Blogger.com "invited" me to move my blogs to their new beta version which offers, according to them, many new features. They are right; it does. However, they haven't gotten around to installing many of the "old" features, like easily adding photos and artwork to posts!
Until they fix this, please use the alternate site -- www.tbwb.blogspot.com -- please note, it's the same site, but it won't have the last couple of years of archived information available there.
As soon as they fix this problem, you'll find the new "stuff" on the original site.
Thanks for understanding,
The Beltway Boy
NATS LOSE, I GO TO CLASS
OH NO, NO NO-NO! (BUT ORTIZ CAME CLOSE)
[September 4th] -- I don't understand how this happens. Last month, Pedro Astacio spun a two-hit complete game shutout after getting pummeled for most of the season. He continued getting pummeled shortly thereafter. On Sunday, Ramon Ortiz, he of the 5.36 ERA, steps to the mound and comes within three outs of throwing the first no-hitter in the Majors since Randy Johnson two years ago. I assume that he'll start getting pummeled shortly as well.
But until then, wow. What a game.
I didn't even notice that anything special was occuring until the 7th inning. As usual, I was busy doing my homework in front of the computer while keeping an eye on the game on mlb.com. I did notice that the game was moving along at a brisk pace, but I didn't notice the no-hitter possibilities until the crowd gave him a large ovation as he walked off the mound. I wasn't holding out much hope, however, until his quick and effortless 1-2-3 8th inning. Things were looking good for only the 3rd no-hitter in Washington baseball history. I said to my son, "The Nationals have to get out of the bottom of the 8th quickly and with no distractions."
It took exactly one pitch for Ramon Ortiz to be distracted. Jorge Sosa, Atlanta's rotation savior last season (and this year's bust), threw a strike that Ortiz tomahawked deep over the left field fence for his first career home run and only his third extra-base hit. Ortiz pumped his fist like Ryan Zimmerman as he rounded first. A couple more hits, another run, a pitching change and twenty minutes later, Ortiz got hit with the double-whammy, a huge distraction, and time enough to cool down. So, I wasn't surprised when Aaron Miles looped Ortiz's 0-1 pitch into right-center field for a base hit, and I was half expecting Albert Pujols' long homer to left field. Too many distractions, too much time. That said, what a wonderful performance by a man who has given relatively few this summer.
Austin Kearns kept his magic bat alive, hitting a two-run home run off of Jason Marquis, his 22nd, and drove in his 77th and 78th of the season. Kudos for Kearns. A week ago, he had a .231 average since coming to the Nationals and had Nook Logan type power numbers. He's now hitting again, and with a strong September, could end the year somewhere near .270-27-75, solid production from a teams, any teams, number five hitter. I don't think his post-trade slump was necessarily a bad thing. He obviously didn't want to leave the Reds, his home town team, and I think there was a bit of "I'm better than Washington" arrogance playing out at RFK. He was humbled by his struggles, and perhaps now will be more of a "team" player. The first five hitters in the team's lineup are as good as it gets (unless you're the Yankees or Mets), and Kearns anchors that group, being the last real chance for the team to drive in runners. A strong Kearns makes a strong Nationals' team.
Frank Robinson announced that Nook Logan would be the team's everyday centerfielder for the rest of the year. From the sounds of it, it's as much finding out what Logan can do as it is telling Ryan Church that he continues to be the last option for the Nationals in center. There is still hints of a bad attitude and poor defense (though only two errors in 153 games as a National) coming from the shadows, and Frank sounded like he's grown weary of Church when he said, "I think we all have a feel for what he's capable of doing and what he's done. I think the jury is still out on him because of the lack of consistency and we probably have a decision to make on him this winter, and all of us feel like we've seen enough to make a pretty good sound decision on him one way or the other, whether he will be a part of this ballclub, going into the spring, or no." Now, let me get this straight. Jose Guillen has a long and sordid history of being a big jerk, probably the biggest jerk on seven different teams, but because he's a true home run threat, people just mutter under their breath about him, but Church, a deeply religious man still trying to find himself, is somehow a cancer that should be jettisoned from the team in favor of a singles-hitter who has proven throughout his career that he can b-a-r-e-l-y hit major league pitching? Sadly, I have no doubt that Church will play his last game as a National when this season comes to a close. Sad, really really sad.
Good job, Ramon. You almost got your 15 minutes of fame.
COMEBACK KIDS X 4
Sunday's win might not have been, however, had it not been for Nook Logan (which is difficult to admit, since I razzed Bowden for picking him up). He was on second when Felipe Lopez hit a single j-u-s-t past the outstretched glove of rookie shortstop Steven Drew. His hit drove in the first run of the inning and opened the gates for Zimmerman's single and Austin Kearn's double to the wall. I didn't think much about it until I read the D-Backs' take on the play. Pete Kerzel writes that Lopez' ball was hit to where Drew should have been stationed, resulting in a double play that should have ended the inning, securing the victory for Arizona. But he wasn't there. "I was trying to hold the runner close, and by the time I got back, I got set and ... I lost it right off the bat," Drew explained. "By the time I picked it up again, it was right at me." So, because of Logan's speed, Drew was shading towards the bag in case Brandon Webb tried to pick him off, causing him to be out of position when Lopez hit the ball.
