Friday, September 30, 2005

Well . . . hmmmm . . . ummmm. Crap.

OR, Oh, I see. Then everything is wrapped up in a neat little package. Really, I mean that. Sorry if it sounded sarcastic.

Initially, I theorized why Jim Bowden would designate Claudio Vargas for assignment. Then, I joined the cacophony of Bodes-ridicule, in part based on the belief that Vargas could have still been optioned to the minors rather than waived. Now, I realize that this belief was incorrect.

In short, there are angles from which to attack the handling and surrender of Vargas---who, for six bright weeks or so, was pitching pretty well for Arizona. For one, you could argue that the Nats hurried Vargas back too quickly and then were forced to dump him when he pitched miserably in May; for another, you could be perplexed that Bowden couldn't swing a single deal for Vargas, for anything in return. But, to get to the "in short" part, it is mistaken, unfounded, and unfair to attack him for botching the MLB transaction rules---or, perhaps worse, to operate in contravention of them.

On this point, Bowden didn't screw up.

Why did we,
in the Natosphere? The key, as it turned out, was something that we didn't know then but do know now: Vargas was on optional assignment with the Marlins in 2001.

Everything flows from there; however, to make sure we're looking at it correctly this time, I'll show the work.

First,
on options:


After three years as a pro, a player must be
protected on a team's 40-man roster, or he is eligible for the Rule 5 draft . . . . Once he's served those three years, and assuming he is added to the 40-man roster, his club then has what are called "options" on him.
When a player is on the 40-man roster but not on the 25-man Major League roster, he is on "optional assignment." One common misconception about the rules is that a player may only be "optioned out" three times. Actually, each player has three option years, and he can be sent up and down as many times as the club chooses within those three seasons.
When you hear that a player is "out of options," that means he's been on the 40-man roster during three different seasons, beginning with his fourth as a pro, and to be sent down again he'll have to clear waivers . . .
Now, to apply that to
Vargas:

---> His first professional season was 1998. (Though he signed with the Florida Marlins in 1995, as a 17 year old.) He barely saw any action, and the first question---one which would contribute to our doom later---is whether that counted as a full "year in the pros" for the purpose of the date on which he needed to be added to the 40-man roster. I guess it did, as we'll see.

---> In 1999, he pitched in the minors, not on the 40-man roster.

---> In 2000, he pitched in the minors, not on the 40-man roster.

---> In 2001, however, he appeared on the
afore-linked March 16 transactions list:


Florida Marlins: Optioned RHPs Hector Almonte and Gary Knotts to AAA-Calgary. Optioned LHP Geoff Goetz, RHP Claudio Vargas, and OF Abraham Nunez to AA-Portland. Optioned RHPs Wes Anderson and Josh Beckett to A-Brevard County. Re-assigned LHPs Benito Baez and Michael Tejera, RHPs Mark Brownson, Brian Edmondson, Gabe Molina, Johnny Ruffin, and Doug Walls, Cs Matt Frick, Mandy Romero, Matt Treanor, and Dusty Wathan, 2B Joe Espada, 3Bs Chris Clapinski and Mike Gulan, SS Derek Wathan, and OF Edgard Clemente to minor-league camp.
(emphasis added)


Well, Frick.

That's our clue that Vargas had been added to the 40-man roster. None of us---the Nats bloggers with egg on our faces now---knew this until
Yuda discovered it today. (And we weren't the only ones surprised.)

Okay, so 2001 is Option Year No. 1. Vargas spent the entire season at Double-A Portland.

---> In 2002, Option Year No. 2, Vargas spent the entire year in the minors.

---> In 2003, Option Year No. 3, Vargas made his big league debut (and actually pitched pretty well for the Expos).

---> In 2004, Option Year No. 4, Vargas again shuttled between the majors and minors, this time burdened by injury.

Wait a minute; Option Year No. 4? How is that possible? Shouldn't he have been exposed to waivers in 2004?

Actually, no. Recall that Vargas was on the 40-man roster in 2001 but did not appear in the big leagues that regular season. In such an event, the player is assigned a fourth option year. Hence, 2004 was indeed Option Year No. 4, and . . .

---> In 2005, Vargas was truly "out of options" (which means we was out of seasons to be placed on "optional assignment"). He started the year in the minors on a rehab assignment, got called up, pitched very poorly, and then gonzo.

The key was Vargas' presence on the 40-man roster in 2001; if his first appearance there had been in 2002, then under the exception provided above, 2005 would have been the legitimate Option Year No. 4. Remember, he didn't pitch in the majors in 2002, either.

But, instead, Vargas had used up his option years by the start of '05. We---myself included, obviously---didn't know this. Perhaps we should have assumed better about Jim Bowden. Regardless, mea culpa, Bodes.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Smul-bhit?

Wayne Knight is officially freaked out award, September 28

Capitol Punishment directs us to a nugget at DCRTV rumoring that "Emmis broadcasting head Jeff Smulyan probably won't land the [Washington Nationals]. Sources tell us that he's being "set up" to eventually buy the Cincinnati Reds . . . "

Why is Wayne Knight assuming an increasingly uncomfortable and spooked countenance today? Because this rumor was already noted at the Ballpark Guys forum yesterday:

From what's being said, it looks like the future Nats ownership may depend on (of all things) the Cincinnati situation. If Maury is right, and Reinsdorf is pushing for Smulyan, it may be less because of the labor situation (I doubt Malek or the Lerners are going to be very pro-MLBPA, and no one expects a major war over the 2006 CBA anyway) than because Reinsdorf wants his buddy Jeff back in.If Carl Lindner is in fact going to sell his 51.5% of the Reds(and that apparently is not certain yet), and Smulyan can buy it, Bud can make just about everybody happy, which he likes to do. D.C. will get its local ownership, Smulyan will get his reentry to the lodge, and Cincinnati will get an owner less objectionable to them than he would be to DC (he lives closer to Cincy, and no one thinks the Reds are going to be moved) who would just about have to be an improvement over Lindner.

This gets me thinking about where this rumor originated:

---> did the BPG guy get it from DCRTV Dave?
---> did DCRTV Dave get it from the BPG guy?
---> did they hear it from a common source?

My mind is dazed with the possibilities and ramifications; DCRTV Dave wouldn't report as a rumor something posted on a message board, would he? Anyway, I'm going to stop now, because I feel like I'm looking for "Quelle".

I just know that I don't want Jeff Smulyan to own that Nats, that's all.

Lesson: the pros already know


The Nats pounded the Marlins last night, and I mean really pounded them. Washington dropped an eleven-spot on the festering Fish. If you need evidence to underscore how far the Marlins have fallen in a very short time, read that previous sentence: the Nats scored in double figures.

