Monday, July 04, 2005

New Orleans North

Bodes summons another Zephyr for deep background; Nats land two all-stars; Boz tentative, yet hopeful; Nats drug doppleganger

Thanks to Nick Johnson's nagging heal injury, the Washington Nationals called up a second position player from Triple-A New Orleans this weekend, which will be important in keeping the bench balanced. Matt Cepicky, summoned when Johnson landed on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to June 27), joins Harper's guy, Rick Short, on the Nats' bench. Cepicky, a corner outfielder/first baseman-type, is hitting .274/.346/.500 for the Zephyrs, with 14 homers and 58 ribbies. He's made nine errors, which strikes me as rather incredible.

Aside from occasional pinch-hitting chores, Short hasn't seen much action in Washington, and I wouldn't expect Cepicky to do more than that, either. Frank Robinson has placed his trust at first base to an I Love the 90s - Strikes Back combo of Wil Cordero and Carlos Baerga. Fortunately, as St. Barry notes in today's gamer, Cordero's knee is acting all crochety. That allowed Baerga to play first today, and I swear he looked like a spry, pre-Cleveland Keith Hernandez out there. Late in the game, Baerga not only pulled off a nifty leap/snag/swipe on an errant throw by Vinny Castilla, but later on also made a long stretch (for him, anyway), ensuring that Jamey Carroll's throw from deep in the hole would peg Henry Blanco---who is somehow slower than Baerga, by the way---and keep the game going.

Well, I just don't see how Robinson will alter what he is currently doing, so expect both Short and Cepicky to blend into the scenery. They say moving down a space in the dugout and handing over cups of Gatorade are the sixth and seventh tools, respectively.


___________

The Nats will be represented by two pitchers at the Major League All-Star Game the Tuesday after next in Detroit. As expected, ¡LIVAN! and Chief Cordero made the National League squad.

It appears from his quotes in Les Carpenter's WaPo article that Nats' general manager Jim Bowden is up in arms over Nick Johnson and Jose Guillen being left off the team. Although I think Johnson merits a selection, Tony LaRussa, the NL manager, can be excused leaving The Stick off the team, seeing as Johnson was just placed on the disabled list.

I'm lukewarm about Guillen. Carpenter makes a reasonable case---when the fan vote of the starters is compounded by the mixed voting for many of the reserves, which is compounded by the requirement of one representative per team---that Guillen lost out in a numbers game. Furthermore, Guillen (who sports an .897 OPS) isn't the only NL outfielder with a beef. See also Adam Dunn, .947 OPS; Cliff Floyd, 923 OPS; Pat Burrell, .898 OPS. Even Reggie Sanders, for whom no one is campaigning, is a dead-ringer for Guillen, with an extra ten points of OPS, to boot.

Still, Guillen's stats splits demonstrate he's been a terror on the road so far, and that's noteworthy considering the extremes to which RFK Stadium has suppressed power. There's a case to be made that Guillen deserves to be on the ballot for the "last player" fan voting. I don't know if Guillen's really an MVP candidate, as Peter Gammons is now saying, but Guillen's obviously of great value to the Nats. I've been critical of Guillen for running his big yapper, but he deserves tremendous credit for his play on the field---especially of late.


____________

Deep in hopefully optismitic mode, Thomas Boswell doesn't want to look ahead, but he can't help it:

So, what are we watching on Independence Day in RFK when the Nats come home? Like mentioning a no-hitter in the fifth inning, you don't want to use foolish words prematurely. Baseball often swamps its most cheerful story lines with swift, unsentimental and capricious events that can engulf even the best-constructed teams. If ocean liners like the Yankees can run aground, what do we make of a lashed-together raft like the Nationals? So you bite your tongue with October talk. But you can't prevent yourself from thinking. [. . . ]
In baseball, the numbers seldom lie. If the Nationals, with .300 hitters like Jose Vidro, Ryan Church and Johnson returning to their lineup soon, can play 40-41 ball in the second half, Washington will end with 90 wins. That often suffices to extend a season. Anything more will surely keep them in the October hunt deep into September.

I'm wary about 90 wins actually being enough---one or two of the NL East teams, of them all at .500 or better, will drop off, and some team or two will take advantage of that---but why do we have to stop at 90 wins, Boz?


____________

In a final, not nearly as positive note, two Nats minor leaguers were suspended for violating Minor League Baseball's drug policy. Josh Labandeira, the pride of Portersville, was slapped 15 games for amphatemine usage---the detection of which must please Will Carroll.

The other case is more disturbing in roughly the sense that a kick to the groin is more painful than a stuffy nose:

Ramon Castro, an infielder in the Washington Nationals organization, became the first Major League Baseball-affiliated player to be suspended for trafficking as well as using
performance-enhancing drugs on Friday. Castro, who plays for the Nationals' Double-A affiliate in Harrisburg, Pa., has been suspended for 105 games under the terms of baseball's Minor League drug policy -- 15 games after testing positive for amphetamine use and 90 for trafficking performance-enhancing drugs.


Yeesh.

In a somewhat amusing angle to this story, the Associated Press article on the Yahoo! site links to the player card of the other Ramon Castro, the back-up catcher for the New York Mets. Well, it's sort of amusing, until you're being linked to drug trafficking, I suppose.

Comments:
In a show of appreciation, Frank should pick nine fans at random for todays starting lineup. Think about it, we could have a twelve year old girl starting at shortstop, a chain-smoking 75 year old guy complete with oxygen tank nestled up against the first base, some drunk college kids in the outfield and a toddler sucking a pacifier on the mound! While the guys fire up the grill and tap the keg in the dugout, the Mets luggage would catch fire, releasing toxic gas into the bus, requiring an afternoon stay in the emergency room for the team.

Net result? Nats win!

Unlikely yes. Impossible? errr...not with this team. :-)
 
Your design is perfect, Eric!

The Mets look like they went the random lineup route today, actually; the whole order is juggled around from its usual state.
 
Dammit Frank! Where did you learn to manage? We laid the winning strategy out for you right here.

Now look what you've done. Extrapolating the Nats performance so far in the second half of the season we end up at 50-112. Thanks alot ya nob. ;-)
 
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