I lived in St. Louis during the era of "Whitey Ball," when only catcher Darrell Porter and first baseman Jack Clark didn't steal at least 25 bases each year. I saw first-hand how speed changed the way the game was played. I can't count the number of times pick off throws ended up in the outfield, allowing runs to score, or routine balls hit to the infielders were hurried and thrown away because of the runner's speed. It doesn't happen much anymore, but it seems that Mr. Logan can indeed be an impact player by what he does, but also by what he could do. That said, I still vote for Ryan Church as the team's center fielder.I won't bore you with the synopsies (synopsseses, synopsi?), for each game; rather, let's just meander for a while.
Nook Logan: How come everyone thinks that everyone thinks that Nook Logan is the answer in center? Logan is just a chromosome or two away from being Endy Chavez and Brandon Watson. If they didn't make it, if they weren't good enough, then why should we think Logan will? Ryan Church has shown over the past two years that if management just leaves him alone, he will produce. Add up his last two seasons, extrapolate out to a 580 at-bats, and Church has batted .275-21-90. What's wrong with that? The Washington Post suggested that the team was after a defensive "upgrade" at the position. Upgrade? He's made two errors in two years, spanning 153 games in the outfield. Sure, Church is the kind of guy who lets what people say effect his play. Great. So don't say anything!
Austin Kearns: Who would have thought that, come the beginning of September, that Felipe Lopez would be the strongest hitter that came in the trade with the Cincinnati Reds earlier this summer? Going into the weekend, Kearns was batting just .231 during his stay in Washington. His long home-run in Saturday's 8th inning, and his two-run double in Sunday's 8th, however, has helped to "jump" his batting average "up" to .263. I'm not disappointed, though. I never saw him as a high average hitter. Tons of homers and tons of RBI's. Anything else is just a bonus.
Nats webpage: Anyone else notice that Jose Guillen's face is no longer emblazoned across the top of the team's webpage? Nick Johnson has joined Chad Cordero and Ryan Zimmerman as the "faces" of the team. That's too bad. I thought that there was at least a 50-50 chance that the two sides could agree on an incentive-laden one-year contract, giving the Nationals a power bat (yes, I believe that next year will be a .285-30-100 type year for Guillen) and give Jose the chance to re-prove himself as a viable option in the outfield. I'm guessing, however, that the banner change is proof positive that Guillen's days as a National are numbered, which sucks, because Juan Rivera is batting .302-21-74 in just 368 at-bats for the Angels. Turns out that was a steal-of-a-deal, though it was the Nationals that got hosed.
NATS NOTES: Daryle Ward came through for the Braves in his first at-bat with the Atlanta Braves. With runners on 2nd and 3rd and two out, Ward slammed a single up the middle, plating both runners. Way to go Daryle! ... Alfonso Soriano hit his 44th home run over the weekend, equaling the "club record" held by Vlad Guerrero. Sorry; don't see it that way. I think his 44th puts him four behind Frank Howard's record for most home runs hit by a Washington player.
WOULDA - SHOULDA - COULDA
[September 1st] -- Last December, I wrote a story that listed nine free agents that were 1) good enough to help the Nationals in 2006 and 2) cheap enough to sign. Some, like Ken Harvey and Wade Miller, were injured and were more of the "project" variety. Others, like Ramon Ortiz and Ryan Franklin, had fallen on hard times but had the potential to make a comeback.
The guy I wanted the most, however, was Eric Byrnes.
Byrnes, then 29, had a difficult 2005 season, splitting time between the Oakland A's, Colorado Rockies, and Baltimore Orioles. He played so poorly that the Orioles, themselves bereft of any depth in outfield talent, released him at the end of the season. Now, don't get me wrong; Byrnes is no all-star. His OBP is pretty low and he tends to strikeout in bunches, but he certainly falls in the "able to comeback" category. The Nationals were chocked full of outfielders at the time (Jose Guillen, Ryan Church, Marlon Anderson, Alfonso Soriano), but Jim Bowden could have signed Byrnes and traded some of the outfield surplus for more pitching (remember, as Jimbo says, "you can never have too much pitching!"). Bowden, like the rest of the league, probably believed that Byrnes best days were behind him. The only job he could find was with the Arizona Diamondbacks -- he would be given the "opportunity" to compete for a starting job.
Going into the last month of the season, Byrnes is on pace to hit .278 with 25 homers, 75 RBI's, and 23 stolen bases. Oh sure, his OBP is still kind of low, and he still strikes out in bunches, but he would have answered the team's year long problem in center field.
Hey Jim, you should have listened to me -- you gotta read The Beltway Boys more often. Of course ** cough cough **, I also demanded that you sign Ramon Ortiz.
Never mind, Jim. Forget what I said.