How long had it been? I resolved myself to exhaust two minutes of my life looking it up. I "discovered" that it had been a long time---I mean, an extremely long time.

But then I realized I didn't need to look it up: the beat writers already went there. Oh, well.

Notwithstanding St. Barry's strange, slight error (it had been since May 7, not May 11), all the big guys covering the Nats included the factoid that the last time the team had scored in double figures was early May. Rocket Bill Ladson wins the completeness award, noting not only "when" but "how many" (fourth time the Nats have hit double figures).

Since I looked it up, I might as well note a couple useless pieces of trivia:

---> the Nats are 4-7 in "games in which either team has scored in double figures"; and,
---> the Nats' "worst month" in such games was, strangely, their storied "best month"---which would be June, when the Nats went 20-6 overall but 0-2 in the double figure games. Pythagoras says hi.

Anyway, I'm definitely not going to look this up (help me out again, professionals), but I suspect the 11 games in which either side has hit double figures represent a very low figure, relative to the rest of the league. That would make sense, of course, considering the home park, the anemic offense, and the generally solid pitching.


___________________

Did you know?

Andruw Jones is considered by many or most BBWAA-types as the late frontrunner for National League MVP honors. Suffice it to say Jones, who sports 51 homers and 128 ribbies, would not win the award based on his batting average.

Quick: When was the last time an MVP batted equal to, or worse than, Jones' current .264 average? [answer below]














Answer: Never! (at least among position players, of course).

The lowest batting average by an MVP on record is Marty Marion's .267 in 1944.


__________________

An amazing streak ended last night, as Greg Maddux and the Cubs fell to the Pirates, 5-3, in Chicago. This loss thwarted Maddux's late bid to extend his string of consecutive seasons with at least 15 victories to 18 years.

The practice of crediting "wins" to individual pitchers is, in my estimation, a beknighted one. Nevertheless, Maddux's streak, which began in 1988, is a monument to his greatness and durability. Consider all the top pitchers that have come and gone in the years 1988-2004. (Consider that some top pitchers essentially came and went in just the years surrounding one of those dates, like Teddy Higuera.) Consider that Roger Clemens, an even greater pitcher than Maddux, had:

not one,
not two,
not three,
not four,
not five,
not six, but

seven seasons of fewer than 15 victories between '88 and '04 (and he's working on another one this time around, through no fault of his own, of course).

Maddux's streak is nothing short than amazing, in other words. Of course, there's a reason for that characterization: the 17-season streak is a major league record. It's a shame to see it end.

The streak nearly ended, in 1990, at two seasons. Maddux suffered through a severe mid-summer slump, and then-manager Don Zimmer actually promised to swim "across Lake Michigan" if Maddux ever won another game. Inevitably, he did---and Zimmer fulfilled his promise by swimming across a very small section of the lake.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

22 Short Films about Springfield


I thought about composing a ballad (or ripping off someone better's) in praise of Hector Carrasco, but I think I'm suffering from tendonitis in my blogging arm. After giving it an aborted go in the blogpen this morning, I figured it would be best to give the ol' alto queso a rest. Instead, I'm going to employ Blogger's Copout No. 32 and just link to interesting stuff from the other Nats bloggers (in no particular order):

--->
Capitol Punishment has been a busy little bee. If you're in the mood for negative motivation, I commend you to this post on the price of winning too much between now and October 2: free agent draft pick compensation. Wonky goodness!

--->
Nationals Interest unfurls a grand welcome mat A.J. Burnett, current/ex- (or ex/current-) Florida Marlin. I'm not certain the Nats can budget both Burnett and a retained Esteban Loiaza, as the NI guys envision, but that sure would make for a nice four-man rotation. Whoa! Who are we to call Hector Carrasco a fifth starter?

--->
Ball-Wonk is using his creative powers for evil, as per usual.

--->
Distinguished Senators takes Frank Robinson to task for being a cranky and spiteful old man, also as per usual. In addition, look for the world's first comparison of Brian Roberts to Rick Short.

--->
Beltway Boys punishes us mercilessly by posting the worst picture of Hondo known to man. My initial reaction was, strangely, "Arvid Engin as a coal miner."

--->
Nationals Farm Authority reviews the Nats' dearth of upper-level prospects, starting at New Orleans. Quick, get me some quaaludes.

--->
Nats Nation reviews the life and times of Hall of Fame Negro Leaguer Buck Leonard. Did you know that, "[y]ears before the color barrier was broken in professional baseball, Senators owner Clark Griffith inquired to Leonard if he and Josh would be interested in playing in the majors, but Griffith never went through with the idea"?

--->
Nationals Opinion throws a resigned but appreciative white towel.

---> Did you know that
Nationalz personally witnessed our Natty Nats sweep the Mets in Shea a week or two ago? Iiiiiiit's true.

--->
Eucalyptus provides lots of interesting stuff, including a continuation of the "DC Baseball birthday" feature. Which former (old school) Nat committed suicide at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco? Let's just say it was a no-Win situation . . .

--->
Nasty Nats kills two birds with one stone: he praises Hector Carrasco and continues to be all over Tony Kornheiser like male pattern baldness on a columnist.

--->
RFK Cheap Seats (formerly "Section 527") believes the children are our future, teach Dutch well and let him lead the way. (Show them all the beauty Kory Casto posseses inside?)

--->
Just a Nats Fan innovates with an online magazine that looks like a "real" magazine, only it's online. Oh, and she loves Gary Bennett. (Don't ask!)

--->
Thurdl Sports ("Where I'm Not Cheering for the Saints") is noodling divisional realigment scenarios. I love that stuff!

--->
Nats Blog isolates some killer defeats. You'll never guessed which game ranked No. 1 in that category. (Actually, you probably will.)

--->
OMG finds solace in the fact that, although the Nats screwed up last time against Florida, at least they didn't aid and abet a Marlins' playoff run.

--->
Donutball, Donutball, wherefore art thou, Donutball.

---> And, finally,
District of Baseball and William World News continue to do their yeoman's work---among other things, making my breakfast informative.

And that's it. I don't think I missed anyone, but if I did, you can find my blogging arm in the whirlpool.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Order 86

(Well, 86th loss probably tonight)

A few months ago, District of Baseball featured a poll about Peter Angelos, in which "Emperor Palpatine" was one of the choices for best comp to ol' Capt. Asbestos. (At least, I'm pretty sure it did, although the "older polls" page doesn't reference that particular one.)

Well, lest you think the comparison is an exaggeration, I (or, more accurately, FoxSports.com) present you with ¡THIS!:

(ready?)


(are you sure?)


(are you sure that you're sure?)

(okay . . . )




Remove the suit and tie; add a robe and cowl. You get this:



It works on so many levels, doesn't it?

