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[June 24th] -- You know things aren't going very well when "Nationals Avoid Sweep" is a really positive headline. But after losing the first two games in Baltimore, they badly needed a win before shuffling off to Toronto. Thank goodness they got it.

It didn't look very encouraging early on. Livan Hernandez, who's trade value seems to be dropping each time he takes the mound, allowed leadoff hitter Brian Roberts a single and then walked Bill Fahey. Miguel Tejada hit a double-play grounder, but Fahey took out Jose Vidro at second base, leaving runners on the corners with just one out. The Orioles should have gotten a run out of Javy Lopez's fly ball to right, but Marlon Anderson did his best "Jose Guillen" impression and threw Roberts out at home, ending the threat.

Do you remember the Nationals' exhibition game at Camden Yards earlier this year, just before the start of the regular season? The Orioles pitched Daniel Cabrera, whose 99 mph fastball, coupled with his devastating slider, made the Nationals look silly all game long. Not this time. He would throw a 98 mph fastball in the dirt, then try to compensate for his wildness by throwing 99 mph the next time. He threw one of those out-of-control heaters near Daryle Ward's head, then threw the next one even harder, hitting Ward on the upper shoulder, just inches away from the unprotected nape of his neck. Too close, and very scary.

Cabrera's "stuff" looks electric; I mean, how can a 99 mph fastball not be? His curve, his slider, all the off speed pitches, are top-notch. That said, he seems to get whacked around pretty good each time he takes the mound. One day, he may stop being a thrower and become a pitcher, but, it hasn't happened as of yet. But it might. When I was a tiny, tiny lad, I went to a game with my brother at The Los Angeles Coliseum, before Dodger Stadium was completed. I don't remember much, but I do recall this slender, stylish lefty who seemed to be able to throw his fastball through a brick wall. His curve was so good that when he threw it, my knees buckled. He lost the game something like 9-1. My brother told me that if he ever learned how to pitch, he'd become great. Sandy Koufax certainly did. Koufax "did it" by easing up a bit on the fastball and letting that rainbow curve become his out-pitch. To a lesser extent, Ramon Hernandez did the same thing this year, and won five games in a row. He's got all the tools to be dominant, but does he have the desire to change his style? Time will tell.

Ryan Zimmerman continues to concern me. He is 1-24 in his last four games, and looks both timid and tepid at the plate. He's down below .270 for the first time in quite a while, and you have to begin to wonder if he's just in a slump or has the league found a flaw in his approach? I don't know. A rookie season wouldn't be a rookie season without a few slumps, but Zimmerman is the "golden child," the team's Moses ready to lead them out of the wilderness and into the promise land. And, as we all know, Moses succeeded. Will Zimmerman?

Royce Clayton got three hits and is now batting .270. Regardless of what you think of him, no way would Cristian Guzman be hitting this well so late in June. Daryle Ward had two hits, two RBI's, and is hitting .322. Of the team's "long term" stars, Nick Johnson is the most replaceable, thanks in part to Ward. Ward and Matt LeCroy could easily take over at first for Johnson this year, and Larry Broadway could be ready next near. Marlon Anderson got two hits on Sunday, and Fick added a single. Marlon Byrd had his first good swing in a month, launching a ball deep over the left field wall. I guess the formula for success, at least for now, is to play all those guys that Jim Bowden signed that no one else wanted.

Jose Guillen's Plight: I love my wife, I mean, I really, really love my wife. I love her so much that you wouldn't think that we've been married 27 years. She is angelic and sweet and wonderful. Sometimes, though, when one of the kids are doing dumb things, or one of her college classes isn't going right, or when (God forbid) I've done something stupid, she gets a little, well, "testy" might be the right word to describe it. So when she's happy, everyone is happy. When she's "testy," .... well you get the idea. Remember now, her base personality is **perfect**. So what happens when you have someone like Jose Guillen, who's season thus far is a major league version of having a rough home life? Guillen is "testy" on his good days. When he is this year's Cristian Guzman, however, I can't imagine what it must be like to be around him. When he's hitting 25-30 homers a year, his teammates consider him "different;" When's he batting .217, he's a jerk. Bowden needs to trade the jerk ASAP before the pollutes the clubhouse any more than he already has. And if he doesn't, I'm going to have my wife rip him a new one. That'll show him.

What did you say sweetie? Okay, I'm off the computer right now. Of course, I'll take out the trash, and change Katie's diaper, and go get you a Dr. Pepper, and .....

Maybe I have to convince your wife that Nick Johnson should stay...
Farid, Moses died before he made it to the promise land and Zimmerman will too if he doesn't get away from Mitchell Page.
With the week's weather forecast, (6 inches yesterday, and rain continuing through Weds, possibly into Thursday) we may need Moses to part the Red Sea so we don't drown on the way to the Promised Land. Or I may need to stock up on insect repellent so I can stave off a plague of gnats (or mosquitos) on my next trip to RFK.
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