Saturday, April 30, 2005


Or does MASN now have street cred?

So the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is more than a theory now:

The number of Washington Nationals games on television got a big boost yesterday when DirecTV announced it will air 135 regular season games throughout the Mid-Atlantic region starting with last night's game against the New York Mets at RFK Stadium. The games will be included in DirecTV's basic broadcasting package, known as Total Choice, with no increase in the $41.99 cost.

MASN has been assigned Channel 626, which to my way of thinking is probably 40 spots too low.

The DirecTV deal was supposed to be announced last week, but when a major cable company files suit against a nascent sportsnet, I guess that will attract some attention. As Eric Fisher's WashTimes story spells out, the MASN-DirecTV pact does not contemplate the Baltimore Orioles, the rights to which are at least the cover-story of Comcast's lawsuit.

Nevertheless, I have a sneaking suspicion that this deal means that MASN is here to stay. For one thing, at least according to Thomas Heath's WaPo story, DirecTV has about 400,000 subscribers in the Baltimore-Washington area. That's not "Comcast money," to be sure, but it's a nice start. Furthermore, DirecTV seems to recognize that it has a plum of an exclusive opportunity here; consequently, I doubt the following quote, as told to Fisher, is mere puffery:

"We stepped up to the plate and cable didn't," said Bob Marsocci, DirecTV vice president. "We will be out marketing very aggressively on the heels of this."

At any rate, I'm probably a step behind in the whole game, but this conclusion to Heath's Post story rather surprised me:

Baseball has paid $75 million to the Orioles for a 10 percent stake in MASN, which will grow to 33 percent over the next 28 years, according to sources familiar with the deal. The league likely will include its share of MASN in the sale of the Nationals, but bidders will have to decide how much the interest in MASN is worth. One source who asked not to be identified because of the sale process described the $75 million as an "industry expense intended to pay for a benefit for the Nationals, which should increase the value of the team."

Well, no wonder I'm confused: compare the above selection with the excerpts culled by Chris Needham just yesterday. To recap, yesterday the second $ 37.5 million payment was due next June, and the identity of the check-scribbler was very much in doubt.

Shucks, I give up.

While I compose myself, here's three more thoughts on the subject. Talk amongst yourselves:

1) It must be a wonderful feeling for Mel Proctor and Ron Darling to know that half their broadcasts aren't going to be aimed in the general direction of, oh, NOBODY.
2) I wonder if this the beginning of the end of the love affair hard-core Nats fans have with "Charlie & Dave."
3) Like Chris, I'm pondering the feasibility of switching to DirecTV. Insofar as I live in a townhouse community, I'm not at all sure that I can.

---Is RFK a dump?

I haven't imbued this blog with "poll capability," but maybe we can consider the question as a mini-poll. The subject came up on the Ballpark Guys forum.

My vote? I'll give you a "lawyerly answer": depends on how you look at the issue---

1) RFK has three bases, a home plate, an outfield fence, and a couple of dugouts. Therefore, it's a baseball park. Consequently, by definition, it cannot be a dump.
2) RFK is kind of old, has a somewhat dreary look, provides an antiquated sound system, and offers subpar concessions. Hey, it's a dump.

In reality, they're meant tongue-in-cheek, but these answers kind of hit at the distinction.

* If you're a committed Nats' fans, it probably does not matter where the Nats play; in fact, from this perspective, you're probably more inclined to spot RFK's subtle beauty---and yes, it exists. (This is sort of how I feel. In fact, RFK reminds me a bit of Richmond's current park, The Diamond. Both are products of a different, more functional, less gaudy era in ballpark-building.)

* If you're a casual fan or just attending the game on a lark or as part of a corporate outing, you're likely to say, "Ew, give me that park up in Baltimore!" (And I assure you that RFK is no Wrigley or Fenway, speaking of old parks.)

One exception might unite both (or all) camps: the rocking seats.

Dear Boz: All is forgiven


A little while after I started this gig, Washington Post baseball columnist Thomas Boswell achieved a certain level of infamy by misrepresenting the Nats' roster. Since then, he's written some excellent columns, some not-so-good ones, a couple of insipid ones, and enough feel-good ones to put together a Chicken Soup anthology . He's a homer, but he's our homer.

At any rate, I have felt compelled to reference "Juan Rivera" every time I've commented on a Boswell column. I haven't always done so, of course, because it's a rather old reference and enough is enough. Nevertheless, every time I've opened up a Boswell column, I've viewed it with a certain suspicion.

Well, that's gone now.

Yesterday, Boz participated in a WaPo chat. (Or, as Wm. Yurasko is quick to clarify, a "Live Discussion.") Boz just absolutely slump-busted the thing. He was all over it.

The good chats are the ones with strong opinions, edginess---a certain jerkiness, even. Boswell gets a "check-check-check" on all relevant criteria. I might not agree with everything he said, but I was certainly entertained.

For instance, take his very first response, on Frank Robinson's decision to send out Esteban Loiaza for the ninth inning of an eventual 3-0 loss:

I was at Wednesday's game as a fan with my wife and another couple who are big baseball fans. When Loaiza ended the eighth inning by getting out Offerman, I said to my friend, "Let's see if they congratulate him when he comes in the dugout. That means he's out of the game." But, no.When he came out to start the ninth, I said, "The game is over. Sometimes, I don't even like to watch." [. . . ] Robinson is an excellent manager. This will be as close as he comes all season to losing a game single-handedly. And he did.
I suppose what I was trying to communicate above is that the most successful chats, in my mind, contain thoughts and opinions that are inherently interesting. Take Ryan's criticism of St. Barry's chat the other day. Barry got himself "in trouble" with a response that was, in essence, incredibly tepid. Ryan said Svrluga was advocating, and I guess the latter was; nevertheless, the position being advocated was so incredibly devoid of novelty or fresh insight that I just naturally passed over it.

I suspect that a chat is a tough challenge for a writer who covers a team. Invariably, the question-submitters will, uh, submit questions that call upon the writer to acknowledge that the manager messed up or that the general manager doesn't have the first damn clue how to put together a team. Assuming the criticism is reasonable, the writer is left with a couple of choices:

1) agree with the writer; or,
2) weave around the criticism.

Option 1) has to be difficult to excecute because the writer's job, in a sense, depends on a good relationship with the person being criticized. Let's suppose St. Barry says, "You know what? You're right. Jim Bowden doesn't know what the crunk he's doing." Well, Bowden---if he indeed reads the chat, of course---would have truck to waltz right up to Svrluga in Bowden's trademark Eminem jump suit, and ask, "Yo dog, why you playin' me like that?"

Then again, Option 2) is essentially what Svrluga did above, I suppose. I think he knows better and just foisted up a tepid answer.

Boswell, on the other hand, employed Option 1) adeptly, but he added a new wrinkle: he offered a startling criticism of Robinson, but reframed the criticism in a manner that made Robinson's (perceived) error out of character---and, thus, even more disconcerting. Consequently, Boz sounded inflamed, ticked off, . . . interesting.

Alright, I don't want to go overboard here; chats are essentially interactive filler material, anyway. But let's just say that Boswell impressed me. Go Boz!

Here are some more excerpts from a very quotable chat:

On RFK attendance, MLB support, etc.---

Ridiculous is the right word. Attendance is excellent considering that this is the first team in baseball history for a franchise to enter a major market and be completely strangled by an atrocious, inexcusable TV-radio set up. Just a travesty. I suspect that, next week, you'll see me write about little but that. Let things have a few more days. But it's time to raise hell.

