Ohka Rains On Zambrano's Parade
Raindrops and Runs at RFK
Who was the biggest loser following the Nationals 5-3 win over the once again moribund New York Mets? Victor Zambrano? Manny Aybar? No. The Grounds Crew. Following the umpire's second halt in play due to the weather conditions, the RFK grounds crew, too few in numbers and too inexperienced for nights like this, took almost 30 minutes to get the infield covered with the tarp. By then it was too late, and any hope for continuing the game was gone.
That said, the Nationals went into Saturday night's game trying to address three glaring problems: centerfield, shortstop and Tomo Ohka. This night, the Nats went three for three in the problem solving boxscore.
The Church bells are ringing again at RFK Stadium. Ryan Church, the on-again, off-again, on-again centerfielder, singled and homered to bring his average within striking distance of the Mendoza line. Church has the potential to make this good team very good; he must only gain confidence and playing time to do so. Termel Sledge his better right now, but Church could be soooo good given time and patience.
Christian Guzman got his sixth hit of the homestand, raising his average from .165 to .209 [raising is a relative term]. By the end of May, we will all have forgotten the offensive and defensive lapses that have plagued the former allstar this season. Yeah right. It is surprising that D.C. is such a Democratic city because it has a memory like an elephant. We'll forgive. We won't forget.
The third member of the terrific troika was starting pitcher Tomo Ohka. Said manager Frank Robinson after his last poor outing against the Mets last weekend, "There's something wrong. I'm telling you, I've seen him for what, three or four years now, and this isn't him. His velocity is off by three or four miles per hour, and that's the difference between success and disaster in this league." Ohka worked with pitching coach Randy St. Clair in the bullpen this week, and both indicated that they found the problem with his mechanics and corrected them.
Ohka pitched brilliantly. In six innings, he have up two hits and only one walk while striking out three. His ERA is now a respectable 4.50, and that is with only one good start under his belt.
Ohka is only 29 years old, and has pitched fairly well since coming to America in 1999. He isn't a power pitcher, and needs good location to succeed. He succeeded tonight. In his two complete years as a starter, he produced very good numbers. Below is an average of those years, 2002 and 2003 with Montreal:
Games: 33 ~ Innings: 195 ~ Record: 12-10 ~ ERA: 3.67 ~ Strikeouts: 118 ~ Walks: 45
What an impressive accomplishment this would be for Ohka and the Nationals as the fourth or fifth starter in the rotation this year. His strikeout to walk ratio was better than 2:1, superb for even the most dominating pitchers. How many better rotations are there in the league than John Patterson ~ Livan Hernandez ~ Tony Armas Jr. ~ Esteban Loaiza & Tomo Ohka. Zach Day, who has such an enormous upside, could be used as trade material to obtain a good centerfielder if Ryan Church and/or Termel Sledge just don't pan out.
The Nationals got 10 hits tonight, with Ryan Church and Vinny Castilla each getting two ... I'm beginning to see a streaky side of Brad Wilkerson, he'll crush the ball for four games and then do little for the next four ... Nick Johnson hit his second homer of the year; I think he'll get to 25 after all ... The Nats have a Jekyl and Hyde Lineup: The first five batters: ~ .323/.291/.314/.303/.347 and the last three: .190/.214/.209 ... The Nationals are 13th in the National League in fielding, this from a team that manager Frank Robinson said was the "Best defensive team I have ever managed." Yeah right ... The Nats are on national TV for the first time this year tomorrow night [I don't consider TBS national, just cable].
Angelos Press Conference Causes Stir
Peter Angelos At Press Conference
Listen to Orioles owner Peter Angelos describe what makes the Orioles a more viable franchise than the Washington Nationals.
10 Reasons Why The Grass Is Greener At RFK
A Worms Eye View of The Outfield
1] The Nationals are a team that never gives up, so as a fan, I always have a reason to listen to the game
2] The knowledge that Jose Guillen will likely be our rightfielder for the next decade.
3] The knowledge that Brad Wilkerson will be in the outfield for the next decade
4] That we, and not the fans in New York or Montreal, will have the chance to watch Nick Johnson turn into a star
5] That we, and not the fans in Arizona or Montreal, have watched John Patterson become a pitcher and now a thrower.
6] The Nationals uniforms are a nice combination of retro and reality, making them look really good, both at home and on the road.
7] Finally understanding why a catcher who hits .250 can be more important to a team than one who hits 40 homeruns.
8] Knowing that if we don't develop a centerfield, trader Jim will find us one
9] The knowledge that Christian Guzman won't be the shortstop for the next decade.
10 ____________________________________________________________ [please, leave a comment -- you answer number 10}
$48 Million Payroll 5 -- $102 Million Payroll 1
Termel Sledge Scoring Around Mike Piazza
All is right with the world again. Livan Hernandez, one of the top pitchers in the National League for almost a decade, is again pitching like the Nationals ace we all thought him to be. It didn't start off too well, though. Again.
Just like last week against the Mets, Hernandez was knocked around in the first inning. Luckily, he fared better tonight in the clutch, giving up only the one run. That is all the Mets would get. While Hernandez didn't dominate the Mets for the remaining seven innings, he pitched well enough to keep the New York hitters off balance, ultimately scattering 9 hits and 2 walks as he won his third game of the season.
