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[July 18th] -- When I add a new player's photo to my hard drive, I label it a specific way. The player's first initial is followed by the first three letters of his last name, and then I end with a number that represents how many of that player's picture I have. For example, I added a new picture of Ryan Zimmerman last night, and I labeled it RZIM44. So I went to add this first picture of Felipe Lopez in a Nationals' uniform, and I type: FLOP. Man, I hope that's just one of those things that makes you go "huh."

One of the nice things about not expecting the Nationals to win very many games for the remainder of the year is that losses don't seem to matter much. I mean, I just chalk it up to "a team in transition" and forget about it. Remember the losses at this time last year? They were soooo painful. By the time the Nationals fell out of first place, I was hardly able to speak. This year? No problem. A loss is just one more opportunity to say, "We'll get 'em tomorrow!" Just looking for some improvement. Like Billy Murray kept saying in "What About Bob," baby-steps, baby-steps, baby-steps.

Baby steps. That's not too much to ask for, right?

Two months ago, Tony Armas Jr. was leading the club with six wins and and a solid ERA. Today, he still has those six wins but his losses and ERA continue to balloon. Each season, Armas pitches like a star for a month or two, then he gets hurt and returns to his role as a pitcher who has never reached his potential. I don't think there much of a chance that Armas will be allowed to return next season as he was in 2006. I don't think that the 28 year old, regardless of his potential, will bring much in trade this close to the end of his free-agent year. I'm afraid he'll only be of value as a throw-in within a larger package.

Ryan Zimmerman hit safely in his 16th consecutive game, an unbelievable accomplishment for a 21 year old rookie. Rookies do many things well. They can hit for average, they can hit for power. Sometimes, they can even steal a few bases. A precious few can do all of those things at the same time. But one thing rookies never, never do is be consistent. To be consistent, a player much have a broad working knowledge of baseball. Rookies just don't have that.

Ryan Zimmerman does. I'll turn on the Nats' game on MLB.TV and keep an eye on it while I study for my biology class. When Zimmerman comes to the plate, however, I stop what I'm doing and watch him hit. Look at his face after each pitch. You can almost see the wheels turning as he adds that pitch to his mental database. He seldom loops balls into play. Virtually every hit is a line drive. I truly believe that Zimmerman has the capacity to hit in the .320's once he matures. That should be sometime next week.

I was sorry to hear that Jose Vidro strained his hamstring and had to be replaced by Marlon Anderson early in the game. I say "I'm sorry" because when he was yanked from the game by Frank Robinson, I thought he had been traded. I've seen that happen many times. A guy gets traded during a game and the moment the deal is finalized, he's pulled from the game to protect him. I remember watching a Mariner's game in the late 90's with Randy Johnson on the mound for Seattle. He walked off the mound and into the dugout and sat down for a moment. A team official ran up the from the locker room and whispered something in his ear. Johnson turned white. He was traded to the Astros in mid-inning. As if trading Vidro could get any harder, now he's limping. Great.

So, where was Austin Kearns tonight? I haven't heard anything from Robinson yet, but it'll be interesting to hear his reasoning. Did he need a "night off?" Was he "fatigued?" Was it because he sucked over the weekend? At least Felipe Lopez showed some life with a home run to tie the game. That was nice. What wasn't nice was his second error in four games. The Reds' bloggers warned us that he got to the ball just fine; it was his arm that was bad. Man, he showed it on Monday. If Nick Johnson can't dig a ball out of the dirt, it just can't be dug out.

Micah Bowie and Jon Rauch were certainly positives. The relievers combined to shut out the Marlins on just two hits over the game's final three innings. The bullpen needed that. I think that Bowie and Kevin Gryboski, both former Braves, have shown enough major league ability to at least for the moment replace Billy Bray and Gary Majewski. Sure, they're spare tires, but at least their tubes are inflated.

The trade clock is ticking down to "midnight" and you have to wonder how many trades are in the works. My guess is that we'll see one block-buster (probably Soriano) and two block-benders (Guillen, Livan, etc.). I dont' see Jose Vidro getting traded now, especially now that he's hobbling.

Ay there, your "FLOP" bit killed me, I too pray there isn't any predetermination of Lopez' fate from that, but he seems to be taking care of that pretty darn well himself!

Also just wanted to thank you for posting a link to our little blog (Nats320) including a really nice comment on it, as Jeff (Screech's Best Friend) commented in your previous post, it is indeed just for fun, and now is turning into more fun!

Drop by section 320 sometime for some loud and silly raucus cheering, and keep up the great work!

Rob Black
"Nat del Negro"
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