On Seligula---

MLB OWNS the Nationals and wants to sell them for an obscene amount of money, then split it among the owners. The worst the TV situation is screwed up the more it slows down the sale and possibly lolwers the price. So, I'd say that MLB is VERY motivated to clean up the mess. Still, this is MLB we're talking about. You've heard of Murphy's Law. Well, there's a Bud's Law, too. "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, plus some other stuff you never imagined."

On his preferred design for the new park---

No retro. In the Washington style "monumental"...lots of white, glass. The District is one of the most distinctive cities in the world architecturally. It is NOT some red brick rust belt town and it shouldn't have a Camden Clone that suits Baltimore and its 1,100-foot long red brick warehouse. Washington's stadium should mirror Washington's style __because, unlike many cities, Washington has a powerful worldwide image. The ballpark should be consistent
with the look of the town __and have the Capital framed in centerfield.

On "Screech," the new mascot---

Screech desperately needs a makeover. I think it's time to call "Queer Eye for the Straight Mascot."

On a call-to-action regarding the TV situation---

Head bangin' time is coming. 99% of the time it's best to be analytical, shed light, explain, educate. All that good stuff. But 1% of the time it's better just to hand out the pitchforks and torches to the villagers.

On the Nats getting new unis in a few years, retro memorabilia, etc.---

Enraged!? You mean with the classic, rare, vintage, no-longer-available Nationals MEMORABILIA in your possession! Come on, join the culture. BUY INTO THE CON.

On Hondo's chances with the Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee---

Not unless he gets the voters in the back room individually.

Then, Boz ended the chat by announcing he was going to poison Screech. Excellent!

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Rueckel Report, April 29

Rueckel Held Hostage, Day 43*

When last we checked in with Grand Master Ruckus, he was mowing down** the Eastern League, with just one blip on the radar screen---a blown save in which he allowed two unearned runs.

Since then, well . . . let's just say that Mother Nature has been cranky; the Sens have been rained out of three games and "snowed" out of a fourth. Nevertheless, Rueckel keeps chugging away:

---> April 20: Scoreless inning; didn't figure in the decision, a 9-3 Harrisburg victory.
---> April 21: Gets the Inquirer's birthday off. That's nice.
---> April 22: Didn't party down too much; instead, pitches 2.1 innings(!), allowing just one hit and striking out four(!), keeping the Senators in a game they'd eventually win in 14 innings. (Why is this guy in Double-A, must I inquire?)

And that's it. Four postponements, an off-day, and two games in which Rueckel DNP'ed, and we're caught up through lunchtime of April 29.

Season-to-date: 7 appearances, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 saves; 8.1 innings, 5 hits, 2 (unearned) runs, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts.

Free Danny Rueckel!

* Days since he was demoted to minor league camp during spring training. Thanks for Brian Oliver (if I remember correctly) for the idea.
** Okay, yes; I am the propaganda wing for Team Rueckel.

So unbelievable

But not in the good-natured, keyboard-laden, British*-guys-rapping sense

Excuse, Mr. Angelos? Here's some more cash for you.

Here's an observation; agree or disagree, as you're inclined:

---> 90/10 split, straight-up: maybe Angelos has MLB over a rail, maybe not; either way, looks like MLB is going for an expeditious route, rather than a tremendously equitable one.

---> 90/10 split, via Angelos selling off the 10: oh man, MLB really did give away the broadcast rights! Not loaned them; not said, "Hey, hold on to this for awhile, 'mkay." The whole enchilada! Completely! Brother, there must be a smoking gun floating out there somewhere. At least, I sort of hope there is; I know Seligula is evil and kind of dense, but I never figured he had the intelligence or negotiating skills of Homer Simpson.

as Chris comprehensively notes, how in the world is MASN valued at $750 million?

Well, there's one thing that we---bloggers, fans, decent citizens---should support wholeheartedly: every person or group interested in purchasing the Nats should resolutely make a stand that they will not in any way compensate MLB for this $37.5 million payment coming up.

---Let's face it: Chris Needham is pretty much carrying us this week. Today, he also
gives us the early break-down. Short-form conclusion? Walks** kill, man.

* During a game chatter, I somewhat infamously misidentified the country of origin for early '90s whitey rapper Snow. This time, though, I checked. EMF was definitely from England. So there . . .

** Us not drawing enough of them and the opposition being issued too many of them, of course.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


When do you need a LOOGY, and when do you need a pitcher?

Yesterday, I mulled for a moment what it means to be a lefty relief specialist. This moment of contemplation was inspired by an excellent apologia for Joe Horgan by Chris. The main thrust of Chris's post (or at least that portion of it) was---and correct me if I'm oversimplifying:

a) Horgan's been crunked up by righties; but,
b) has been pretty darned fine versus lefties; and when you consider,
c) his job was to get lefties out; then,
c) while he wasn't stellar by any means, he was largely doing his job.

I think it's a very good defense, and it goes toward a larger concern, which is the (often shoddy) way Frank Robinson utilizes his resources. And Robinson certainly did let Horgan tay ina win on Saturday.

But the whole thing got me thinking about what it means to be a LOOGY. What is precisely the LOOGY's role? Yesterday, I theorized that Steve Treder of the Hardball Times would have some valuable input on the subject.

Today, in Part II of his "LOOGY" series, Treder provides just that: valuable input. Read the article for a better understanding of that to which he refers, especially some of his definitions, with which you might or might not agree; regardless, it's worth a read.

Here's one of his final "factual observations" near the end of Part II:

A basic precept of the rules of baseball has a huge bearing here: a relief pitcher entering the game is required to face at least one batter to the conclusion of the at-bat, but the offensive team is allowed to pinch-hit at will. What this means is that, while a LOOGY is almost
always brought in to face a left-handed batter, the offense frequently responds by pinch-hitting a right-handed batter. (Another basic fact of life is relevant here too: most batters, like most people, are right-handed.) What this means is that LOOGYs in practice don't actually face only left-handed batters. Even the most extreme of hard-core LOOGYs face a significant proportion of righties, and overall, most LOOGYs face right-handed batters most of the time. (Mike Myers,
the hardest of Hard-Core LOOGYs, with 0.61 innings/appearance over his 684-game career through 2004, has faced 48% right-handed batters, and the percentage is much higher than that for nearly every other LOOGY.) It is the case that no category of southpaw pitchers enjoys the platoon advantage more frequently than LOOGYs. But it must be acknowledged that even though the LOOGY is a role designed entirely as a means of exploiting the platoon advantage, it does not do so, to a very great extent of the time.

(emphasis added)

Now, this is valuable research. I've long wondering exactly what percentage of time a given LOOGY is handed the platoon advantage. I suppose I could do the work myself or pay for the info, but you know, that's why the Steve Treders of the world exist.

One cannot presume too much based on one study (even if it's pretty long and looks competently done), but I'd say it's safe to say that:

* a LOOGY is a guy whose role, as a factual matter, is most tied to the platoon advantage; but,
* a LOOGY, by circumstance, must be a viable pitcher against the platoon advantage in order to be an asset to a team.

But these observations in no way obviate Chris's larger point that Frankie Boy just wasn't putting Horgan in opportunities to succeed. Combine that with Horgan's obvious mechanical problems, and we've got a big pot of Disaster brewing.

One more thing: Treder also makes the (somewhat obvious) case that LOOGYs nowadays are not anything special as pitchers; if they were, they sure wouldn't be protected with the platoon advantage to an artificial extent. To that end, Josh of Nationals Review sees nothing exemplary about Horgan. He's got a point. I've looked at Horgan's career numbers previously, but to summarize: there's not much there. In fact, it's fairly miraculous he got a shot last year. And his work in Montreal was a bit shakier than the 3.15 ERA might imply. Check out the walk rate, for instance.