By the way, in an effort to add even a little substance to this post, I'll agree heartily wtih Ken Rosenthal's conclusion: Angelos should get out---like yesterday. Unlike many Nats' fans, I have no inherent hate for all things Baltimore; I spent many years of my life rooting for the O's, and I think they have a great fanbase, full of passionate and knowledgeable fans. I'd love to be able to enjoy some success for the O's, but of course that would require the O's actually to have success.

That won't happen again until Angelos and his boys get out and stay out. And, while he's leaving, he could kindly hand back the Nats' television rights, too.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Pursuit of Hector


Remember that nonsensical line from Bill Clinton's second inaugural address? You know the one: "Nothing big ever came from being small." Everyone near where I was standing shrugged at that one, too.

The line didn't tangle up Hector Carrasco, though. Why, if his quote in
Rocket Bill's Sunday notes column is any indication, Hector's taken the big guy's words to heart:

Last Thursday, Carrasco made his third consecutive start and shut out the Giants for 5 2/3 innings. He struck out a career-high eight batters and walked four. As a starter, he has given up two runs in 15 2/3 innings (1.15 ERA) and struck out 17. He has taken a liking to his new role, and
would like to be strictly a starter next season.

Carrasco, exhibiting some rather "big-thinking," also noted this preference
in a story by Barry Svrluga on Friday. In that article, St. Barry reported that Randy St. Claire has introduced a changeup into Carrasco's arsenal, and this addition was cited as a key to Carrasco's success. The article referenced a "conundrum the Nationals find themselves in now" concerning Carrasco's future with the team (assuming he's indeed coming back). Carrasco, of course, wants to be known as a starter; Frank Robinson seemed to envision a swing-man.

Carrasco turns 36 next month and has appeared in 560 career games; over the years, he's made all of four starts, including his last three outstanding appearances. Let's imagine that, pursuant with his hopes and dreams, Carrasco successfully transitions to starting pitching next season. I offer that this accomplishment would be almost unprecedented in the history of Major League Baseball.

Here's the all-time leaders in career appearances (Nos. 1-100); this list starts at 647 appearances. And here's the active leaders; this list starts at 588 career appearances, which nearly brings us to Carrasco.

Has there ever been a pitcher who has done what Carrasco seeks to do? That is, has anyone transitioned from career reliever to starting pitcher well into his thirties and with at least 500-600 career appearances under his belt? Unless I'm missing someone, I see only one:

Craig Lefferts.

Entering the 1992 season, Lefferts was 34 years old and had appeared in 582 career games. He owned five career starts (just like Carrasco, as of tomorrow evening), and those five were a really, really long time ago---back in his rookie season of 1983. For much of his career, Lefferts had been your typical No. 1 lefty reliever/fireman, back before the emergence of
the lovable LOOGY. After debuting with the Cubs in '83, he spent the better part of the next decade shuttling between San Diego and San Francisco. He was a key member of two World Series (losers') bullpens (Pads in '84, Giants in '89) and sported a work product good for an ERA+ around the 110s. Based upon my recollection of a subset of Giants' fandom back then (relatives in the Bay Area whom I'd visit in the summers), Lefferts was regarded as decent but not reliable.

In '91, Lefferts had his worst season. Though he matched his career high with 23 saves, Lefferts posted then-career worsts in ERA (3.91) and ERA+ (97). It wasn't an excruciatingly horrid season, but back in those pre-offensive explosion days a near-four ERA from your bullpen ace just wouldn't do. (Come to think of it, such performance wouldn't even do in these days.)

Lefferts, who started those aforementioned five games as a guy in his mid-20s nearly a decade earlier, converted to a rotation starter in 1992. I seem to recall the move was long-discussed, though I could be making that up. At any rate, Lefferts was purely a starter for both the Padres (27 starts) and, during a failed stretch run, the Orioles (five starts). The results, on the whole, were so-so (98 ERA+).

The salient point is that I'm not sure this had ever happened before in the history of the major leagues. I could be missing someone, but I don't think I am.

Should Carrasco get his wish of claiming a starting role---and should he actually keep the spot---he'd follow in Lefferts' legacy, but Carrasco's feat would almost inarguably represent a more extreme conversion. First of all, though he owned only those five starts long ago, Lefferts was actually treated as a starter in those outings; twice, he pitched at least seven innings, and in one of those games he pitched into the eighth. Carrasco,
as previously noted, made his starting debut in 2000 on a short and strictly emergency basis; late this season, he's building stamina, but I don't see him going "starter's innings" in his final two shots before the end of the year.

Beyond that, Carrasco is a year or two older than Lefferts was, and he is a "modern" reliever---whereas Lefferts was a "1980s" reliever. The long and short of that is Carrasco's average appearance historically has been much shorter than Lefferts' average appearance, he routinely would go two or three batters longer. That might not mean much when we're talking about starting pitching, but it does indicate that Lefferts was used to being stretched out longer.

In sum, I think Lefferts (for one season, as it were) did something that had never been done before; Carrasco, if he does likewise, would also in a sense be doing something unprecedented.


________________

Rightly or wrongly, it is impossible to consider Carrasco's unexpected career twist without thinking about
Chuck McElroy. Those who followed the Orioles in recent seasons probably remember a couple of startling appearances by McElroy in late September 2000: in two unexpected starts, McElroy allowed one run in 11 innings---against two playoff teams, at that! (Oakland and New York, if you're keeping score.)

McElroy was installed as the O's fifth starter out of the box in '01, and he was legitimately used that way. Five of McElroy's first six '01 appearances were as a starter (the one exception was a blow-out loss to Detroit in which he recorded two outs); however, McElroy pitched horridly in all but the first start, and the experiment ended.

McElroy, almost 33 when he made those two late-season starts in 2000, is perhaps more comparable to Carrasco than Lefferts was. He had no previous starting experience (to say nothing of not having pitched into the eighth as a starter, as Lefferts had), and his past usage was similar to Carrasco's.


__________________

All of this is not to say that Carrasco can't transition into successful (and healthy) starting pitcher, but it is to say that it's not particularly likely. In other words, the Nats should not bank of it. Fortunately, St. Barry's article portrays Carrasco's wish as a rather singular one.

Robinson's apparent vision of Carrasco as a swing-man---or, as Bill James once called it, a "staff stabilizer": a guy who can start and relieve as necessary---is perhaps more realistic. Again, it's not something that has a whole lot of basis in the history of baseball; in fact, such a late-career change, even of this lesser magnitude, would be of essentially the same precedential value. Armed with both opportunity and his new changeup, however, maybe Carrasco can do this. Even 100-110 innings of swing work would be a boon.

