Thursday, July 21, 2005

Oh, thaaaaaaaat . . .

Get a load of this:

Once he calmed down, Livan Hernandez wanted to make a few things clear Thursday: He won't have knee surgery until after the season, he will keep taking the mound every five days, even in pain, and he would never quit on his club. A day after saying during a rambling postgame interview session that he was thinking about having an operation, the Washington Nationals' ace unleashed a profanity-laced tirade at reporters in the RFK Stadium home clubhouse before Thursday night's game against Houston. The gist of his several-minute outburst Thursday was that his comments about being ``99.9 percent'' sure he might have season-ending surgery and ``I'm done, I think'' after Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the NL-worst Colorado Rockies came in the heat of the moment and weren't reported accurately.

Frustrated . . . knee hurts . . . blowing off a little steam . . . nothing to see, boys, nothing to see.

I am waiting with bated breath for that thing he's going to tell all of us after the season's over. What? The offer's no good? Aw . . .

[Note: Ray Ratto of some San Fran rag and an occasional gig has penned a column on the Livanster over at the Four Letter Website. As it makes Cristian Guzman's bat seem substantial by comparison, I'm not even going to bother with the link. But here's the gist: What makes Livan tick? I don't know; he's sort of goofy.]


I do not believe it impertinent to suggest that the Washington Nationals are in a tail spin. Where have our beloved Natty Nats from yester-month gone to hide? Not at RFK Stadium, that's for damned sure. The Colorado series sealed that, and it was fairly miraculous that the Nats only lost by one run to the Houston Astros and Roy Oswalt tonight.

We are in the midst of an object lesson, my friends: never presume you are the exception. Pythagorus is chomp-chomp-chomping his way back into our lives, and there's not much we can do about it. The Nats are 7-10 this month, yet their run differential (58-to-61) is little different than what it was when they were on a 100-win pace. Call it failure to perform in the clutch, call it sloppiness, call it bad luck---but don't call it suck, because they're not getting blown out. Nope; the Nats are losing the close games---our vaunted "one-run decisions," in stark contrast to the first half of the season.

The Nats have wasted a team ERA of just over three this month. The offense, of course, is coming just short of keeping pace with the grace the excellent pitching has provided; combine that anemic performance with a vast increase in the team's rate of boneheadedness, and the Nats are losing the close games they were winning before.

Or maybe they're just unlucky, whereas they had been lucky before. Or maybe it's some of both, or one is the easy explanation of the other. Or maybe it just doesn't matter.

I get the sense that, when viewed in context, the team isn't vastly diferent in quality than it was when it ran off that great month-plus of baseball. Certainly, the offense is worse---and that's sort of saying something---but the pitching is keeping things close, as noted. However, the feel of the team is completely different. They look inept and they don't have that "swagger" or "bounce" they did round about early June. Even in this slide, they're still a decent-looking team, not really being embarrassed by the opposition. But things have changed. Remember that game against the Cubs where the bullpen blew two leads but the Nats still won on Schnieder's homer?

How could I forget, right? I'm quickly forgetting the feeling, and that's precisely the point.


I'm not one to judge the manliness or grit of a ballplayer, and I'm not going to do that here. But I will say that, although I have held out of this advocacy for awhile now, the Nats need Nick Johnson in the worst way. He has to come back soon; there's just no choice in the matter.


All that said, I'm going to close by getting to the heart of the matter. By default, the Braves tied us today. Chances are they'll shoot on by soon enough. That's fine. We're still four-and-a-half up in the wild card. Clemens pitches tomorrow; odds are it'll be three-and-a-half this time tomorrow night. And that's fine. That's when the rest of the season will begin: 54-43, with 65 games until the playoffs and a modest cushion.

I'm of the mindset that if he was able to take BP and field some grounders the other day, he needs to get ready.

This injury shouldn't be something that'll cause more damage by playing on it, it just might not heal easily.

It's time for him to get a move on it.
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