Still, Horgan wouldn't be the first reliever to put it together after an uneven minor league career. He'll probably get another chance, and that won't hurt anybody---might even help poor old Joey Eischen's left arm.

"I am Cristian Guzman"

Who are the MARKETING GENIUSES that came up with this one?

Remember those "I am Tiger Woods" Nike commercials from a few years back?

Briefly described, Nike's campaign capitalized on the perception that El Tigre transcends demographics: he's popular among blacks and whites, men and women, young and old, rich and . . . well, comfortable enough to appreciate golf as a spectator sport---and everything in between. So, Nike dragged people---white/black; men/women; young/old; rich-looking or not; and people of every ethnicity and status in between---who would face the camera and give a four-word testimonial: "I am Tiger Woods."

The spots were a success, it seemed, because more of them popped up, until you had freaks like this---

---saying, "I am Tiger Woods."

Anyway, I'm thinking the Washington Nationals---who are no marketing warriors at this point---could use a bit of a pick-me-up in the promotional department: it lacks a certain je ne sais quois, wouldn't you say?

What better way to market to a region than to hit where the bell curve is fullest? Why not go after the ineffective, the unathletic, and the idiotic among us?

Why not make Cristian Guzman the face of this campaign? "I am Cristian Guzman."

I can already envision it:

* A "soccer mom" is shopping at Safeway or wherever, reaches to pick up a jar of Prego, and---like
our hero last night---bobbles and drops it. The jar shatters on the floor, pouring four cheeses to the ends of the earth.

"I am Cristian Guzman."

* An old man waddles up to the tee box on a golf course, sizes the shot up, and---without a practice swing or other indicia of thoughtfulness---hacks at the ball, sending a little grounder about seventy feet in front of him.

"I am Cristian Guzman."

* A thief crawls into the trunk of a car he was ransacking, then manages to lock himself in, only to be "rescued" when a security guard hears his banging.

"I am Cristian Guzman."

This can work, people. It's certainly better than nothing, right?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Making up for lost time

"Guzman" and "average": so happy together

So you might have noticed that Cristian Guzman is off to one heck of an excreble start. Going into tonight's game, he's hitting a rousing .171 (12-for-70)---and that's on the wings of, what, a three game hitting streak?

Have you ever fooled around with a calculator and come up with "imaginary" batting averages or earned run averages (or on-base percentages or slugging averages)? If so, like me, you've got a problem. (If you're deriving VORPs just for the hell of it, to take stat-obsession to another level, Morningwood Santiarium is beckoning.)

Well, I was fooling around with the calculator during an off moment, and I started figuring what Guzman would need to hit, from this point onward, to achieve certain goals.

Let's take his career batting average, for instance; it's .266. What would he need to do in order to hit .266 over the course of 546 at-bats? And why 546 ABs? Because that's his "average season": 3277 at-bats, divided by six big league seasons; it's a crude way of doing it, yes, but it's at least somewhat fair---since it includes no cups o' coffee and, while it includes a rough rookie season, it also includes a heretofore over-his-head third season. If you do it this way, you get 145 hits in 546 at-bats, or a .266 batting average.

In order to match a .266 average, Guzman would have to go 133-for-476 the rest of the way, which computes to a .279 batting average.

What about a .266 average in 600 ABs? (I don't think he'll get more than that, even if he were to start every game, what with hitting eighth a good bit and sacrificing whenever he gets the chance.) That's 160-for-600 on the season, rounding up a smidge. He'd need to go 148-for-530 the rest of the way, also a .279 average. (In case you're wondering, given a 500 AB season, he'd need to hit .281 the rest of the way. Once we get beyond 100, 200, 300 at-bats remaining, the numbers start flattening out a bit, of course.)

Well, that's a .266 batting average. Are you happy with that, given Guzman's "Isolated Patience" is historically about .40? Let's dream a bit, okay?

What about last season's .274 average? Or a pretty good .285 average? Or something to match his .302 career high, back in 2001? Or a neat, age-27 career year of about .320?

Just for the heck of it, let's arbitrarily use 570 at-bats as our measure, primarily because a) it seems a reasonable estimate, based on Guzman's historical numbers; and b) 570-70=500, and that's a pretty easy jumping-off-point:

[Edit: Got rid of the table. It was messing things up. Sorry.]

Okay, some of those were just for fun.

At any rate, there was a long and tedious discussion on the general subject of "the statistically correct way to view 'overcoming' a bad start" last week at Baseball Primer. I see no need to rehash that, except to say that, within a "reasonable range of performance," Guzman's 70 at-bats haven't killed his chances. You could have probably figured that out already.

On the other hand, if we're expecting something exemplary out of Guzman this season, he'll have to cop an age-27 posture toot sweet. (I'd run similar analyses for on-base and slugging percentage, except---other than a small dip in Isolated Power---Guzman is roughly tracking his career variances from batting average.)

During the offseason, Pravda beat writer Bill Ladson become something of an object of humor among us, the Nats bloggers, for continually referring to players (especially the ones just-acquired by Jim Bowden) by the same, rehashed descriptions. For Cristian Guzman, it was something along the lines of "a franchise cornerstone." I've long wondered what, exactly, Bowden and/or Robinson originally meant with this description. Presumably, it means "defensive steadiness." That's fine, even if, historically, Guzman's advanced defensive stats have been uneven, to put it kindly. But was there an offensive component to it, too? If so, the front office couldn't have honestly been referring to a .266 average, or a .274 one, right? It had to be something more.

The moral of the story is that, unless Guzman really hustles from here on out, we'll likely be looking at the "regular old Cristian Guzman"---a fine player by reputation, yes, and those guys do in statheads on occasion. But the "regular old Cristian Guzman" is not a franchise cornerstone, in my opinion.

But then, we already knew that, I suppose.

[Addendum: I guess Guzman could be a historically slow starter; if he is, well . . . it's Cristian Guzman. I'm not going to look it up. ;-) ]

Philly Phellowship

And assorted other "Ph" puns

Balls, Sticks & Stuff, a leading Phillies blog, is going to be hosting an open "game chatter" thread for Tuesday's game. Tom, the BS&S guy, has extended a very polite invitation to Nats fans to join in on the fun.

Of course, we have our own game chatters going on---usually here or here, to say nothing of the Ballpark Guys forum. But it would be a nice gesture, I think, to stop by, say hey, and add two or twenty cents to the discussion.

You know, represent. Get on the bus. Dance on the ceiling. Come on, beeeotches.

Oh, Sure . . . Award

There's transparent, and then there's just stupid

Here's a neat little catch from District of Baseball this morning:

Sunday's Washington Post sports section carried a full-page ad from MASN, titled "An Open Letter To Nationals Fans: NATIONALS FANS HELD HOSTAGE BY COMCAST". [. . . ] The ad reassures us that MASN plans "to work tirelessly to provide you with more Nationals baseball games in your home", but without offering any specific details. Before you get that warm-and-fuzzy feeling, note that the bottom of the ad carried MASN's address: "333 West Camden Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201". If that address sounds familiar, it's also
the street address for the Baltimore Orioles. Yup, they're looking out for all you Nats fans.

How stupid are these dolts? Conjure up a P.O. box in Bethesda or something, guys. Don't insult our intelligence.

Two-dollar Horgan

Twenty-one: good luck, good Kiefer, bad ERA

Joe Horgan got sent down over the weekend. Despite Frank Robinson's expressed preference for a second bullpenning lefty (Joey "Suck It" Eischen will now be on pace for something like 200 appearances), as shocking developments go, well . . let's just say it doesn't rate up there with exploding toads.