Nevertheless, I find myself skeptical with Carrasco. Too much could happen between now and next season. That includes contractual considerations (recall Carrasco was a lowly non-roster invitee and figures to make guaranteed money somewhere), but it also accounts for the tweaks and tears 36 year-olds invariably receive. Who's to say he doesn't experience tightness in his shoulder or elbow next spring? That would scuttle plans of extending him out rather quickly.

The question remains, though, whether the answer to the question "Why hasn't Hector Carrasco started previously?" is Opportunity or Skill. (Or maybe the first follows the second? That was my original position, a week or two ago.) I confess he's doing marvelous work in demonstrating the former to be the case and---perhaps in a more limited basis next year---there's no reason beyond skepiticism or speculation why he can't keep on answering the question in the same way.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Tony, meet Tony


With the Washington Nationals caught in a veritable death spiral, what better topic to discuss than hell?

Call me crazy---or merely not of Jewish extraction---but the
first time I noted Laura Blumenfeld's Sunday Post article, the aspect that most caught my eye was that apparently "Frank [Robinson] doesn't do religion."

What, there was something
more newsworthy in Blumenfeld's article? Something more newsworthy than Ryan Church's inarticulate overuse of the word "like"? Yeah, I guess there was.

Those who know me, even some people purely on-line, know that I am a religious guy; I guess it's just part of my inimitable charm. Anyway, I wasn't going to post anything on the "Ryan Church Controversy" (see any of the above links for the specifics), and I'm sure not going to engage in
"you say heaven, I say hell" discussions. That's not really part of the aforementiomed charm, I confess. Yet, when I returned home from work this evening and noticed Tony Kornheiser's micro-column on the subject, I found my muse. Cheers, Tony!

Rocket has already given Kornheiser the business, as Ben Dreith would say. (Vigorous discussion also followed, and it was a true example of our American marketplace of ideas: some reasoned points and some dumbfoundingly inelegant.) Rocket's thrust is that Kornheiser pegged the wrong guy, Church, instead of Jon Moeller, the evangelical Christian chaplain who edumacated Church on matters of faith, including the proposition that those who do not accept Christ as savior---including Jews, as Church's ex-girlfriend is---are doomed to hell. Pleading for some discretion afforded to Church, Rocket proffers that Church was essentially relating the lesson Moeller taught him (and his intendant surprise to it), rather than affirmatively castigating Jews to hellfire. I don't know if that survives a more-likely-than-not standard, but if imaginary criminal proceedings were ever brought against Church on the charge of anti-Semitism, Rocket the public defender could throw a hell of an argument for the existence of reasonable doubt.

I believe Rocket has the right idea here: take the focus off of Church, because he does come across more like a dupe than an agent of evil or even a raving anti-Semite (or, for that matter, a
a raving anti-Dentite); seeing as Rocket beat me to the punch, however, I'll focus on someone else. Tell you what: I'll do that in a second. First, a few points on Mr. Tony:

1. My first thought on the column---and admittedly a superficial one---is that it's so nice T.K. Stack Money notices the Nats exist. I'm not going to subject Kornheiser's last six months of work product to
the Wilbon treatment, but I suspect we'd arrive at a similar result. This isn't to say that Kornheiser should be restricted from writing about whatever strikes his lingering sports fancy (and there doesn't appear to be much of that left, to be honest); on the other hand, Mr. Tony is, if not widely read these days, then widely-distributed---and it would be a shame if a national audience equated this fine inaugural season with a dumb quote from a forgotten fourth outfielder.

2. My second thought is that Kornheiser is historically rather touchy on the subject of sports figures speaking of their faith. Admittedly, Kornheiser has in the past ranted on quotations of more innocuous content; then again, Kornheiser has in the past ranted on quotations of more innocuous content.

Here's an example: five or six summers ago, Pete Sampras won (yet another) Grand Slam tournament. Since it wasn't the French, of course, it must have been Wimbledon. Sampras prevailed in a hard-fought final round and, in accepting the trophy, thanked God for "blessing him," or something to that effect. It wasn't a full-blown "Thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ for bringing me this victory" (which Tony really, really hates, apparently, and I also find cheesy); instead, I was watching the match, and I'll attest to you it was a simpler statement than that.

Kornheiser, then a nationally-syndicated radio host, ranted about Sampras' statement for a good five minutes, and I witnessed that, too. I don't want to paint Kornheiser as unreasonable, so let's assume for the sake of argument that Sampras at least intimated the "thanks . . . victory" line. (He could have intimated the thanksgiving, I suppose; however, Sampras is
Greek Orthodox Christian, and most sports stars who utter the full statement are of evangelical Protestant persuasion, not that Kornheiser would necessarily know the rather large difference.) Kornheiser's rant could basically be reduced to the common rebuttal line of "God (if one exists) doesn't care about the outcome of the game."

That might be true (I sort of hope it is, actually), but suffice it to say that Kornheiser was making a definitive statement that another person's faith/belief system is just plain wrong. Even more than wrong---pathetically stupid and with no clue of the Almighty's tight logistics schedule. In essence, Kornheiser showed intolerance to Sampras' spiritual belief. (Well, first he assumed it, and then he showed the intolerance.)

In today's column, Kornheiser writes: "I'm not a history teacher, but I believe one of the founding principles of this country was religious tolerance." Sure. Yet, one could argue based on his past radio rants that Kornheiser is quite intolerant of those who express their own religious beliefs.

Now, there's quite a difference between "thanks . . . victory" and "Jews . . . doomed." I recognize that. However, unless Ryan Church is a really nefarious creature, he has no actual power to doom any person of Jewish faith, and I sincerely doubt when he's kneeling at bedside his supplications include fitting in some good damnation for the sons and daughters of Abraham. Certainly, the belief that certain people (and, lest I note, not certain people, but quite a broad swath of humanity) are doomed strikes the so-called doomees (and quite a few of the chosen, too, I'd suspect) as unseemly. But a belief's a belief, and I see no evidence that Church is doing anything to act out anything filed under "Anathema." I do see that Kornheiser is intolerant of an intolerant belief, though.

3. Of course, Kornheiser has a point: Church would have been much better off keeping his trap shut and his yapper zippered. Talk about bad P.R., baby!

4. Yet, ultimately, Kornheiser's being overly dramatic and, as Rocket suggested, off-target. If he wants to be enraged, that's fine---but he shouldn't insinuate extra-horrible things about Church (read the beginning of the column) and should instead focus his ire on the guy who most deserves it. And thus, finally, I get to the real subject of this issue:

Tony Tavares.

The guy's the team president, of course. Since the team has no owner (or 29 of them; big difference, huh?), Tavares is the man in charge. The buck stops with him; no one gets to the Nats but through him.

