Thursday, August 11, 2005

I still haven't actually seen Brandon Watson play . . .

. . . but I like him.

I like him because he has a nice smile. Yes, I'm serious, and it's as simple as that.

Look, I said at the end of my last post that I wanted to think of something positive, and this is it: the Nats won on Tuesday night in Houston. (They lost last night, but let's forget that for the next few minutes.) This was
Watson's big league debut, and he played a part in the victory, homering into something the hack of a Houston radio announcer incessantly referred to as "the Crawford boxes." Given the mighty clout was under the jurisdiction of Minute Maid Park and Watson chose the left field corner as the venue in which to file his dinger, the effect is rather analogous to "going for the green in two on a par four." Well, whatever; you could put that one on the board, yes.

Yesterday evening, I didn't hang around for the game, either on or XM, but I did see "SportsNite" on Comcast Sports Net, official non-carrier of the Washington Nationals. In the game recap story, snippets of Watson's locker-side interview were shown. I liked him immediately. Watson has this sort of humble half-smile; it's innocent and amiable and not at all fake. He said the right things ("I'm just here to help the team"), but he said them in such a way that he was pleasantly surprised he has the opportunity to try to carry out those things just the same. (Aside: I'm not certain whether this says more about Watson or Jim Bowden,
who plucked Watson out of New Orleans rather unexpectedly.)

Consequently, consider me a Brandon Watson fan. I want him to succeed. Now, I'll have to admit that I am inherently mistrustful of his type of player--the slappin'-swifty, batting average-dependent lead-off guy. I'm not sure if this model of baseball player actually has a higher failure rate than the "Three True Outcomes" model, but the former sure seems to get hyped more at the moment of instant success because "you can't teach speed" and fast guys are
"catalysts" and "basestealing is a lost art." It's rarely that simple, and it's insanity to build conditions around Alex Cole or Brian L. (and aptly so!) Hunter. Furthermore, Brandon has competition in the "young Washington outfielder I'd like to see succeed" category.

But I like you, and I like your smile, Brandon. I'm rooting for you, for whatever that's worth.


Happy feelings abound in the Nats' clubhouse, as
Captain Magnanimous has offered his starting spot to Young Brandon. That's nice, and it really shows that Jose Guillen is still maturing, even in his late twenties. Why, just recently, he was Captain Tough Guy, calling out injured fellas to get with it and play for the good of the team. We're dying out here!

But now, see, Guillen's got perspective. He is hurt, and he knows how it feels---and how, seeing as he's been struggling a bit of late, maybe someone fresher could help the team until he gets better, which I'm sure he'll announce for everyone's benefit, too. He has all this perspective now, and I'm sure his position on the manliness and team-spiritedness of those other guys back when has changed.

And I'm definitely sure he's learned that there's no need to injure his shoulder on a head-first slide a third time this summer.


Speaking of outfield playing time, Bowden covers all the angles in another edition of his Pulitzer-worthy column in
the DC Examiner ("as told to The Examiner's John Keim"). He, like me, is happy with Brandon Watson, but he seems to be making a different claim than "I like Brandon's smile." To that end, Bowden's logic is irrefutable:

---> I called up Brandon Watson.
---> Brandon Watson had a great first game.
---> Therefore, I am great.

I've got no quarrel there, brother. Instead, I find this excerpt slightly quarrelsome:

[Watson] certainly earned it by hitting .357 in Class AAA and stealing 27 bases. This team had failed to score in a month. Nothing against Jose Guillen, Brad Wilkerson, Preston Wilson or Ryan Church -- all four are quality fielders.

Bodes thinks that Preston Wilson is "a quality fielder"? I'd ask if he too has been blacked out of the Nats on television, but then, even Charlie & Dave have bemoaned Wilson's piss-poor outfield play (in so many words, of course). "Quality fielder"?!The guy's patrolled the outfield like a Neanderthal on roller skates with a dead bear in his hands.

Oh, hmmm . . . whoops. Let's give Bodes a fair shake on this:

---> I acquired Preston Wilson.
---> Preston Wilson is a quality fielder.
---> Therefore, I am a quality general manager.


Now that I've gotten the hang of this, I'm going to give it an additional whirl:

---> I acquired Preston Wilson.
---> Preston Wilson does a lot of charitable work in the community.
---> Therefore, I should focus my efforts more on doing charitable work in the community.

Do it, Bodes! Be a good citizen. I'm sure someone else will cover for you at your day job.


Bowden also expresses extreme displeasure with the decision of MLB-appointed arbitrator Shyam Dyas to sentence Kenny Rogers, in effect, for time already served:

The decision of arbitrator Shyam Das to overrule Bud Selig's 20-game suspension of Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers was outrageous and unjustified. Rogers' 20-game suspension meant he would only miss four starts. With the arbitrator's decision it means he'll now only miss two starts -- two starts for attacking a cameraman three times! This is just plain wrong. One thing about arbitrators: Both players and owners have the ability to fire an arbitrator at the end of each year. There's no doubt in my mind that the clubs should remove Das for this unprecedented and horrible decision.

I don't doubt Das is gone, and I don't doubt that Das could be a little more helpful for the public benefit and clearly state his reasons. But doesn't it seem like people are jumping too quickly to the conclusion that the length of the suspension was Das' main consideration? (I'm not sure if this is what Bowden is doing here; it's different to say that, as a matter of justice, Rogers' suspension was too short in one's own eyes.)

I caught a few minutes of the Red Sox-Rangers last night at a friend's house; it was, of course, Rogers' first game back, and ESPN announcers Jeff Brantley and Chris Berman kept focusing on the length of the suspension. Brantley had this hyper-attenuated argument, with which Berman seemed to agree reluctantly, that MLB's steroids policy constrains all other disciplinary measures to below a ten-game threshold---which is, of course, the suspension for a first-time offense for a drug on the prohibited list. Admittedly, I haven't followed the Rogers case very closely this week, but it seems to me (as noted at Baseball Primer, among other internet cites, and by writer Jayson Stark on ESPN Radio) that the basis of Das' decision was that Bud Selig essentially didn't have jurisdiction in the matter to hand out the penalty.

It sounds silly to say, I know, but my understanding is that Selig ceded "trial and appellate" (so to speak) authority in the collective bargaining agreement. That he picked this case to trump not only past procedure but (I'm surmising) the plain language of the collective bargaining agreement might have struck the arbitrator as rather arbitrary and capricious.

I'm not at all arguing that Das was "right." That would be silly in itself, since I admitted I haven't been a Rogers-phile this week. And people have strong feelings on the matter, as they should. But let's stop focusing exclusively on whether the arbitrator considered the question of too many or too few games.

I think Brandon W. looks like a young Deion Sanders.
Hmmm, I didn't notice that. I'll have to take another look.
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