Jae Seo was not the same pitcher that embarrassed the Nationals last weekend in New York. Seo gave up three runs in five innings, all on homeruns. Jose Guillen, Brian Schneider and Livan Hernandez all went yard in solo fashion to give the Nationals a 3-1 lead. Mets manager Willie Randolph did the Nats a favor my pitching Seo in this series. Hoping to see a repeat of last week's masterpiece, he inserted the Korean native and bumped Pedro Martinez. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Vinny Castilla, continuing to be the Nationals most surprising free-agent signing, again showed that he's not "Coors Light" away from Denver. Castilla blasted a ball that just missed getting out, plating the last two runs of the game and giving the Nats their final margin of 5-1.
Offensively, the Nationals continue the weak hitting of the past week, getting only five hits .... Brad Wilkerson and Nick Johnson were both hitless, something that hasn't happened all season .... Jose Guillen hit his first homerun since the Atlanta game nearly two weeks ago .... If I'm right, that he's a streak hitter, look for a couple more during this weekend series .... On the positive side, the Nats struck out only twice .... Christian Guzman made another error on another ho-hum throw .... A trend? .... He did get another hit, and was robbed of a second. The Nationals are again a game over .500 at 12-11 .... The pitching staff is looking better and better each game .... Without exception, each starter is now capable of going to the mound and pitching a shutout, regardless of the opponent.
Investing In the "Futures" Market
"Bat-man" Jose Guillen
By Farid Rushdi for the Beltway Boys
Washington Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden announced Friday that the club has exercised their 2006 option year for rightfielder Jose Guillen. The contract, signed by Guillen with Bowden and Nats manager Frank Robinson looking on, will pay him $4 million dollars for 2006.
Guillen, playing for his seventh major league team since 1997, has expressed his desire to finish his career in Washington. "It feels great just to be here in Washington for a long period of time," Guillen said. "I don't want to be here for one year. I just want to be in one place for a long period of time. I want to make Washington my home. I'm going to do the best I can to stay here."
Guillen was traded to the Nationals during the off season for two relatively obscure Expos players. Coming to Washington with Guillen was his "baggage," the reason for the lopsided trade. After being pulled for a pinch hitter last September, Guillen lost his cool and threw his helmet at Angels' manager Mike Scoscia and was suspended for the rest of the season. "He has been nothing but a perfect gentlemen" said GM Bowden.
Guillen and fellow outfielder Brad Wilkerson are the two players to build a champion around, two important cogs to have on the field when the Nationals begin play in their new stadium in 2008. So far, so good.
And it's time to play FINAL JEOPARDY. You are currently second with $1,500, only $100 behind the leader. Good luck, and let's play.
Click on this audio file first, then read the answer below:
"HE WAS THE LAST WASHINGTON SENATOR WHO HIT .300 FOR A SEASON"
Ok, pens down. The leader answered "Who was Frank Howard?"
Oh, I'm sorry. That isn't correct. Howard hit .296 in 1969, but that was as close as he came
And now, to our internet player ... your answer is ???
To find the correct answer, click here [good luck ... if you win, you can continue to visit this site fore free!]
D.C. TO DALLAS: THIS MUST END ... NOW!
Alex Rodriguez Defaming DC
Enough is enough. Before baseball returned to Washington, it was little more than a irritant, seeing our old team wearing uniforms that said "Washington" across the chest. But now, with the Nationals again playing on the hallowed ground of RFK, it must come to an end.
Isn't bad enough that Texas is the home of the Cowboys? Must they also remind us that the team is more like the "Pirates" of Pittsburgh than the lawmen they attempt to honor? Texas stole our team. They should now give up to us the name, the uniforms and the history of the franchise prior to 1972. Those players, those uniforms mean nothing to them, and everything to us.
Texas, get a clue. Wear your cute little "Rangers" togs, play in your suburban park, all that's fine. But don't wear those DC uniforms again. WE KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE.
New York Tries To Upstage Washington Again: Still Mad Capitol Moved South
You better not cry,
You better not scream ~
You ought to be happy,
That they're not your team ~
The New York Mets are coming, to town.
They're uniforms are orange,
and splattered with some blue~
They look like a minor league team,
And they play like it tooooo ....
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The Mets bus will roll into the RFK parking lot Friday afternoon, confident of a win. But should they be? The Mets are 11-12, and a game behind the Nationals. Take a look at the Mets statistics for the year. Assuming that each player is striving for an "average" year, let's see how they are doing. A '+' means they are surpassing anticipations, a '-' indicates they are below goals, and an 'X' means they are on track:
1b] Doug Mientkiewicz [X] --------Low average with a good glove and a little pop
2B] Kaz Matsuki [X] -------------OK average but horrible OBP
SS] Jose Reyes[-] ----------------When your batting average is the same as your OBP, trouble
3B]David Wright [+] -------------Good numbers across the board
LF]Cliff Floyd [+] ----------------Destroying both the ball and all opponents
CF] Carlos Beltran [X] -----------Producing, but is he worth his contract?