In Horgan's stead, Jon Rauch (Ryan the Honeymooner's---as well as Barry Svruga's---favorite freakily tall pitcher) is Nat-bound. Despite that fact that I, too, am left-handed, I have to say I support the move.

Aw, who am I kidding? At this point, I'd prefer Nostradamus---yes, Nostradamus---"Bull" Shannon to Horgan. Did you know that the league is hitting .514 against Horgan? Well, iiiiiit's true. (Six innings, 19 hits, for those of you scoring at home.) Horgan's also walked four batters, making his WHIP, by my recollection, Dwight Gooden's 1990 ERA. (19-7, 3.83 ERA, if I remember correctly.)

Though Rauch was promoted in exchange for Horgan (who, by the way, readily admits---excuses?---that he has mechanical problems), and I haven't done the calculus yet, he could at some point be replacing Tomo Okha, who struggled mightily recently. In a return of the "Wayne Knight Is Officially Freaked Out" Award, F-Robby insists something is wrong physically with Okha, despite the team doctor's evaluation that Okha's fine:

Robinson reiterated yesterday that he believes Ohka is injured. The 28-year-old has given up 13 earned runs, 21 hits and 15 walks in 20 innings in four starts this season. And though his spring training numbers were far better, Robinson said he began noticing problems back then.

[. . . ] Ohka, who missed three months in 2004 after fracturing his right forearm, acknowledged after Saturday's game that he's not 100 percent healthy, though he would not divulge what part of his body was hurting. Team doctor Bruce Thomas examined Ohka and found no physical ailments.

I call the voting two-against-one; Okha's hurt. Tony Tavares, get the guy a translator, so someone can determine what's bothering him.

Mark Zuckerman's article indicates that no one will replace Okha in the rotation, at least not initially; because of an off-day, Okha gets pushed out to keep Livan Hernandez on his normal rest. Then there's Tweaky Groin Armas to consider. I haven't done the math, and I don't care to now. I suppose it's possible that Rauch could end up getting some starts.

It's likely, at any rate, that Rauch---unlike Horgan---won't turn the National League hitters into "PASTE" from Bases Loaded. Now, that's improvement.

[LATE EDIT: Chris points out something I hadn't realized:

Despite the bloated stats, Horgan got the job he was supposed to do done: get lefties out. [. . .] Righties ripped him a new cavity -- .667 .667 .958. But, he held his own against lefties: .231 .375 .308. The OBP allowed is high, but that's mostly from pitching around
Jim Thome. They didn't hit for average and they didn't hit for power. That's about all you can ask from a left-handed specialist.

That's an excellent point.

I might quibble with the exact parameters of a left-handed specialist's (LOOGY's) job; as I suspect Steve Treder's fascinating, multi-part look at the LOOGY will capture, incumbent upon a lefty specialist is the ability to face a righthander at least in a semi-competent manner. (Otherwise, pitching staffs cannot sustain, say, 14 pitchers.) So a LOOGY---as Horgan essentially was/is---must be able to go after a righty without cryin' for his momma. Robinson can't, as a practical matter, protect Horgan too extensively; otherwise, his utility to the team is far too reduced.

Still, Chris's point is an excellent one---and a sign that Horgan is a victim of a bloated early season ERA more than a systematic destruction of his ability to pitch. Maybe he can get his mechanics back in order and contribute to the Nats later on.]

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Sue you? I'll sue everybody

I haven't commented on this yet, so I'll do so . . . now

Comcast SportsNet sued the Baltimore Orioles and the new Mid-Atlantic Sports Network on Thursday over television rights to Orioles games. In a suit filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville, Comcast asks that the Orioles, MASN and Major League Baseball be prevented from negotiating or licensing local pay TV rights to Orioles games because Comcast holds such rights through the 2006 season. [ . . . ] The suit says the Orioles have breached their contract with Comcast. It also seeks unspecified compensatory damages.

Eric Fisher of the WaTimes cuts to the chase:

The lawsuit itself stems primarily from terms of the Orioles' distribution agreement with CSN, as the network contends the Orioles' announced plans to move its local pay TV games from CSN to MASN in 2007 violates CSN's legal right to match contract terms, as well as an exclusive negotiating window not expiring until November.

I did a quick and free search for Comcast's complaint, but, not surprisingly, you're not going to find it at the website for the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, and I didn't find it anywhere else on the 'net yet.

As Fisher points out, this is a grudge-match between entities that traditionally do not inspire much empathy or sympathy from Nats fans or admirers of Truth, Justice & the American Way: Comcast, Peter Angelos, and Major League Baseball.

Nevertheless, Fisher also states that Nats fans should be allied with the Orioles on this---

But Thursday's lawsuit from Comcast SportsNet (CSN) against MLB and the Baltimore Orioles now creates arguably the ultimate baseball twilight zone moment: a fight in which Washingtonians are rooting for Orioles owner Peter Angelos to win.

---an assessment that, at the very least, baffles the posters over at the Ballpark Guys forum (and you don't get any more Nats-fans-intensive than those guys!).

The internet is the domain for attorneys to parcel out opinions based on about thirty-five seconds of analysis---and little-to-no background in the specific area of law at issue---and rely upon "Oh yeah, I'm a lawyer" to carry Credibility's water. But I'm not going to do that here---at least not yet.

As for the side on which Nats fans should throw their support, I'm not entirely sure I know, either. Several Ballpark Guys are rooting for Comcast to go in with guns ablazing and hope MASN will end up like Jack Palance's compound at the end of Tango & Cash. (In other words, MASN blows up, MLB and Angelos renegotiate, and the resulting deal is much more favorable to the Nats---if not relieved of Angelos's heria---"hands"; in this case, grubby ones---altogether.)

That's fine, except:

1) it doesn't in any way, shape, or form help fans of the Nationals right now;
2) how do you know MLB will negotiate a better deal the second time around? and,
3) even before we get to that stage, how do we know Angelos did not plan for this contingency?

I think Jack Evans (as quoted in Fisher's article) has the right perspective:

"If this is just about Comcast putting the screws to the Nationals and Orioles, then a pox on their house. But if Comcast can get a better deal for the Nationals than what they're getting now from Baltimore, then I'm all for it. I'm watching this closely, but I don't know really know where this is going."

This will be closely watched, of course---which is, lamentably, more than we can say about Nationals' games.

---In the Bizarro World Post of the Day, we have this quote---from the spokesman of a wannabe-monopolist network of a team in a monopolist league:

"This is about a monopolist in Comcast fighting to keep its monopoly," said Vince Wladika, MASN spokesman. "It's apparently OK for them to be the second, third or fourth RSN player coming into a market, but they don't like it when someone comes in to give them competition."

---The WaTimes editorial page---in its own inimitable way---is on the case again.

It's even added an extra modifier to its description of Angelos since February:

---> Then: . . . the irascible malcontent who owns the Baltimore Orioles.
---> Now: Angelos -- an irascible, vengeance-seeking malcontent . . .

The substance of today's editorial is an impressive, thorough review of how MLB negotiated the Nats into a terrible deal regarding TV rights.

As for the recommended cure, it's the oft-repeated panacea "Let's go after MLB's antitrust exemption." As usual, the call for such action is vague and conclusory.

---"Washington as a baseball town" update:

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch's editorial page:

For many years DeeCee boosters have described the area as desperate for the return of Major League baseball. The District and its environs have embraced the Nationals -- née the Montreal Expos -- but attendance, while robust, has been less than spectacular. Fans are not filling the stadium to the rafters. The venue represents a handicap. No one would dub RFK the "friendly confines." A projected new ballpark will draw more fans -- at least during its novelty years. Yet although the Nats probably will prosper, Washington's past performance and its current record suggest DeeCee's nickname is not "Baseball Town." That honor is shared by St. Louis, Boston, Cincinnati -- as well as other cities whose loyalists will be enraged they did not make the list.

