I live 90-100 miles away; what you guys' excuses? ;-)
What's my excuse?

Have you actually been to DC? :)
Nah. You got me. I did college and work thereafter entirely by correspondence. And when I was a kid, all the class field trips were done in futuristic virtual reality. ;-)
I can't wait for the BP review. I skimmed the Nats chapter in a bookstore and went away fuming. Make no mistake - most of those jockjaws are rooting against us.
I think the BP review will come tomorrow. I don't think I can do it during my lunch hour or so, and besides, it's really nice out on a weekday for the first time, well, this year.

There's a lot of quotable stuff in there, so much so that I better select and arrange well, lest I commit copyright infringement.

As an initial measure, the Brad Wilkerson comment devolved into a discussion of the jersey unveiling ceremony. Zumsteg (he wrote all the Nats stuff, apparently) commented that there were "nervous smiles" just in case "some angry, dejected Expos fan" rushed the stage. Even granting that this is dramatized, what the hell is the guy talking about? I didn't see any nervous smiles on TV; looked like everyone there was genuinely elated.

Did I miss something?
BTW, Mr. Needham: I've got a pretty kick-butt, wall-sized, framed map here in my office.

Is it of Richmond? No.

Is it of Midlothian, VA? ("Here's the Fridays, and here's the Home Depot, and here's the O'Charley's!") No.

It's of DC. So there. ;-)
I'm sure that Gary, IN looks really nice from a map too!
Zumsteg is a fool - I remember my jaw dropping after reading some of his BP drivel. But better him writing the Nats stuff than Dayn or Jonah Keri, I suppose.
I'm not as familiar with Keri's stuff as you no doubt are, but Keri has always struck me as merely exceedingly sad over the state of the franchise (and subsequent loss of his team)---not particularly spiteful (especially compared to the other tools). In fact, in his latest chat, he said Zumsteg, not he, did the Nats stuff because he just didn't think he could do the job.

Now . . . I hate to admit this, but for the longest time, I confused the names "Jonah Keri" and "Dayn Perry"---I guess b/c the last names end similarly---couldn't tell them apart.

And then you edumacated me!
Yeah, you're probably right about Keri. He didn't deserve the cheapshot. I take it back, Jonah! Forgive me!
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