RF] Victor Diaz [+] ---------------Doing good things with his talent
C] Mike Piazza [-] ----------------Not the same player; I'd take Brian Schneider in a second
Totals: 3 better than expected --- 2 below expectations, and 3 about where they'd hoped
When compared with the Nats, position by position, I'd bet that most GM's would choose five Nats [Johnson, Vidro, Wilkerson, Guillen and Schneider] and three Mets [Reyes, Wright and Beltran]. The Mets have a payroll at least twice the Nats, and [I believe] we have better position players than they do [and we have a better record].
This is an important series for the Nationals. They need to win two out of three to stay about .500, the team's year-long goal.
Washington Nationals Pitchers
Here is Part II of the "off day" recap of the Nationals, focusing on the pitchers.
Patterson has literally come out of nowhere to become the ace of the Nationals' staff. He gave up a run in his last start and his ERA went up to 0.98! He has been known as a pitcher with quality stuff, but he tended to lose his concentration during the game and when that happened, he was shelled and in the showers. His control has been outstanding. PREDICTION: 15-5, 3.34 ERA
The Livan Hernandez we've seen so far this year isn't the one who has been dominanting the league for almost a decade. He's pitched 'OK,' but except for a few innings here and there, has been no better than Zach Day or Tomo Ohka. No sweat. He'll be there at the end. PREDICTION: 16-12, 3.65
TONY ARMAS JR.
Earlier this spring, I wrote that Armas was the 'x' factor for the Nats. If he lives up to his potential and stays healthy, then we would have a superb pitching staff. OK, he didn't stay healthy, but it had nothing to do with his arm. He'll be fine. And I still think he'll be the 'x' factor that I'd hoped. PREDICTION: 11-6, 4.04 ERA
This one's tougher to figure out. Yes, he's pitching much better than he did with the Yankees, but not as good as he did with the White Sox. We'll take that. The Nats needed a reliable 4th starter for the rotation, someone who could pitch .500 ball, and that's exactly what they got. He'll do well enough to sign a better contract somewhere else next year, but not enough to get Jaret Wright or John Leiber money. PREDICTION: 11-11, 4.04 ERA
Ko-nichi wa, Ohka-san. How's it hangin? Why are you pitching this way? Frank Robinson thinks you're hurt. I don't know, but I watched you pitch against the Braves last year, and you were a different pitcher then. I think you could win 15 games when healthy. But your not. PREDICTION: 9-10, 4.52
Day probably has the most wicked drop pitch in the league. When it dips, it's groundball heaven. When it doesn't the outfield wall gets dented. Zach Day reminds me a lot of John Patterson before the start of this year. Potential unfulfilled. If Day turns it on, the Nats can contend. Really. They could. I think, though, that Day will be traded for a centerfielder long before that, however. PREDICTION: Member of the Cincinnati Reds
I used this picture of Cordero in his college uniform to show that he looks just the same today, mainly because he's only two years out of college. He looks like a dominant closer waiting to happen, and it will. For now, he'll walk a few, give up a few hits, and then close 'em down. Cordero will be THE premier closer in the NL by the time we move into the new stadium. PREDICTION: 2.88 ERA, 25 saves
With Day Off, Nats Nap & I Recap
Nationals Napping Today
With twenty-two games under their shiny new red belts, some trends have begun to develop from which we can make some conclusions about this team and their chances for the rest of the season.
First: The Nationals aren't going win anything, except perhaps the hearts of many thousands of Washingtonians. They have showed they have don't have the talent for an extended winning streak, nor do they look like the kind of team that's going to lose 10 in a row or 12 out of 14. Win one. Lose one. Win three out of four. Lose two out of three. No, they're good enough, but not that good.
P L A Y E R P R O F I L E S
Nick Johnson is doing everything we expected of him as Nationals fans, and more. He is playing flawless defense -- who's better in the NL in the field? J.T. Snow ...maybe. He has an outstanding on base percentage, and his hitting consistantly in every game, and driving in runs when he's got the opportunity. No, he hasn't been hitting a lot of home runs yet, but that will come. PREDICTION: .283-24-84
Jose has been one of the cogs in the Nationals' lineup. He is playing all-star offense and defense, in spite of the fact that he isn't 100%. He is a leader both on the field and in the clubhouse. His production is automatic. And he signed an extention with the Expos when he didn't know hwere they'd end up. What does that tell you? PREDICTION: 303-18-94
SS] Christian Guzman
Eeeeeeeeeeeee. I know. It's becoming more obvious why the Nats were able to sign him so early in the free agency period: no one else wanted him. I think he's one of those players whose job is not to be a negative on the team -- no one expects him to be a real contributor. By season's end he'll be right where his career statistics suggest. PREDICTION: .266-8-44
3B] VINNY CASTILLA
Not much was expected of Vinny Castilla. He was "past his prime." He was a "Coors Field" hitter. Both true, but he's still providing flawless defense and hitting as if he was still in Coors Field. All the Nats need him to do repeat his last year in Atlanta, and he will fulfill JimBowden's hopes and wishes. He's well on his way. PREDICTION: .276-23-77
Sign him now! Sign him now! Don't wait Jim! Brad Wilkerson has gone from "potential star" to "star" this year in Washington. Long gone is that .255 career average, though those strikeouts still do haunt him. He is more than a hitter. He is a clutch player. He is more then a player. He is a team leader. He is this generation's Frank Howard. His defense will improve when he's finally given a permanent position. PREDICTION: .287-27-77 [assuming leadoff role]
Ryan Church? Termel Sledge? JJ Davis? No one has stood out among this group, although Termel is at least holding is own. This is the weak spot in the Nationals lineup. Maybe a callup from New Orleans or a trade?