You don't believe me? Ye of little faith. Check out dude's authority in the
Post's follow-up article:


Tavares said that the choice of chaplain was made by the players, and that the Nationals would be glad to make similar provisions for Catholics, Jews, Muslims and others who work for the club.
"But one of the cautions I intend to give anyone who comes in here is, these are private services and should be kept private," he said. "I'm not trying to change anyone's religion or beliefs. I just cannot provide a public pulpit."

Yes! With authority!

Where in the---dare I say it?---hell was Tavares before this? He didn't notice some chaplain who seems to summon his players to chapel quite a lot? He didn't notice that this chaplain is an evangelical Christian? He doesn't know the evangelical Christian view of salvation by faith alone? He didn't notice that team-sponsored chaplains are a huge presence in team locker rooms today, thanks to the encouragement of team executives like him? He didn't notice that such ministries have been profiled countless times, in all forms of media? He didn't notice a Washington Post reporter trotting around his locker room at RFK, asking his players about how cool they think their chaplain is? He didn't notice his players answering the reporter's questions?

Come now.

The real doofus in this mess isn't Ryan Church, who at least believes---however inarticulately---something millions of others do. And it's not Jon Moeller, who at least preaches what countless pastors and chaplains do. No, the real doofus is Tony Tavares.

Tavares admitted the chaplain. Tavares knows what
the Baseball Chapel preaches. Tavares knows that Baseball Chapel has been profiled recently in another cosmopolitan newspaper. He knew it was only a matter of time because Moeller's chapter gained notice.

Or he should have known all these things. Just as he should have advised his players of what topics would open his team up to ridicule. As I can see, Tavares did nothing of the sort. Instead, he's ripped the credentials of a guy whose message was known to him well before the publication of this article, and he's let his own player dangle in the wind.

Tony Kornheiser could have written a substantive indictment of Tony Tavares' mismanagement of his team's own public relations. Instead, Kornheiser penned an eight-paragraph rant. To each his own---I'm a tolerant guy---but this column does nothing to inform, nothing to heal, and certainly nothing to consider.

It's a nothing column, just like most of Kornheiser's these days.


___________________

One final point: It occurs to me that everything Tavares should have known, Kornheiser also should have, too. Kornheiser's covered dozens and dozens---if not hundreds and hundreds---of evangelical Christian athletes in his day. How do I know? Because Kornheiser's covered professional football, and that sport above all is filled to the brim with WWJD-ishness.

Did Tony K. admire
Darrell Green? I can't say, but I suspect he did, on some level. Green was a great player, a team leader, a respected veteran, and seemingly a perfect gentleman. Green's also an evangelical Christian. What is more, Green is a Champion for Christ and believes "fighting God" is a "dangerous thing to do." To that end, Green involves himself in typically-evangelical causes, like fighting gay marriage.

Green is also, in the estimation of Kornheiser's buddy Wilbon,
heroic. Does Kornheiser also believe that? Who knows.

But it would appear that two things separate Darrell Green from Ryan Church:

---> Church actually said what Green (among others) believes; and,
---> Church is an outrageously easy mark.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Dear Baseball Prospectus,


Your Hit List stinks! Stinks!

Yes, I've seen your apologia, and I understand to the best of my ability what you're trying to accomplish. In addition, I could care less who ranks first or second or third. That stuff's trifling; it's just a friendly shuffle of cards among playoff teams.

No, I'm talking about the New York Mets---the No. 11 ranked New York Mets. Explain that one, Pendejos. Be advised that any sentence containing the phrase "first-, second- and third-order winning percentages" will cause me to hit the Red Button. Don't try me.

Really, I understand what you're doing. And I understand what you're trying to do:

In coming up with a means to rank the teams, I wanted to find a way that gave weight to various categories of performance without overcompensating for any of them. That includes actual winning percentage, but goes beyond to try to get a truer picture of what's going on than simple wins, losses and run totals will tell you.

It's a noble goal, but shall I suggest that you might be undercompensating one category: actual wins? I shall.

There's a reason why the season lasts 162 games. Well, actually, there isn't; that's as arbitrary as changing the college "Top 20" to the "Top 25" some years ago. But, after 162 games, the season truly ends. Adjusted Pennants are not distributed, and Adjusted Standings do not carry over to the next spring.

The Mets might truly be the eleventh-strongest big league team this season (though I doubt it), but they haven't honored your good faith. Given fifty more games, they might eventually get around to challenging the Phillies (No. 10) or the Astros (No. 9)---but, blessed be Lord Selig, they won't get the chance. Well, they will get the chance to draw even, but it will be early next April, and the respective records will be 0-0.

And what about those Florida Marlins? The Mets would have to condescend a bit on the list just to see those guys, as the Fish are ranked No. 16. (Actually, the Mets will see the Marlins soon enough, as in tonight. Go Mets!) The Mets are 73-76, partaking in an en foldo after getting hot in late August; the Marlins are 79-71, eyeing a difficult road ahead but at least still well in the playoff hunt. Yet, not only are the Mets ranked ahead, but by five slots!

Please don't misunderstand; I don't advocate simple reliance on won/lost records. If I did, then this blogster would have been prepared to swing some playoff tickets back in early July. But, whatever your formula is to account for actual and first-, second-, and third-order adjusted records, don't you think that the actual won/lost results might be a bit underrepresented?

I don't claim to know how to help you, but Yuda might: "Winning percentage needs to be weighted more heavily—perhaps even on a sliding scale as the year progresses." Sounds reasonable. If it's already weighed heavily, then hand it over to Eric Gregg for fixing. If it's already implemented on a sliding scale, slide it harder.

Because, honestly, any system that informs you the Mets are the eleventh best team in baseball should embarrass you to no end that it has your name and goodwill attached.

Sincerely,

Nats blogger who aims not to project a dog in the fight, though he confesses to find it curious that the Nats, at an admittedly lucky 77-73, are ranked No. 20 and surrounded by teams eight and fourteen games below break-even.

Monday, September 19, 2005

IsoPow? bang-zoom...


During the Nats' halcyon days of late June, I noted that our boys enjoyed a tremendous advantage in peripheral stats at RFK Stadium. More than anything else, I figured this advantage contributed to some sparkling home field play:


So far, the Nats' opponents haven't really adapted to RFK, and as a result, every home game is a feast day for the Good Guys. Opponents are slightly less patient than the Nats at RFK, but their batting average is way down and their isolated power is half-a-man short.To reinforce the point one last time, let's see the side-by-side comparison of RFK-based figures, with Washington's listed first:



Who  IsoPat IsoPow
Nats .081 .141
Opp .074 .091

In short, this is a tremendous home field advantage for the Nats; thus, it of course comes as no surprise that Washington's 27-10 at home with a 2.86 staff ERA.

Let's review for a moment: A FIFTY POINT ADVANTAGE IN ISOLATED POWER! I don't know what that really means, but it sounds pretty good!