Aside from the use of annoying, contrived abbreviations ("DeeCee," anyone?), is it realistic that a city which has not seen Major League Baseball in over three decades will suddenly become "Baseball Town" now that it has a team? Of course not. Is it an insult? Not really.

Is it a stupid editorial blurb? Yes.

Is it representative of the surface-level analysis and reasoning that both righties and lefties regard as the hallmark of the Times-Dispatch's editorial page? You betcha.

Their M.O. is that they're good

The division has lots of good starters, Saint Barry writes, and last night was an object lesson

And Mark Zuckerman of the WaTimes agrees, presenting a fairly probing question:

In their defense, the Nationals have been shut down by some of the National League's best arms. Glavine, who surrendered two hits in seven innings last night, was only the latest starter to dominate
Washington, joining the likes of Dontrelle Willis, Josh Beckett, Mike Hampton and John Smoltz. So is the Nationals' offense really that deficient, or has it simply been a victim of superb work by opposing pitchers?

How about some of Column A, and some of Column B? Usually, an explanation containing the word "simply" will be simply deficient.

But, when you think about it, the Nats can't do too much about the starters they face in their divisional contests (though they do get to avoid Pedro Martinez this time around), so Zuckerman's question is---from a certain perspective, at least---somewhat as irrelevant as it is probing.

How does an offense get better, more potent, more efficient, etc.?

1) It can incorporate new players.

Thanks to District of Baseball for a link to an article (registration required) that the Nats are looking at acquiring Austin Kearns from the Reds. Bugmenot is not helping me at the moment, and I do not feel like registering, but DoB Jeff does note that Ken Griffey, Jr. thinks the Reds making that trade would be a mistake. (No word on what Dan O'Brien thinks, though.) I'm guessing that any Kearns/Wily Mo Pena/other Red trade would involve Zach Day, who is a Cincy native and is currently "Up" in his up/down/up/down/up/down cycle. Better trade him quick!

2) It can mix in different combinations of "existing" players.

I'm thinking that neither Kearns nor Pena will be a Nat, and I haven't heard many rumors involving other teams. Consequently, I consider it likely that we'll have to make do with what we've got. What can Frank Robinson do?

He can juggle the lineup, and he's already started doing that, benching Ryan Church in favor of the seemingly more potent Terrmel Sledge. It has also been advocated by several bloggers that Robinson cut down the playing time of one-month free agent bust Cristian Guzman and assign more playing time for utility infielder Jamey Carroll, a scrappy guy with a better batting eye.

He can also juggle the batting order and match-ups. The obvious quick-fix is to lock Guzman into the seventh or eighth spot, never to return to the second hole; that's a popular solution---and one any reasonable person would advocate (and has advocated)---but then again, it's not likely to add that many more runs to the mix. Robinson can also forget about platooning in left field, entrenching Sledge there as the regular and bypassing J.J. Davis; however, I haven't really researched whether that decision would net a positive. And so forth.

Largely, these fixes are superficial. They may help situationally, though. For instance, as noted by Capitol Punishment Chris, it's extremely frustrating to see Brad Wilkerson start something good, only to see Guzman amble up to the plate with directions to lay down a pointless bunt.

3) It can initiate new and different approaches.

Simply put, the Nats give away too many outs---especially recently. But there's that word, "simply," again. What does that mean?

* Early-game complacency. According to Robinson after last night's frustrating 3-1 loss to Tom Glavine and the Mets:

"We don't seem to come to compete until about the sixth or seventh inning of ballgames," Nationals Manager Frank Robinson said. "And that's no matter who's out there on the mound. The way we approached Glavine tonight, we weren't going to do anything to him."

This is the down-side of those thrilling rallies against Arizona last week: the offense accomplished very little until the later innings. A guy like Russ Ortiz will rack up a significant pitch count just by virtue of being Russ Ortiz; the bullpen will follow, and Arizona's didn't look too great (especially when Bob Melvin falls asleep and leaves Randy Choate to wither and die. When you face Tom Glavine, though, you've got to do your part. Before you know it, Glavine could be up 1-0 in the sixth inning and not even have broken a sweat. All of a sudden, the "middle reliever" and "loogy" links in the starter-middle reliever-loogy-set up man-closer chain have been broken.

Just look at what the Mets did to Esteban Loaiza last night: 68 pitches through three innings, 98 through four, 118 and down after five. (Fortunately, the bullpen was effective.)

* Playing into the pitcher's hands. Again, according to Robinson:

"Say it any way you want to say it," Robinson said. "It comes down to, in baseball terminology, we're not having good at-bats, for one reason or another. We're swinging at pitchers' pitches. We're not swinging at our pitch. We don't work the count. A pitcher gets in a rhythm, we just do nothing to disrupt that rhythm."

As Endy Chavez demonstrated, it's exceedingly difficult to disassociate the hackster from the hack. I'm not going to dump on Guzman too much, considering he accounted for the team's only run last night, but he was an accessory in the murder of an eighth inning rally:

The Nationals threatened only once more, putting men on second and third with no outs in the eighth. But Mets reliever Roberto Hernandez got Guzman to ground out meekly to the catcher, struck out Jose Vidro and induced an inning-ending pop out from Jose Guillen."Second and third, and we didn't move anybody [up]?" Robinson said in disgust. "That's hard to take."

Yes, it sure is, Frank.

---If only this were 1988.

In a way, I kind of enjoy these (generally) low-scoring games; they remind me of an era of baseball from the recent past. It's kind of fun to watch a game and not see it mired in a poorly -pitched 6-5 "duel" when the teams go to the bullpen in the sixth inning.

Then again, if only the rest of the league complied with the Nats' style of play and my sensibility toward nostalgia.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Rueckel Report: Special Addition Edition

No stats tonight; those will come again later.

Instead, I have a pretty exciting announcement: Papa Rueckel digs The Rueckel Report!

You see, I went back to the initial Rueckel Report entry today---and found this pleasant surprise:

Thank you for your interest in my son Danny Rueckel. I am very proud of DC and his career. The big joke is that I taught him everything he knows about baseball. That is totally wrong. He is tenatious to a fault. Thank you again for your interest and your article.Scott
# posted by Scott Rueckel :


Of course, because Blogger is just awful, I cannot now go back and add a comment in that post. (It's an old discussion, anyway.) So I'll post my comment here:

Thanks so much for stopping by, Mr. Rueckel. We're all rooting for Danny here! (And, please, come back whenever you please.)


Wow, Ryan Church smells like a Carolina pine forest!

Well, that was quick---and not unexpected. Give Church this much credit at least: he's no lapsed Robinsonian:

"I have no problems with it," said Church, who is hitting .161. "It only makes sense. I'm struggling a little bit, so we have a guy [Sledge] that deserves every right to be out there. I'm pulling for him."
Shall we contrast Soul Patch's response upon being benched with Cristian Guzman's poopy-pants upon being (sort of, kind of) demoted to the eight-hole. Here's what Guzman said to the press about it:

[ . . . ]
Oh, that's right; he's not talking to the media. How mature.