I would take Jose Guillen for the Nationals right field over Sammy Sosa any day of the week. We still haven't seen all that he can do. I doubt he's going to be that monsterous clouter that some had envisioned, but he will be a consistant 30 homerun a year guy that every team needs in their lineup. He makes contact, isn't prone to slumps, and has the best arm on a rightfielder this side of Ichiro. Once you've signed Wilkerson, Mr. Bowden, take care of this guy. PREDICTION: .288-32-111
Would you rather have Mike Piazza, a guy who crushes the ball but can't throw a runner out, or Brian Schneider, a decent hitter but a defensive dynamo as your catcher? Easy. Gotta take Schneider. After throwing two balls into centerfield during the first week the season, he's been throwing out 50% of basestealers. No, he's not going to be a big bat in the lineup, but he will win a few games with a clutch hit or two, and he'll win many games with his glove and arm. PREDICTION: .252-10-44
NEXT INSTALLMENT: PITCHING [coming this afternoon]
Police Searching For Missing Offense
Just the bats mam ... just the bats
This was one of those games that just makes you shake your head. Outstanding pitching performance. Good defense. Lose the game.
Estoban Loiaza pitched a masterful game, allowing two runs in 8 innings while striking out 11. Talk about a tough-luck loss. The offense managed only 4 hits, and for the second consecutive day, was subpar. To be fair, Brett Meyers came into the game with a 1.71 ERA, so it's not like they were throwing Byung Yung Kim at the Nationals. But this one hurt. No doubt. I mean, c'mon on ... Jimmy Rollins? I do think that Frank Robinson has beginning to show a penchant for leaving his pitchers in one player too long [remember John Patterson in Florida].
Our goal is to be a .500 team. Anything above that is gravy. We're on target, so let's smile and enjoy Estoban's performance. Does anyone doubt that we have one of the top 3 rotations in the division? Not me.
The RFK "Turf War" of 1969
Fake Grass at RFK?
More than 30 years ago, Redskin owner Edward Bennett Williams announced the hire of a new, proven head football coach who would lead the team back to prominence in the NFL. This man had a few championships under his belt, and was known to be able to turn around an NFL team almost immediately. No. It wasn't George Allen. He came later. This was Green Bay legend Vince Lombardi. Lombardi turned the Redskins into winners in 1969, their first winning season in 14 years, and only their third since the Truman administration.
Lombardi found something new when the Redskins visited Franklin Field in Philadelphia, owned by the University of Pennsylvania and shared with the Eagles. Gone was the hard grass sod and in its place was a brand new artificial surface. Lombardi loved the feel of the Astroturf as he walked the sideline during the game. He told reporters that he intended to talk to the Armory board about changing over the RFK field to the artifical surface.
The Armory board liked the idea of placing Astroturf in RFK Stadium. The cost, over ten years, would be far less expensive than the cost of maintaining a sod field. All that was left was to get approval from Senators owner Bob Short. It never happened. Short, in perhaps the only wise move he made during his period of ownership in Washington, said "No way." The Armory board, and Lombardi indirectly, negotiated for sometime before finally giving up hope that an agreement could be reached.
Bob Short did the right thing. Man, that is sooo hard to write.
Superman's Secret Identity ISN'T Clark Kent ...
Clark Kent is really a reporter for the Daily Planet in Metropolis. Honest. Poor guy. All these years, he and his friends Lois, Jimmy and Perry White have had to deal with alien monsters and gangsters with greased back hair because people thought that Clark Kent was Superman.
No. He's not. And we have the picture to prove it.
Taken serupticiously last night, this photograph clearly shows John Patterson changing into his uniform. Look closely. There, under his suit, IS this Nationals uniform. Don't think so? What colors do you see? Red, blue and yellow. When Patterson pitches, we just think it's the official nationals uniform because we see those three colors. Nope. He's Superman.
Now, there is no question that he's pitched like Superman this year. The question that begs to be asked then, is why he didn't pitch like Superman in Arizona? Easy. Arizona is covered with Kryptonite. Near that deadly green rock, Superman is "mortal," and he certainly pitched that way. Why didn't he pitch well in Montreal then? He did. But when you covert from Canadian into American, his record simply didn't look as good.
John Patterson isn't the only superhero among the Nationals. Look for my expose on BATman coming soon.
Brad's Ball Took Flight ... Deep Into The Night
Big Bad Brad
Brad Wilkerson hit the first homerun into the upper deck of RFK Stadium since 1971, and Nick Johnson chipped in with his first homer of the year as the Nationals beat the Phillies before a crowd of almost 24,000 fans.
