Friday, April 01, 2005

The tablesetter

Even when you're planning a ballpark that suggests "the transparency of democracy," there's still nothing like a good old palace coup

These are confusing times for the Nats and their fans. Frank Robinson and Jim Bowden, in a move as bold as it was blindingly obvious, recently tossed the slappin' swifty and totally inept presumed lead-off man into the Mighty Mississip'. The ticket said "New Orleans," but there exists the possibility that Bowden, the trickster, instructed the boat captain to stop in Vicksburg. Maybe Endy will enjoy his new career as a Civil War reenactor; who knows.

Anyway, for a day or so, the talk was tough and proud out of Nats' camp: "We don't need that impatient, hard-headed, self-important squirt."

And then the team came to a sudden realization: Hey, we don't have one of those speedy prototypical lead-off guys anymore! Whatever shall we do?

Fear set in and a gruff gang of neo-Visigoths, sensing an opportunity to pillage, plunder, and spread unspeakable body odor, initiated a two-front siege on the Nats, attacking both the Panera Bread location in Viera and the RFK team trailer store. Several candidates have emerged to replace Endy and consequently restore normalcy, but none have spread a convincing fragrance. Nick Johnson? "Well now, he's just too slow; our team would look like horsedung, people say, if that cloddish freak were our lead-off guy." Cristian Guzman? "Nah, he's just Endy, but with cooler sideburns."

Will anyone try to restore the order and give us firm leadership in this uncertain time?

Yes!

Jim Williams from the DC Examiner first reported (and reiterated 15 times in a 22 hour span) that "something was imminent," and now we know what it is. In a Natfanatic exclusive, the aptly-named Nat Fanatic reports that Fan Club president Colin Mills has strong-armed his way up the food chain and proclaimed himself District Baseball Czar. Among the first initiatives the Czar enacted was something concerning the television deal, but who cares about that right now?

People, he's really moving on that lead-off issue! That's what needs to be addressed!

What has the Czar done? Well, he's thrown open the lead-off role to other people. People off the street. People from behind computers. People like us.

Actually, it is us---Chris Needham and . . . well . . . me.

At first, I was a little confused. I mean, if this is such a wise move, then why hasn't Barry Svrluga of the Post proposed it? Sir Barry is a baseball oracle, after all. Then again, it makes sense. National League pitchers, presumably, are familiar with the approach neither Chris nor I take at the plate. Plus, both of us have zero MLB service time, so we'll come cheap, and that's a very important consideration for the Nats.

But whom to play, Czar? Well, he prefers "Needham," because that's apparently easier to pronounce. Point taken. But, as Al Pacino proclaimed at the little boy's funeral in City Hall:

I. Will. Not. Go. Down. Like. That. I intend to FIGHT!

That's right, I'm going to fight. I'm going to turn the Czar's decision into something as least as tough as the choice faced by Joe Torre during theintense, epic, seemingly unending positional war waged by Luis Alicea and Geronimo Pena for the early 90s Cardinals.

But, you might ask, on what basis do we evaluate this competition? Let's approach it from a sort-of "similarity scores" point of view:

---Throughout baseball history, there's been one (ONE!) guy named "Needham" to appear in the big leagues: Tom Needham, nicknamed "Deerfoot" for reasons that are not sufficiently interesting enough, I'm sure, to research.

Ol' Deerfoot's been dead for 78 years, but he remains a MAJOR black mark against this modern Needham incarnation being handed the lead-off role. Even accounting for Deerfoot's Dead Ball self-and-contemporaries, he makes Endy Chavez look like a hyperbolized charicature of the already hyperbolized (I'm certain) image of the guy in the mid-90s locker room with a dozen syringes full of horse steroids jammed up his posterior.

Deerfoot---your normal OF/1B/2B/3B/C; mostly a catcher until late in his career---posted a career OPS+ of 66, including an awesome 2 in his final season and a somehow-possible -12 in another season. His career OBP was .274, so I'm thinking he wouldn't have fit the lead-off bill.

And so, who says Chris Needham would instead, hmmmn?

---Well, at least Chris has a comp; not surprisingly, there's been no "Tsimpris" ever to appear in the big leagues. (If you do a google search of the last name, you find three males: me, my dad, and some high school runner somewhere named Ilias. There's at least a fourth male out there, my uncle Harry, but he's a retired candy salesman and never mentioned being a big leaguer before that.)

We'll have to fudge it a little bit. Searching Baseball Reference for guys with "ts" combinations in their names, we get four results. Only one of them, Tsuyoshi Shinjo, was a position player. However, we're really stretching things if we count a Japanese guy as being "similar" to me, and I don't want him, anyway; his career record is almost as bad as Deerfoot's.

There's a guy from the 1970s who had "Basil" as his middle name, but no thanks. The two legitimate "Ts guys," pitchers George Tsamis and John Tsitouris, don't inspire much confidence either.

So, District Baseball Czar, I have to ask you: What are you smoking, my man?

Just put Brad Wilkerson in the lead-off spot and end this madness.

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