Anyway, in one of those tables-turned-quickly scenarios, just a couple or three weeks ago it was Church nudging back into the lineup at the expense of Sledge. But most of us saw that move as temporary, anyway.
I commented on Church v. Sledge I, The Melee at RFK, at the time. In that (characteristically lengthy) post, I got around to posing a question:

I'll state my position: Church should be given a clear and adequate shot. And then I'll leave a question open: In the event Church doesn't get a clear and adequate shot, is this something to inspire pitch forks and soccer riots?
Was this "a clear and adequate shot"? By any measure other than "I just know that Church really stinks," almost certainly not. The guy has had 36 plate appearances so far. (Admittedly, they are 36 astoundily bad ones---even Linda Cropp could almost post a .465 OPS.) As noted by our telegenic friends at Nationals Review, that sample size doesn't even come close to overcoming
Voros's Law:

Any major league hitter can hit just about anything in 60 at bats.

So, what's the score? Are we going to go off and burn stuff now? Well, let's not go crazy. After all, if Church is cool with it, so should we be.

One note on Sledge: I've noticed he's got a lot of really big boosters on the Ballpark Guys board. These aren't people who are limited to saying Sledge should play; no, a lot of people there think Sledge is really something, perhaps a potential star. I've never understood why. He's not a high-average hitter; he's not a power hitter; he's not a base stealer; he's not a Proven Veteran(tm); he's not an especially young guy. He just sort of exists. I'll just correlate the love with another observation I've made: many people also think he's a centerfielder---though our team's management apparently doesn't.

Now, I'm not down on Sledge, necessarily. I'm just fascinated why he commands such respect on that board.

---New DC blogs abound!!! Welcome:

Nasty Nats!
The Beltway Boys!

Both blogsters---Rocket and Farid, respectively---are veteran commenters of other Nats blogs, including mine. Farid also has a column at Nat Fanatics.

Welcome to the neighborhood, guys. Watch out for Needham, though. You remember The Burbs?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Pop Quiz

Tonight's starter for the Nats was:

a) Bill Clinton

b) Lazarus

c) Zach Day

---One more thing, and where are my manners . . .

A very nice fellow from ESPN emailed several Nats bloggers the other day, Tuesday I guess it was. It was that day I said I was busy, etc. Anyway, it's game day Thursday, but for all I know Mr. Berko could still be looking for people who are attending BOTH the Nats and O's games. Ballwonk has his contact info, and it looks like a couple of Nationals Reviewers have signed on. Pretty cool, I must say.

You ah such a girly-mahn

Ahnold would tell these bellyachers to stop whining

The computer at home has returned from Osunaland and is up and running again (though still with the notorious 56K). While I have the opportunity, I thought I'd get surly and dole out a little "sit on it, Potsie":

---I don't know if this has been reported elsewhere, but during his chat/alternative dispute resolution today, Our Favorite Beat Writer disclosed an interesting tidbit:

Cristian Guzman is currently not talking to the media. It started when he was moved to eighth in the lineup, and has continued through his slump. As a reporter -- who understands the only way these
guys' views get out to the fans is through us -- I've been disappointed that he's taken that approach so early. It certainly doesn't help him build a fan base, and doesn't let anyone know how disappointed he has been in his own offensive start and how hard he's working to fix the problems.

Let me get this straight: Guzman isn't talking to the media? Who does he think he is? A good player?

The way it works is quite simple: if you're good---really good, actually---you can set your own rules. You can go the Bondsian route and get yourself a Henry VIII-model recliner and plant it in front of your locker in the clubhouse; if it blocks the next guy's locker, all the better. Or you can go . . . well, the Bondsian route, too, and be surly to the media. Or you can go . . actually, the Bondsian route, as well, and just not talk to the media. Finally, you can go . . hey, the Bondsian route, come to think of it, and blame the media for ruining your family---or something.

Hell, you don't even need to be Barry Bonds to do these things. But, holy Moses, Cristian, you suck. All that Bill Ladson-mantra stuff aside ("cornerstone of the franchise," Jim Bowden has said . . . ), you're just an insignificant little gnat. A few years ago, in perhaps the only interesting moment of the John Thompson Show, Red Auerbach explained that it was only natural that his star---well, considering those Celtics had many stars, I'll say the uber-stars, like Russell and Cousy---received special dispensations, favors, and treatment that the regular stiffs, such as Thompson himself, did not receive. Follow the chain of thought, Cristian.

I don't want to suggest that I know what's best for Guzman, but it stands to reason that if you're hitting .118 (sorry; it's .157 now!), the last thing you want to do is alienate the sportswriters and wake up in the morning to read that not only do you suck, but you're also a jerk. A sucky jerk.

Speaking of Guzman, does anyone else think the uniform number "43" is the only one appropriate for him to wear? (If you read the DC blogs, no doubt you get the joke . . . )

---Also in St. Barry's chat, we the readers encountered some ridiculous whining over the Post's baseball coverage. To wit:

Back to the new Post Sports baseball pages. Shouldn't there be some differentiation between the AL page and the NL page since we now have the NL WASHINGTON NATIONALS and are an NL city? It almost looks as if we're giving equal coverage to the O's and the Nats. Better bet that
Baltimore doesn't do that.


Barry, when the Nats are tied with other teams in the standings, how come the Post sticks with alphabetical order? We're tied for first with Florida today, and Florida is listed above Washington. The Nats are Washington's team for gosh sakes, and the hometown paper should list them first when they're tied in the standings.


The first one, if it were a discrete logical fallacy, would be called something like The Presumed Zero Sum Proposition. It presumes implicitly that any coverage given to the Orioles (and, by extension, to the American League) is coverage deprived of the Nationals.

Has the chatter taken a look at the Post's sport page? Has the chatter swung by the Post's web site? How can the Post possibly cover the Nats more? The only way the Post could have covered Opening Night any more comprehensively, for instance, would have involved Boswell wearing an open mic to the men's room, Leslie Nielsen-style.

Take a look at daily newspapers from other big league cities on a typical day, and tell me honestly that the Post withholds potential Nats coverage. You can't. Not to be self-serving, but the only thing the Post hasn't done is bring on a stats geek.

The coverage given to the O's and the AL is just gravy, and it's a reasonable sop to the Post's status as a major regional daily. Many people prefer the WaTimes, and I understand that, but no one can deny that the Post's scope is far more extensive than that of the Times---or of the Balto Sun, as well. Sometimes, I think the whining over the Post's coverage of the O's is paranoia, sometimes myopia, and sometimes obstinance. Regardless, I've never really gotten it, and remember, I've renounced my rooting interest (and expectation of rooting for both teams concurrently) in the O's recently.

The second query is almost too bizarre to avail itself to significant comment. I'll just sum up by offering my own query: "What in the hell is that person's problem?" If three teams are tied for first, who the hell cares who's listed first, or second, or third?

Even a later chatter's more reasonable request that "Washington" be listed as WASHINGTON seems pointless to me---and, I'll add, seemingly offered as a check against this bizarre notion that the Post doesn't "care" about the Nats just because it still has an O's beat writer and still has Angelos-flack Dave Sheinin on the payroll. Even so, we get back to the fallacy of The Presumed Zero Sum Proposition.

---Finally, someone named "Jerkass"* wrote in to the Richmond Times Dispatch's "Sunday Punch" page**:

It's great that D.C. has a baseball team again, but that doesn't change the fact that the Richmond area is Atlanta Braves country. Maybe down the road when Mayor [Doug] Wilder drives off the Richmond Braves, some will look up the road to the Nationals. For now, I refuse to have the
Nationals crammed down my throat by your paper. I don't think your paper is the preferred read in D.C., so I'm perplexed as to why you are treating them as a hometown team. I want Braves news back on the front page of the Sports section and not buried inside.