While Wilkerson's homerun was tall ... and long ... and majestic, Johnson's was perhaps more important from the teams perspective. There was no doubt as to what Brad was capable of doing. Johnson, however, carries with him many "tags:" "Unfulfilled potential" -- "Injury Prone" and "Not an everyday player." Thus far, Johnson has shown the Nats Nation that He is perhaps one of the two or three best defensive first baseman in both leagues. He has displayed his selectivity at the plate. He is hitting for an average and is consistent and not prone to slumps. But he hadn't shown homerun power. Listening to the Mets broadcasters over the weekend, I heard this: "It is hoped that Nick Johnson can develop into a J.T. Snow kind of player. He's not the kind of guy who is going to get you 20 or 25 homeruns a year." Really? How did you come by that? Jorge Posada, Johnson's former teammate in New York, said, "Nick can win a batting title if he stays healthy." If he remains healthy, and gets 500 at bats, what can he achieve? My prediction ~
.303 - 26 - 91
Brad Wilkerson is showing each night that he is no longer that .255 hitter we heard about last year. He is going to strike out a lot; I don't think that is every going to change. But the power is increasing, as is his clutch hitting. He's not going to become the next version of "Vlad the Impaler," but he will come close. What could he do in the 3-4-5 holes?
.285 - 34 - 110
The rest of the team was pretty ho-hum offensively, but after the last two nights, that's perfectly OK.
John Patterson gave up one run over seven innings and saw his ERA increase to 0.98. After years of trying, first with Arizona, then Montreal and now here in DC, Patterson finally figured a way to harness his almost limitless potential. His genius on the mound has become so commonplace that it would be a story if he didn't pitch well. What a starting three in a few days:
J o h n P a t t e r s o n
L i v a n H e r n a n d e z
T o n y A r m a s J r.
Zach Day's stuff is too good for him to remain so inconsistent. And Frank Robinson said that Ohka has a problem physically; his stuff is too good to pitch the way he has. It's just too good a pitching staff not to gel pretty soon.
The Nats have a chance to win the series tomorrow afternoon, though it will be tough. Philles pitcher Brett Myers has pitched in four games this year, gone into the sixth inning in each of them, and has given up only seven runs in 26 innings. Myers goes up against Estoban Loiaza. The good news? Until Tuesday, John Lieber was undefeated. Nick and Brad took care of that.
Phillies Make Roster Move For Tonight's Game
Washington (AP) - The Philadelphia Phillies have brought up first baseman Jonathon Jakes and he is expected to start tonight's game against the Washington Nationals. Jakes replaces Jim Thome, who has hit only one homerun in April. Jakes, 11, his hitting .688 with 4 homeruns and 11 runs batted in for the Phillies of the Chubbuck, Idaho youth league, and is coming off of a 3-4, 4 RBI performance against the Tsunamis of the Idaho SuperLeague. "I'm looking for some power at first," said manager Charlie Manuel, adding "So far, Thome hasn't been the answer. As far as I can tell, Jakes has only one downside." That "downside" is his bedtime. Jonathon has to be in bed by 9:00pm, which means he must leave the stadium by the 7th inning. Thome will report to the Chubbuck league Friday. "Of course, I'm not happy," said Thome, but added, "I hear the Cotant Park right field fence is 180' down the line, so I should do well."
Walks. Errors. Runs. Lose
There are two very distinct parts of Monday's game between the Nats and the Phillies to consider. First, there was the minor league aspect. You know, the part where the home team made errors, walked the opposing batters ... over and over and over again. Runs scored that shouldn't have. Seven walks and two errors = 9 Phillies that didn't earn their place on the basepaths. The Nats lost by a single run. I am now beginning to understand why Nationals manager Frank Robinson has a short fuse when it comes to Mr. Day. Seven scoreless innings followed by five walks. No constistancy.
Now, the good part. The Nationals were down late in the game, and again, they came back, almost tying or perhaps even winning the game in the 9th inning off of one of the scariest relievers in the league, Billy Wagner. Brad Wilkerson and Jose Vidro whacked three hits a piece, and several other players added a single safety.
After getting 17 hits yesterday, the offense rapped out another 12 tonight. Only three of the Phillies runs were earned, meaning this was a game the Nationals should have won.
Thats the great thing about baseball. We only have to wait until tomorrow to watch our heroes redeem themselves. And redeem they shall.
Ged Oudda Heah!
Brad Wilkerson [sort of]
This is how Brad Wilkerson looked when he hit is long home run in Sunday's game against the Mets. To Nationals fans, he looked crisp, sharp and in tune. To the two large guys in sweaty Mets caps who were sitting behind the Mets' dugout, he looked more like this. A dozen Pabsts will do that to the ol' optic nerves.
I really had my reservations about Wilkerson hitting leadoff for the Nats. He struck out too much. He wasn't particuarly fast. But mainly, he just didn't look like a lead off hitter. But his talents have made up for his looks, and I am beginning to be a believer. Wilkerson leading off, Nick Johnson batting second, and Jose Vidro third. Awesome. A great top third of the order.
Brad Wilkerson has the potential to be the face of the Nationals, the next Frank Howard in DC. Wilkerson is so close to becoming a star, and this might be the year that it happens. Wilkerson reminds me of John Kruk and Lenny Dykstra. They both got their uniforms duty, they hit behind the runner, and played quality defense. Wilkerson's strikeout total is the only thing keeping him among the list of "really good players." Take a look at his career numbers. Each year, he gets better. Each year, his strikeout totals go down. This year, they are up, but, the season is young. My Prediction for Wilkerson for 2005: .279 - 26 - 78 ... great numbers for a leadoff hitter. But please, Jim, or John, or whoever we have next year, GET US A REAL LEADOFF HITTER!!