The effect was caused by several factors. In that post, I pointed out a "smarter" approach the Nats' hitters adopted at home. In addition, the pitchers were healthy, lucky, and probably lucky another time over. (The pitching staff is heavily flyball-inclined---a 1.04 G/F ratio, as opposed to an NL average of 1.26---and that inclination is not as severely punished in a vast crater like RFK.)

The Nats are 13-22 at home since then (and the home ERA has risen to 3.43), and as you might expect, the gap in the peripheral stats has closed. Well, that's half-right, actually: the gap in "Isolated Patience" (OPB-BA) has grown ever-so-slightly (though Nats' batters have been less patient since that earlier report), but the "Isolated Power" (SLG-BA) advantage has narrowed considerably:



Who  IsoPat IsoPow
Nats .079 .128
Opp .069 .115


To put it simply, RFK Stadium isn't the advantage for the Nats that it was back in the good old days of bouncy seats and "Bang! Zoom!" and an indomitable bullpen. But then, I guess we already knew that by now.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Broke Down Engine


Feel like a broke-down engine, ain't got no drivin' wheel, Feel like a broke-down engine, ain't got no drivin' wheel. You all been down and lonesome, you know just how a poor man feels.

Been shooting craps and gambling, momma, and I done got broke, Been shooting craps and gambling, momma, and I done got broke, I done pawned my pistol, baby, my best clothes been sold.

Lordy, Lord, Lordy, Lord, Lordy, Lord, Lordy, Lord, Lordy, Lord.

I went down in my praying ground, fell on my bended knees, I went down in my praying ground, fell on my bended knees, I ain't cryin' for no religion, Lord, give me back my good gal please.

Can't you hear me, baby, rappin' on your door? Can't you hear me, baby, rappin' on your door? Now you hear me tappin', tappin' across your floor.

Feel like a broke-down engine, ain't got no whistle or bell, Feel like a broke-down engine, ain't got no whistle or bell, If you're a real hot momma, come take away Daddy's weeping spell.

Friday, September 16, 2005

MVP


On the drive home yesterday, I heard Mets' general manager-turned-ESPN pundit Steve Phillips discussing the National League Most Valuable Player race. (I would say it's not really a "race" per se, as Andruw Jones and Albert Pujols, for instance, are not competing head-to-head. Then I remembered that, starting today, the Houston Astros are completely disassociated from the other teams in the NL wild card "race.")

Phillips cast his radio vote for Jones. In doing so, he said something that seemed odd to me, that "If I were to start a team today, I'd take Pujols, hands down"---but also stated that this preference had nothing to do with selecting an MVP. I'm not sure how to disagree with him except to say that his first statement (the one in quotes) seemed to describe "most valuable" pretty well.

In today's Washington Post chat,* Tom Boswell opined that the MVP is Jones, and "it's not close." Boz makes the positional adjustment argument in favor of Jones, but also adds what I'll call the "good-but-not-great bonus," which is expressed in lots of media outlets about this time of the year:


Cards were going to win their division even if
Pujols had an average year. Without a MONSTER career season for Andruw, the Braves might not even have made the playoffs as a wildcard. To me, Jones DEFINES an MVP year a great player rising to another level for months when his team desperately needs him.


This line of thinking---which, based on my recollection, has really taken off in the wild card era---essentially punishes players on great teams, such as this year's Cardinals. It does so in two ways:

1. It minimizes the player's contribution by placing a surcharge on the value of his teammates; invariably, this helps bring teammates, who are good-but-not-great (compared to the MVP candidate), to the fore of the discussion and dilute the star's value to his own team. To paraphrase Rob Dibble of XM's MLB Homeplate, who I also heard in yesterday's afternoon drive: "Look at David Eckstein. He works hard, plays great defense, is a sparkplug at the top of the order. He gets the thing rolling. Albert Pujols is a great, great player, but Eckstein's just as import to the Cardinals' success, in my opinion." This is a textbook example.

2. The good-but-not-great reasoning simultaneously credits the candidacy of a star on a good-but-not-great team. With the great team's postseason berth all-but locked up (or now clinched), the focus turns to those berths that are still open. A star situated on one of these teams now can be seen as "carrying his teammates on his back"---either now or at some critical point earlier in the season, as Jones clearly did. The effect becomes strangely different than the one displaced on the similarly-situated player on a great team; instead of having his value muddled with the value of his teammates, the value of the star of the good-but-not-great team is sort of placed in a "separate segrated fund," isolated from that of his teammates. This year, it's a particularly strange effect, because rookie sensation Jeff Francouer (SI coverboy!) receives tremendous praise, but his presence seems to be forgotten when Jones' MVP candidacy is discussed.

Note that I'm not advocating Francouer's contributions should at all minimize Jones' stellar season; no doubt, Andruw Jones has been a shining star this year. I'm only suggesting that Pujols' greatness is being overshadowed by the superior quality of his teammates. Re-read Boz's answer to witness this effect. He characterizes Jones' season as a MONSTER year, but says nothing praiseworthy of Pujols at all. He merely states the obvious that the Cards are a great team and then denigrates Pujols' defensive value (which, in the abstract, is a valid point). The effect, while perhaps unfair, made more sense in recent seasons, when Pujols was star among stars of a great team but was nevertheless clearly outclassed by Barry Bonds.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. What are your thoughts? I don't just mean "Who should be the NL (or AL) MVP?" but also "What makes an MVP?"


* Expect rather scathing criticism from my blogging colleagues to emerge from this chat, concerning other subjects.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Bangus Zoomius

Meet the Mets, beat (the crap out of) the Mets!

The Washington Nationals jumped out ahead of the New York Mets today, then fell behind, then caught up, and then
won it in extra innings, 6-5. I neither saw nor heard the game, but it sure seemed thrilling.

When Vinny Castilla singled home the go-ahead run in the top of the tenth and Gary Majewski, method-acting as closer for a "tired" Chief Cordero, slammed the door in the bottom, the Nats had swept the tank-tanking-tanked Mets for their first series sweep in a long time---about six weeks, I think.

[A moment of rare but earned praise for shortstop/millstone Cristian Guzman, who had his second good game in three, going 2-for-4, homering, and raising his batting average to a comparatively rarified .204. Guzman, it should be noted in all fairness, is playing good ball in September, with a 777 OPS before today's game. His second half stats are now slightly better than those before the all-star break, though still wretched, of course.]

The latest Metropolitan conquest puts the Nats at 76 wins, which blows the spring prediction of
seemingly half the Natty bloggers back then, including mine. I'm delighted to be wrong.

"How wrong" is the really big question, isn't it? I've decided to do concurrent "Operation: X!" trackers above: 82 is for honor, and 87 is for glory. We'll see.