The only coverage of them I want to see is why the Nationals games are blacked out here but will be shown in D.C. where they should be blacked out. Not that I want to see them, but the blackout is causing the loss of many Braves telecasts since they play each other so many times because of the irksome unbalanced schedule. I am so infuriated with this situation that I will never drive to a Nationals game, but I may fly to Atlanta to boo them!

I sympathize with Jerkass, at least as it relates to the blackout situation. It must stink when one's efforts to watch a favorite team are frustrated by blackout rules imposed on another team. Of course, it also pretty well refutes that Richmond is part of "Atlanta Braves country," eh?

Anyway, aside from the hardy-harr-harr stuff (hint: check the scoreboard, baby!), what is the substance of the letter? Why, it's nothing more than The Presumed Zero Sum Proposition.

The letter writer's misrepresentations to the contrary, the Atlanta Braves have never been "front page material" in our sports section down here. Occasionally, yes; but, essentially, the Braves have been limited to a bit of a longer blurb in the NL Roundup, as well as periodic full-length articles.

Incidentally, that's exactly the coverage the A-Braves currently get down here, even now with the Nationals just up the road.

So, stripped to its essence, this complaint is just like the O's complaints. They are focused on other teams, not the teams the chatters/letter writers are purportedly so interested in. In other words, the keyword is not "equitability" but "selfishness." These guys want it all, with nothing remaining for anyone else; they presume a zero sum situation.

Furthermore, Jerkass has the misfortune of living in a town whose major daily employs guys who grew up in the shadow of DC and have fond memories of watching big league games there. Pardon their nostalgia the exact week baseball returned up the road. Maybe, instead, the Times-Dispatch should hire writers who grew up in Atlanta right around the time it was stealing Richie Cunningham's team.

Now, that's nostalgia.

* Presumably, not a real name.
** The URL has approximately as many characters as Dkembe Mutumbo's name, so I won't even try to link to it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Leave of absence

There are times when a blogger must step back, evaluate things, and consider what he wants to accomplish and whether that is attainable. It is a soul-crunching experience, as he seeks to pierce the very veil that clouds his heart and find that elusive spark within him that makes him drive onward and upward, to greater creative heights, or . . . to accept the sour truth that this recreation really isn't for him.

With that hero's journey in mind, I solemnly announce that . . .

. . . ah, who am I kidding? I'm just really busy at work, that's all. Well, the computer at home is also on the fritz; there's that, too. Anyway, I'll be back by Friday or the weekend or so. Until then, consider the many ways Frank confounds us; if that won't tide you over, just dwell on this cheery picture:

Smile, fellas!

(And thanks to Temple University for that one.)

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Rueckel Report, April 18

When last we checked in on the foster pitcher of Nats Inquirer, Rueckel had pitched a scoreless inning in Harrisburg's season opener against Bowie. With one exception, Danny's settled rather nicely into the Senators' fireman role:

April 9: Perfect inning; picks up first save on the season.

April 13: Perfect inning with a strikeout; records second save.

April 14: Scoreless inning; yields a hit but strikes out the side (!) to earn his third save. [Note: He pitched an inning for a save in a 4-0 game; according to the game log, he relieved starter Richard Rundles after Rundles let the first two hitters reach base. Since the tying run was on deck when he entered, it was a save situation.]

April 16: A bit of a bump in the road. Pitches an inning, yielding a hit, a walk, and two unearned runs (the Senators made four errors, three by the second baseman). Rueckel suffers his first blown save as a result. Nevertheless, his zero ERA remains intact, as Rueckel resumes his '04 knack of allowing unearned runs (11 of his 29 runs allowed last year were unearned).

Season to date: 5 games, 5 innings, 4 hits, 2 unearned runs, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts. 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 saves.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Vinny, Vici, Vidi

I am absolutely sure that title is not an Inquirer Original, but it exemplifies my confusion over the Senor of Sock.

He's either made a pact with Satan or is a viable candidate for the papacy. Perhaps this range of possibilities is fitting, for the one thing Vinny Castilla has not been in the past few days---maybe the only days that count for Washington Nationals' fans so far---is middling.

I'm at a loss here. Perhaps other bloggers---many of whom share my fondness for sabermetric analysis---are similarly lost.

I'm not speaking of surprise per se. I mean, sure, I'm surprised that Vinny is such a stud right now. But I'm not that surprised; anybody can do practically anything if the sample of at-bats is small enough. For all we know, Vinny! (we'll save the backwards ! for Ryan's favorite pitcher) will be back to being Vinny (deflated version) before long.

But, as the late and lamented John Ritter instructed a high school-aged Nats Inquirer in the "When There's a Will, There's an 'A' " series, we tend to remember the first and last sequences of events most prominently. (And damned if that wasn't one of the first things Ritter said!)

And, in these first few games back (and we mean BACK) in DC, Vinny's been awesome. Really studly. A man; a horse. A man-horse. One of those things.

Let's assume Vinny does drop off and drop back to what will indeed, in all likelihood, be middling status. Can I be critical of the guy now? He's put up some of the most thrilling performances of my baseball life, and I (and you, too) have seen many, many ballgames over the years. These are indelible memories.

Maybe the answer---for me, too---is a two-week moratorium.

I'll have to think about this. Maybe the ol' Inquirer is getting soft.

First impressions

Two thumbs up: nice time at park; nice Choate-job

There are several reviews out there (including three at one site!), so I won't make my impressions from my experience at RFK Stadium on Saturday night too comprehensive, just one for each inning:

1) The park is fine---a little old and grungy, yes, but it has character. I know that this sentiment is not grounded in any kind of reality, but I'd love if the Nats just kept playing at RFK. There are so many new parks nowadays, that I have a hankering for a simple, Sixties, multipurpose joint. The Old Navy Yards (my favorite contender among names) will be great, I'm sure, but RFK is just fine with me.

2) The crowd was loud, especially during the seventh inning explosion.

3) The crowd was extremely knowledgeable. I was wondering about this, considering DC hasn't been a "baseball town" in quite some time. But, just listening in on a sampling of conversations around our seats, there were more than enough savvy comments and observations. (Maybe they were all Primates, and I just didn't know.)

4) The crowd was, perhaps contrary to the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated articles on the subject, seemed rather diverse to me---more diverse than in, say, Baltimore or Atlanta.

5) The scoreboard operator has a serious drug problem. To say nothing of a few occasions of getting the count wrong, for a moment during the bottom of the seventh (before the Nats opened the floodgates), the main scoreboard had the score 7-7, with both teams throwing no-hitters, or something similarly silly.

6) There's perhaps nothing cooler than seeing Nick Johnson drop down an absolutely perfect bunt; there's perhaps nothing funnier than watching him beat it out for a single.

7) Vinny!

8) Damn concessions. The Beer Guy apparently has no love for Section 518. I drew a short straw. Wouldn't you know that Vinny hit his homer while I was making one leg of a beer run?

9) Lasting impression of the night: A guy is sitting a row or so behind me. His cell phone rings. He answers and says, "Hey. Can I call you back later? I'm at the ballgame." Then he hangs up. Awesome! A baseball town, yes, but not the insufferable, yuppy type. Imagine that; the guy just wanted to enjoy watching a ballgame!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Is it live? . . .

. . . or Memorex?

Nationals Review blogger Josh, yesterday morning:

I got up early to watch Fox5's morning news show coverage of the Nats opener live from RFK, and was it godawful but, at the same time, exciting to watch. They have a reporter there, the Murrow-award
Holly Morris, who either downed a ton of coffee early this morning or was on crack. She interviewed some of the NatPack -- the Nats fan club -- and was so hyperactive, she was incoherent.