Nats Take On Phillies Monday Night
Phillie Great Richie Ashburn
The Braves took care of the Phillies this weekend. Hopefully we can do the same beginning Monday night.
Below is a discussion board posting I found on a Philadelphia newspaper website:
Le's not wait 40 games to evaluate this team. It is the same as last year. No
passion and little talent. We can not beat Florida or Atlanta or even Washington
-- we are not as good. This team has been over hyped for
Unfortunately, management has traded away the future to build a
mediocre team. Like the Phils 3 of the 4 minor league teams, Reading,
Clearwater, and Lakewood are also in last place. There is no help down on the
Nothing will change with current management. We need a rebuild of
minors and the big team. This bunch has no hope of winning. 78 wins tops is my
The Philly fans don't see a lot of hope in this team, but there is talent. Lieberthal - Thome - Utley - Burrell - Abreu and a little bit of pitching. The question that begs to be asked: would I trade the Nationals for the Phillies? I'm not sure. Other than first, the Phils don't have a clearcut advantage at any one position, and given time, that might even out.
More on the Phils tomorrow.
Livan Reverts to Dr. Jekyll, Pitches Nats To Win
I can only assume that the "magic" elixer ingested by Livan Hernandez shortly before opening game wore off sometime after the second inning of today's game. I don't know what was in the potion, but it certainly wasn't steroids. It didn't help. To this point, Livan hasn't looked like the all-world pitcher Nationals fans had come to expect. But somewhere around the third inning, Livan, his head clear and his arm sound, pitched to one man over the limit until he was removed for a pitch hitter in the seventh inning. For his efforts, Livan gave up 3 runs, on 9 hits and was near perfect throughout the latter innings. If Livan is indeed back, then we one heckuva 1-2 punch with Hernandez and John Patterson, with Zach Day, Tony Armas and Tomo Ohka rounding out a good, perhaps very good starting rotation.
The offense, having remained moribund for more than a week, exploded against former Devil Ray Victor Zambrano and all comers. Five players had at least two hits, with Brad Wilkerson and Vinny Castilla getting four hits apiece. Wilkerson also slugged his second homer of the year.
Tomorrow, the "boys" return to RFK, and send ace John Patterson against the league's only 4 game winner, John Leiber. Now there's an interesting story. George Steinbrenner didn't want to pay Leiber 21 million over three years, so he let him sign with the Phillies, and instead, picked up Jaret Wright for the same contract. Jaret Wright was one of the many reclamation projects of the Atlanta Braves. Every year, Bobby Cox brings in a pitcher whose done nothing for several years, only to return them to serviceability. But when they leave, they usually return to their own level of mediocrity. Now, Wright is on the DL, booed off the mound at Yankee Stadium after injuring himself. Man, that's a tough crowd.
Looks like Christian Guzman is finally beginning to come out of his funk, slowly but surely. Baby steps, Nats fans, baby steps ... Brad Wilkerson is looking like he will finally leave behind that .255 career average and start moving towards stardom ... Jose Guillen has been very sick for several days, which might explain his lack of production since the middle of last week ... I'm beginning to think that perhaps neither Ryan Church nor Termel Sledge is the answer for the third oufield position. Plug a quality player in there, and I think this team could really compete ... Vinny Castilla, days after setting the all time record for consecutive chances as third base without an error, set his personal all time high with two stolen bases in a game.
An Open Letter To Livan Hernandez
Livan Hernandez's Rookie Card
Dear Mr. Hernandez:
Wow, you've sure come a long way in 10 years. Who could remember that you played in Florida, and were part of that Championship Marlin's team in 1997. You were then off to San Francisco and helped them win division titles too. Then you were traded to Montreal, and even there, in the hinterlands of major league baseball, you won many games as part of basically a minor league team. Each stop along the way, you were a stopper, the stopper. Now, you're part of the Nationals, Washington's team.
Whispers are beginning that perhaps, the Nationals are not as good as we'd hoped, and perhaps are more like that bunch who wore those funky "M's" on their caps last season. One more loss and we're below .500. This early in the season, that means nothing. But to the psyche of the National's fans, it means everything.
Mr. Hernandez, are you or are you not this team's stopper? You were in Florida, you were in San Francisco, and you were in Montreal. Washington needs you. We need to know that when the going gets rough, Livan will be there to stop the bleeding. So far, and I'm sorry to say this, you have been the cause of much of the bleeding so far this season.
If ever there was a pivotal game this year for the Nats, this is it. We can go home above .500, or below it. Fans can let out a sigh of relief, or they can stay away from RFK when the sky looks like rain. I know it's a lot to ask of you, Mr. Hernandez, but your shoulders are broad and able to withstand the weight of our request.
All of Washington will be watching. Don't let us down.
From The Vault: Nixon Named Elvis VP
Life in the Twilight Zone
From the vault of the Washington Star, Richard Nixon secretly named Elvis Presley as his nominee to replace Vice President Spiro Agnew, who was forced to resign in 1973. Presley is shown here in a publicity photo that was to be released just after the announcement was made public.
Sadly, Presley died a few days later at Graceland, forcing Nixon to pick the first guy who walked into the Oval Office. That is how Jerry Ford became President of the United States.