As for more important matters, the wild card is still a (remote) possibility. Three games are down on the 12-game Mets/Pads/Giants/Mets spree, and we're three up in that ledger. I'll tell you this: take those nine remaining games, and if our guys win seven, then we've got a fair shot at seeing baseball beyond October 2 (even for one day).


________________

From
Rocket Bill's notes:

---> Jose Guillen sat today, but purportedly not in redress for his bat-chucking meltdown last night. Okay---Frank Robinson says he's 50/50 for tomorrow night's game in San Diego owing to a hamstring deal. (Not bronchitis?) Robinson also guarantees Guillen will be suspended but suspects the appeal will carry over to next season. Fine with me, as long as Guillen doesn't take that as license to impale the ump next time.

---> Music update! No music. If ever there was a time for your vintage, Disney-fied "Ain't No Moutain High Enough" group number, it was after today's victory. Instead, Frobby sang. Talk about deterrence!

---> There's nothing like seeing your hot prospect and future star wear women's clothing, but that's what we had today, as the rookies (including Dutch Zimmerman) bore the brunt of rookie hazing. No on the music, but yes on the blue maternity dress? Poor Ryan Church; that's two years in a row for him.

---> Brian Schneider is missing time to a sore right shoulder. Given the alternative of Gary Bennett, the team really needs to splurge and bring in Mr. Miyagi for that clap-rub thing. Do it, Tavares.

Vargas: "Why you gotta play me like that, dog?"


You know who we haven't heard from in awhile? Claudio Vargas. Let's check in on what's up with I, Claudio:

Claudio Vargas says he doesn't pay much attention to his old club, the Washington Nationals, but he knows enough to
realize they could use someone like him right now.


Oh, right. That. The whole waiving him thing.

Well, when was that . . . late May? Time rolls on, bygones-be-bygones, seven-times-seventy . . .


"I think now I'm in the real big leagues," Vargas said. "In the past, in Montreal and Washington, it's terrible down there."

Hum.


He said he has heard from a former teammate that players are unhappy in Washington. Vargas has said he didn't feel as though manager Frank Robinson had confidence in him . . .

Frank Robinson doesn't have confidence in many pitchers under the age of 30 (they're not part of the solution; they're part of the problem), and Vargas' performance as a Nat wouldn't even have made Joel Osteen smile. But go on---


[H]e doesn't seem to think much of the Nationals' general manager, either.

Really? Nor do I! Do tell, Claudio:


"People tell me that the GM they have now, Jim Bowden, he's crazy," Vargas said. "He doesn't think before he does a lot of things."

Bowden seems to qualify as a megalomaniac; that's a kind of mental illness, perhaps. And his roster moves evince a sort of hair-brained whimsy that suggest a lack of foresight. Claudio's sources seem like gold. I wonder who they could be?

I know, I know: sour grapes. That's certainly the case, and Vargas is an ex-Nat (and an ex-Nat who's enjoyed success in a new hometown), so we should care not a little bit about him. Maybe we should even dislike him--- and I'll tell you what, Vargas has aided mightily in that process. Early returns are in, and a rather vituperative reception is in the offing. I can see that, and it makes sense.

Still, I don't know. Meh. Just insinuating myself in Vargas' shoes for a second, I can guess from where he comes. He signs with the organization, puts in his time, pitches well for the big league club in 2003, has an injury year, a new clown takes over the GM's seat, he comes back from injury and gets his brains bashed in, and the clown DFA's him, then waives him (when he had an option year remaining, mind you), and he's snapped up quickly by another team. He's in that team's rotation in no time, and he's trying to reestablish himself.

It's certainly sour grapes, but I think I can understand the feeling.

"It was a good death."


"The ways of the Mets are long and pointless."

The New York Mets have a 0.43885% chance of claiming the National League's wild card berth. What were their odds at the outset of the current three-game series versus the Washington Nationals? Probably not much higher; however, it's safe to say that the Nats have taken the Mets' closed coffin, nailed it shut and now, thanks to last night's 6-3 victory, dropped the thing ignominuously in the cold, damp dirt. It's kind of gratifying, in a sense, obliterating the last vestiges of a team's hope.

Our team's hope, on the other hand, keeps hanging on---
though it's hanging on life support. These two wins have kicked off a 12-game whirlwind in which the Nats play the Mets (in New York), the Padres (in San Diego), the Giants (in Washington), and the Mets again (at RFK---ah, blessed constancy!). Ten games remain of this below-.500 extravaganza, and I think the Nats need to win eight of them to keep hope alive. Such a peformance would still likely require taking four-of-six from the Marlins (down there) and the Phillies (at RFK), who just so happen to be in front of the Nats in the standings at current. There's also the Astros to worry about, who after tonight's game with the Marlins will be lone-wolfing it on a pretty easy schedule the rest of the way.

So, come to think of it, sweeping out the Mets/Pads/Giants/Mets might be quite advisable, though not at all realistic.


_____________

Last night's win was a nice one. Unlike Monday's game, which was rather dependent on poor fundamentals by the Mets, last evening marked a solid all-around offensive effort for the Nats. They squandered some opportunities, but still led 3-0. They then supplied the necessary finishing kick, and the progression from Loiaza-to-Majewski-to-Cordero was basically no worries.

Solid performances abounded: Nick Johnson hit the ball with authority; Preston Wilson knocked the snot out of a home run ball; Brad Wilkerson played smart ball; Gary Bennett, breaking out of Frank Robinson's recent and strict left-right catching platoon because of Brian Schneider's bum wing, actually supplied offense, ducksnorting an RBI single to short right; and Vinny Castilla, bouncing back from a nonchalant first inning error that would make the rawest rookie (or Ryan Zimmerman) wince with embarrassment, cranked out a dinger of his own.

Oh, and there was Jose Guillen's "performance," too. Mark Zuckerman
notes in today's Washington Times that Guillen's been mouthing off more-and-more in the clubhouse lately, and that attitude spilled over to the playing field. Ejected by home plate umpire Bill Miller in the fifth inning, Guillen devoted the next few moments to a primo temper tantrum.

I didn't actually see the borderline (Zuckerman's description) third strike that raised Angry Man's ire, but I did take notice when the Mets' television announcers said, "Uh oh." I immediately knew it was Guillen. By this point he was merely ejected, but he was only warming up just the same. He took a minute to select his projectiles, and then he hurled stuff from the dugout onto the playing field. MSG color guy Fran "Doofus Voice" Healy was impressed that Guillen could toss four bats at one time with such precision. Hey, Guillen's got plenty of practice tossing stuff!