Washington Post writer Paul Fahri, this morning:

With so much manpower chasing relatively few facts, things got pretty silly early on. Fox5's hyper-caffeinated morning reporter, Holly Morris, was literally jumping for joy (or something) as she nterviewed "the Nat Pack," a cheerful group of young people who roam the field between innings, shooting T-shirts with a compressed-air gun into the crowd.

Even, or perhaps especially, in light of the Gammo situation this week, it's best not to toss around accusations (note: that's not what I'm saying "Dodger Thoughts" did, by the way). So I certainly won't do that. In addition, the likelihood of a blog-to-paper lifting is substantially more remote than a paper-to-paper scenario, even though Nationals Review has indeed hit the big-time. Furthermore, it's not as if Fahri copied or obviously lifted the Morris observations, which may have been fairly obvious in their own right.

Nevertheless, the two passages do bear a little bit of a resemblance (I take "or something" to impy---jokingly, of course---drug use, by the way), and I thought that was a little bit interesting.

But, to be clear, not a lot interesting.

Advice from Charlie

Heard on the radio during the first inning of last night's game:

"Remember where you are, because if you do, you'll always remember where you were."

While it's likely that Charlie was just goofing around or maybe even looking to see his name on a list of famous baseball quotations, maybe the thought is applicable to your experience last night at the ballpark. So, enjoy!

One other thing: You guys (and gals) at RFK were amazing. Maybe it's a difference in microphone orientations, but you made the bottom of the 8th inning rally by the Red Sox (I was listening on XM) sound like Tigers-Royals in mid-September. The 9th inning was one complete and comprehensive wall of sound. And the ovation you gave ¡LIVAN! was simply marvelous.

In a way, it was special just to listen to it; hearing the running commentary of just how impressed---rather, moved---Charlie & Dave were was something I won't soon forget.

WANTED: Dead or Alive

Okay, I know Karl Ravech is merely the "Level 1 Head" who usually hosts Baseball Tonight, and it could have just as easily been Brian Kenny called up to cover the BREAKING NEWS! that Gary Sheffield---when it comes down to it---decided to shove an idiotic, rifled-up fan, rather than make a timely relay throw that could have saved his team a run.

But I like Brian Kenny and generally dislike the smug Karl Ravech, so in my world, it was a fait accompli that "Ravy" (& Co.) would manage to FUBAR the real story of the baseball night: the first real baseball game in DC in a hell of a long time.

"Ravy" & Co. would imply that there were others involved in this unacceptable diversion into insubstantial titilation, and there were. I'll dispose of the rest (except maybe the somewhat alluring Samantha Ryan) in due course.

But first, the pain will come to you, Ravech. You're going down. You won't know when, and you won't know where. But it will come. Oh yes, it will come. And come it will. Rest assured, Ravech, I'll smite you good. And you will feel my smiting power as you are smited in a smiting to best all other smitings. MUHAAAAAAHHHHHHAAA!!

Uh, where was I?

For the benefit of those who attended the game or otherwise did not watch Baseball Tonight (and I was only able to because the Yanks/Sox game ran long and I got back from an errand in time), let me recap:

* Yanks/Sox game ends.
* Annoying "ESPN HD" chimey thing sounds, accompanied by the usual dizzily-edited, fast-faced highlight clips.
* Shot of the entire Varitek two-run triple that started the madness. With Chris Berman doing play-by-play, mind you.
* Isolated shot of Sheffield and the fan getting into it.
* Closer shot of it.
* BbTN intro that feature, you guessed it, a shot of Sheffield and the fan.
* Karl Ravech introducing the altercation as "the big news of the night" or something similarly groan-inducing.
* Repeat highlight of the play.
* Repeat isolated focus of the play.
* Repeated isolation, closer in this time, with slo-mo.
* One more time, for good measure.
* Roundtable discussion between Ravech, "Bushmills" Bowa, and Harold Reynolds.
* Bowa, essentially, says Sheffield should have killed the idiot fan. Bowa's crazy, by the way.
* Harold Reynolds says the most important thing was the arrival of The Flash, a/k/a the Beantown security dude---the fastest whitey in the world not named Jeremy Wariner---who raced over, leaped into the stands, held the two back, and then held another unidentified Yankee back, just as that second Yankee was going to do a "Stephen Jackson reprise." Harold Reynolds is right on this point, and for that I will spare his life.
* Ravech suggests maybe Sheffield need not commit mayhem on the fan.
* Bowa, who is clearly crazy, shakes his head defiantly, with disgust and insanity in his eyes.
* Oh wonderful! Let's go to Chris Berman and Rick Sutcliffe, who were on hand for the game, and by happy coincidence, are about to repeat what they said seconds before the BbTn crew signed on.
* It's a complete duplication! Berman even repeats the line, "On a chilly night in Boston, it is appropriate that cooler heads prevailed." Guh.
* Time for Ravech to look solemn as the camera comes back to him.
* Ravech introduces the aforementioned Sam Ryan, who essentially says, "I've got nothing to add, except . . . hey remember during the game, when I said the fan was arrested? Turns out I was wrong."
* Back to Ravech. "If something develops we'll go back to Sam Ryan at Fenway Park." Confidence is indeed inspired.
* Speaking of which: what else would develop? A brawl in the parking lot? Teleportation by Karim Garcia and Jeff Nelson?
* Hey, let's go to another reporter at Fenway Park! Whaddya got?
* "I've got nothing here, Karl. Well, except for that these teams don't like each other, and the fans despise each other even more."
* "Hey, that's not much at all," Ravech essentially says. "We'll go back to her if she learns anything new---which is to say, anything at all."
* Repeat of the play.
* Ravech: "Time for a commercial. When we come back, we'll talk about the other big story in baseball tonight."
* Oh yes! They're gonna talk about the Nats game! You know, the one attended by the President of the United friggin' States? Sell-out? World Series atmosphere? ¡LIVAN! on the hill? First game there since Tim Kurkjian was the pimply-faced teenager on the Simpsons? Cool!
* Commercials. Lots of commercials. That's a nice feature, where they can continue to run the bottom line crawl during the commercials, though.
* Hey, we're back! They're gonna talk about the Nats!
* Nope. It's highlights of the play; that freakin' play!
* Close up of the play.
* Ravech is back. "If you missed it, here's the play they'll be talking about well into the night." Die, Ravech, die!
* Talk amongst the BbTn panelists. Bowa's still crazy; Ravy's still smug; Reynolds wants to have the love child of that security dude.

[Interruption: Okay, here comes the best part!]

* Ravech: "If you're just joining us, there was an incident at Fenway Park tonight." Then he describes what happened. Didn't he just pretty much do this, only in fewer words?
* Cut to shot of Ravech obviously listening to his earpiece. [I can imagine the producer saying, "Hold it. Something's coming in from Boston."]
* Ravech, apparently stalling, says, "If you're just joining us from games just concluded, . . . " Okay, he definitely just said this.
* Ravech pauses for a second. [Producer: "Uh, never mind."]
* Ravech pauses another second. "Okay. Well, that wasn't the only big story this evening . . . "


In truth, Tim Kurkjian and Jeff Brantley did a really nice report from RFK. Kurkjian, who grew up in Bethesda (I think), was pretty moved. He sounded a little choked up, and in close ups you could see his eyes welling up a bit. He strikes me as a nice, sentimental type; he and Boswell must got along famously. Brantley, who as far as I know has no connection with DC whatsoever, was absolutely PUMPED. He was tremendously impressed by the park, the crowd, the atmosphere, the pact with Satan that Vinny Castilla apparently made, etc.

So, I don't want to make it overly negative here. But, for wasting a good 15 minutes of my life, Ravech, you're going down---and, to paraphrase Al Davis, you will go down haahrd.

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