Oh, by the way, the Nats lost again, 10-5. Nothing good to report, so I wont [well, maybe later].
Mets Win, Nats Try Again Today
I cropped this photograph of Tom Glavine this way for a reason. Glavine certainly doesn't have his hall-of-fame talent anymore; he lost that when he gave up his tomahawk. His record with the Mets bears that out. No, he had something else last night. He incorporated his head, his knowledge of pitching, and his heart, that still burning desire to win. Those two things made that tired left arm regain, at least for a night, that sparkle that made him one of the feared lefties in the game for so many years. The Mets won and they deserved it.
For the first time this season, a Nats game was uncomfortable to listen to. The bats remain cool. The starting pitching is good enough to win, but when given one run to work with, a win is very hard to come buy. Let's hope this was just "one of those games."
I listened to the Mets announcers on XM last night. Unbelievable. They blamed Christian Guzman for the loss the day before, repeatedly bringing up his "error." Never mentioned was the driving rainstorm. They said that 3rd base coach made a mistake because he held Vidro at third in the first inning, never mentioning that Jose is still a bit gimpy and one run wasn't worth losing an all-star second baseman for the year. Their New York arrogance was hard to listen to. This was the first time that the opponent's broadcasters didn't have kind things to say about the new team and their city. I'll remember that.
Today, it is Tomo-san versus someone -- Iishi is out -- so we'll see how are bats do against the as yet unnamed pitcher.
No worries yet. Go Nats
Mets New Uniform?
What's the deal?
The New York Mets equipment manager pulled the team's uniforms out of the dryer this afternoon and found them all looking like this. The Orange in the logo remained unchanged, but the body of the uniform turned green.
I think it's a sign from the Mets fans. They've been supporting their team since 1962, and outside of a couple of fluke World Series victories, they've watched little more than several decades of gloom.
The Mets won 40 games their first year. We'll have that before the all-star break. I think the fans are simply "green" with envy.
And aint that great.
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Nationals Invade New York In Battle of Four-letter Words
When you go to New York, you expect to get into a battle of four-letter words. Tonight's game is no different. In their first regular season meeting, the NATS and the METS meet at SHEA Stadium. The Nationals, tied for first place with the Marlins and the Mets, tied for last place with the Braves and Phillies, battle at 7:10 Eastern time this evening. Talk about a close division.
Estoban Loiaza hasn't won a game yet, but the Nats have one both of his starts. His ERA isn't great, but it comes at the expense of a couple of bad innings. Overall, he's done a credible job, especially when considering he was so bad last year and the only team to tender a credible offer was the Nationals.
Tom Glavine has sucked since he bolted from the Braves and headed to New York. Since the days of Dale Murphy, I have been a Braves fan, and for me, Glavine has been persona non grata since the players strike in 1994, when Glavine became the public face of the players demands. Each year in New York, he has lost more games than he has won, and has an ERA well above 4.00
Carlos Beltran was the highest anticipated free-agent signing of the off season. Going into tonight's game, he is batting .283 with 3 homeruns and 11 runs batted in. Certainly acceptable, but he is being distanced by "bad-boy" Jose Guillen, who leads the league in homeruns and has a much higher batting average; all for a much smaller paycheck :) I consider OBP as perhaps the most important batting statistic. Anything over .370 and you're doing great. Right now, Termel Sledge, Brad Wilkerson, Vinny Castilla, Nick Johnson and Jose Vidro all are above that. :)
METS vs NATS BY POSITION:
1b] Nick Johnson over Doug M. [not going to try to spell his name]
2b] Jose Vidro over Kaz Matsuki
ss] Christian Guzman over Jose Reyes [but this will change by midseason as he matures]
3b] Vinny Castilla over David Wright [but this will change by the end of the year]
lf] Brad Wilkerson over Cliff Floyd [this one was close]
cf] Carlos Beltran. Nuff said
rf] Jose Guillen over Victor Diaz
c] Brian Schneider over Mike Piazza [I know, it sounds crazy but Schneider has always been a better fielder, but now he's a better hitter too.
NATS: Four strong wins/three soft wins
METS: One strong win
Overall, other than pitching, I'd take the Nats right now. However, the Mets have some very young kids that could turn into superstars around Carlos Beltran.
Even The Best Of Them ....
Birds do it.
Bees do it.
Even shortstops with bad knees do it.
Forgive and forget.
Let those who live in glass houses cast the first stone
To err is human, to forgive devine
When it rains, it pours [very appropriate for Thursday's game]
Just one of those things. Tomorrow, we'll dump on the Mets.
Forrest Gump Waiting For The Bus Outside of RFK This Afternoon
Well. I watched that ball game today, but it t'wernt much of one. I mean, I guess it was if you like rain. It rained and it rained and it rained. Mamma says rain is God's tears, 'cause he was cryin when people did bad things. My my, God musta been really sad to-day.
Come that last inning, those nice boys from Washing-ton, they was about to win their 10th game of the year. But God's tears done got in the way of that. That fine young man, the one throw-in the, ball, he needs a new hat 'cause that brim of his is 'bout as flat as the bottom of my Bubba Shrimp shrimp boat. Anyway, that fine young man, he flung the ball, and that Atlanta fella, he whacked it right at that other fella, you know, the one that 'caint hit a lick. Anyway, that fella that 'caint hit, he 'caint throw neither, cause the ball ended up in that cellar below where the people sit. And my, those folks on the bases, they just ran and ran. That man, he's a Christian, so he must be religious, but God's tears still got in the way, and he just flung that ball nearly all the way to Jackson.