Honestly, if it wasn't so pathetic it would have been rather comical. But it was mainly pathetic. We---by which I mean Nats' fans, bloggers, etc.---make light and frequent mention of Guillen's anger management issues. We regard him, rightly or wrongly, as a timebomb waiting to go off. If it's "wrongly," it's wrong for the same reason why a defendant's seven previous robbery convictions aren't admissible in his robbery trial as proof he committed his particular robbery. Sure, Guillen's gone crazy before, but it's unseemly to use those incidents to demonstrate Guillen's bad character and use that bad character as evidence he was wrong (guilty) here. If he's guilty of being an idiot (or "idoit") in this one, it should be decided based on this one's facts, not by way of innuendo from something he did in Anaheim. Or so the reasoning would go, though I'm loosening things a bit, of course. And needless to say "the court of public opinion" isn't a court of law. Yadda yadda.


Of course, there are ways around that reasoning. One way is to use the evidence of the prior bad act(s) to demonstrate a plan or preparation or absence of mistake or accident. How is that done? (Loosely stated, of course.) What was the first thing he threw on the field in Anaheim? His helmet. And what was the first thing he threw on the field last night? According to St. Barry, it was his helmet.

Don't you see? The helmet-throwing is his signature! He decided to go on a rant, rummaged through the dugout for a good, hard helmet to chuck as his opening salvo, and exclaimed, "Bombs away! Get ready for the heavy lumber!"

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Criticism-by-classification


What utility does a blogger provide? What is the purpose of blogging?

If you say, "None," then you might be right. Really. However, this post also might not be for you.

For the rest of you, I might suggest that a baseball blog serves as supplemental insight and commentary, generally in an amateur fashion and generally on topics that professional media outlets cannot or are inclined not to devote their resources. But let's strip it down to essentials: we're talking about criticism.

Criticism is generally defined as the art of commenting, usually adversely. It comes in various forms; depending on the context, a given form might be appropriate. Sometimes a sheer, guttural rant is appropriate. Sometimes, a heady statistical analysis is appropriate. Sometimes, a call for protest is appropriate. Sometimes, a haiku might even be appropriate.

And, sometimes, what I'll call criticism-by-classification can be appropriate and, hopefully, enlightening. You might recall that I tried this tactic back in June with a post ("dazzingly intelligent") that attempted to frame the Robinson-Ohka situation in terms of the "crime control" and "reasonableness" models of discipline. I wasn't trying to argue that one view was inherently better or worse; precisely, that is the point: your view of a situation depends on context. I don't know (glowing reviews aside!) whether I was successful, but that was much of the intent.

Which brings me to the piece on Frank Robinson today at Capitol Punishment. For those who read that blog, you should know by now that Chris doesn't think much of . . . well, here are Chris' words:


I think it's pretty obvious that I'm not Frank
Robinson's biggest fan. Helluva player; Stinkpot of a manager.

Think this is going to turn into a sheer, guttural rant? Think again. What follows is a good example of criticism-by-classification.

There exist various different kinds of baseball teams: young, veteran, pitching-reliant, pitching-poor, take-n-rake, speedy, etc. A given manager will mesh well with some types (hopefully; why else would the guy be a manager?!), but he could be incompatible with others. This is truth; it's not offered for the sake of being "critical" (popular defintion: "a jerk").

Chris makes the solid case---completely aside from his feelings of Frank Robinson "personally"---that Robinson is ill-suited to manage this club. He does so, essentially, by classifying Frank:


[1] Frank is indicating that he prefers to work with a veteran team. That's fine. Different managers have different skill sets. Frank
is, essentially, admitting publicly that this team isn't the right fit for him as a manager. [. . .]
[2] Frank demands respect, yet he infrequently gives it to his players -- especially his pitchers

Let's take the second classification first, that Frank "does not work well with pitchers" (my words for sake of classification, not Chris'). Or maybe "some pitchers," if you prefer. Considering a team carries only 11 or 12 pitchers usually, "some" is still a substantial amount. And considering that, by a conservative estimate, about five have expressed displeasure with him this season, it's probably not unfair to say that "working with pitchers" is not Frank's strong suit.

Guess what? Frank has to; the team has little-to-no offense. Now, I'm willing to castigate Jim Bowden for acting the wastrel with what used to be a bounty of back-end-of-the-rotation types, but let's be honest: he was a co-conspirator, not the lone gunman. During the first half, the team had one main strength: pitching. Without losing sight of the fact that the team ERA has dropped in the second half, let's note that this team, which is four games out of the playoffs, has now adopted the "kitchen sink" strategy four or five times. It worked last night, blessedly, but it hadn't previously.

Frank Robinson butted heads with pitchers this team could have used. I'm not judging whether he was correct or incorrect in those situations; however, I will note, as I did before, that what works initially might not work later. This team was pitching-reliant, and Robinson played a role in, well, diverting that strength. In September, we have seen the effects; starting pitching (at times inseparable from the relief pitching) is a weakness now.

Thus, one could reasonably note that Frank Robinson's strengths as a manager do not include pitching-reliant teams---at least at this stage of his managing career.

The other criticism-by-classification, though, is the really substantial one. This team must get young; many of its veterans, including some Robinson started last night, are assured of not being 2006 Washington Nationals. Yet, not only did Robinson play them, but he fiercely defends on principle his decision to play them. It is good to have principles, but it is quite clear Frank Robinson is suited (at this stage of his managing career) to head veteran teams. The Nats might not have much (or any) farm system to speak of, but one must believe that the team will focus on obtaining a younger nucleus, or else face years of stagnation and mediocrity.

No one wants that, least of whom will be the new ownership (whoever it is). Frank Robinson, even if we were to acknowledge his strengths, does not represent the appropriate classficiation of manager to serve as the skipper into the future.

Now, I've predicted that Robinson will be back in '06 and that chances are he would be fired toward the middle of the season, with the team's record a near-reflection next June of what is was this June. It's my prediction---and, as predictions go, might or might not be accurate. It might also be my position of what should happen to Robinson (i.e., Frank should be brought back for another go), though I haven't thought about it enough yet. Instead, I've usually thought of it as Bowden-or-Frank?, in which case Frank wins in my book.

Nevertheless, Chris lays out a good indictment against Robinson now. What's an indictment? It's an instrument reflecting a provable belief that one's actions did not meet certain elements of societally-accepted conduct (or, rather, that one's actions met elements of criminal conduct). The key is that it must spell out the elements of the offense. For the Washington Nationals, anticipating their needs next year, unacceptable elements of managing would be:

a) doesn't trust young players; and,
b) doesn't work well with pitchers.

I'm not saying the jury will convict, but I'm saying this is indictable.

And, like the way our justice system should operate, this indictment (when we separate it from personal sentiment, likes, and dislikes) has been returned dispassionately and according to objective elements.

In other words, criticism-by-classification.

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