And the Washington boys, they done lost. And that's all that I have to say about that.
3rd Base Bouncers Get Carried Away
One Bounce Too Many
During Thursday afternoon's game between the Braves and Nationals, the fans known as the "3rd base bouncers" got a little carried away, demolishing the northern section of the stands. Said GM Jim Bowden, "That's great ... we just reduced demolition costs by 30%. Maybe I can use that money to get a relief pitcher." With that, Bowden took out his cell phone and called the Angels.
One of the concrete sections landed on the pitchers mound, which now, for the first time today, has good traction for the pitchers.
SECRET AUDIO TAPE
I was at RFK March First, just a few days before the exibition game between the Nats and Mets.
The construction workers and groundskeepers were working furiously to get the stadium ready for the game.
What you hear on the tape is what I heard from the 300 level.
Archie and Edith singing, "Those were the day-y-y-y-s"
I love what the Nationals have done with RFK Stadium. While the building isn't in the same "ballpark" as other stadiums currently in use, it still is a serviceable place to play ball. Having that said, I prefer the older version of RFK. It is where my dreams still reside.
Has any other major league ballpark used chain link fence in the outfield? I doubt it. From purely an aesthetic point of view, I prefer the chain link. Using it made the lower bowl seem much larger, with the back wall, and not the outfield fence, being the farthest focal point. The Chain link created problems, though. Carl Yastremski hit his head while leaping to snare a Tim Cullen would be homerun and knocked himself silly for several minutes. Frank Howard did the same thing against Sal Bando when he robbed a homerun from the Athletics' third baseman.
I always enjoyed the Longines clock in right centerfield. Longines was short for the "Longines Symphonette Society," an organization that produced and sold symphonic music. Most every ballpark in the 1950s had a "Longines" clock with the same face place as the one at RFK.
The Scoreboard was my favorite part of the stadium. In its day, it was the most modern scoreboard in the major leagues, and only one of two [Minnesota was the other] that had an area that featured fans names and promotions, called the "Magic Message" board. Across the scoreboard's arched top was panel ads for People's Drugs, the Washington Post and one of many banks [American Security was the bank in this picture].
Quite a place, RFK. Then. Now. Until the new park is built, a new generation of Washington baseball fans will fondly remember its waffle roof and endless ramps. And that's a very good thing.
Dawn Of A New Day
Zach Day gets back on track
For the first time in 14 years, Bobby Cox and the Atlanta Braves are worried. And for the first time in 34 years, Washington baseball fans have something to smile about.
In both cases, it's about time.
Zach Day pitched a seven inning masterpiece, and removed himself from manager Frank Robinson's doghouse, which can be found beyond the outfield fence and squarely in the bullpen. It's easy to forgive the four walks and the need for a couple of double plays to get him out of trouble.
Seven of the first nine outs of the game were fly balls, not a good sign for a sinkerball pitcher. By the third inning, however, the gained control of his sinker and breezed through the rest of the game.
Chad Cordero made it interesting [again]. Two runners got on before he struck out Brian Jordan and Andrew Jones to end the game. Cordero has the stuff of greatness, but at age 22, he has yet to harness his talent. Soon, maybe later this year, maybe sometime next year, Chad Cordero's name will strike fear in the hearts of opposing teams like John Smoltz and Eric Gagne. For now, we'll take a little bit of nervousness as he learns his trade.
Bobby Cox is finally beginning to feel the financial constraints placed upon John Scherholtz by AOL/TimeWarner. Last season, Cox and the Braves won their divison with smoke and mirrors. This was a year of "ifs." If Brian Jordan and Raul Mondesi hit like they used to, if Adam LaRoche begins to take command of first base, if Chipper comes back from an off year, if Kolb can handle the stress of closing games on national TV night in and night out, if....well...you get the picture. Thus far, and the season is young, I'm just not sure.
I was happy to see Schneider throw Furcal out at 2nd base ... after a one game breakout, it looks like Christian Guzman is back to being the major league version of Endy Chavez. Having Day pitch this well bodes well for the Nats starting rotation. When Tony Armas Jr. comes back from injury, which pitcher will they remove from the rotation? If you go purely on performance, wouldn't that have to be Livan?
Early game tomorrow -- think I'm going to stay home and enjoy it.
Be Jim Bowden For A Day
The player you traded for. Who is it?
Take a minute out of your busy day and put yourself in Jim Bowden's shoes. What would you do? Fill in the blanks and attach your trade as a comment to this story:
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(AP) Washington -- [your name or screen name], General Manger of the Washington Nationals, announced a trade this morning that he hoped would answer the teams glaring need for ____________. At a news conference at RFK Stadium, the Nationals GM told the gathered press that ___________ was traded to the _______________ for player[s] _______________.
When asked why this trade was made, the new GM replied, ___________________
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The best trade [in my humble opinion] gets a complementary subscription to my soon to be announced Nationals SuperSite or 10 cents. [your choice!]