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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

GB&U: How Brett Myers Got His Groove Back

RESULT: Nats lost to Phillies 2-1.

GOOD: Colin Balestar. Six innings, two earned runs on six hits and NO walks with five Ks. He settled down very nicely after giving up Utley's bomb in the 3rd. Bullpen went three shutout innings too.

BAD: Four hits. Against a guy who was opening day starter and sent back to the minor leagues due to ineffectiveness, all the Nats could muster was four hits. Giving up hits is what Myers does this year. In 113.2 innings this season (including last night) he's allowed 122 hits and 50 (50!!!) walks.

The Nats got 4 and 1. They're getting worse as the season goes on.

It was Myers first win since MAY 30! Myers started this game with an ERA over 5.50, and all the Nats could scratch out was a ground out to score a guy who advanced because of an error.

UGLY: Two more runners thrown out on the base paths. LoDuca and Zimmerman both caught in stupid and unnecessary run-downs for outs. When you only get six runners to reach base, you can't waste them on the base paths, but the Nats do this routinely. Not only are they bad, but they're sloppy. Who is to be held accountable for that? Bowden? Manny? Tim Tolman?

INJURY UPDATE: Guzman has nothing structurally wrong with his thumb, according to the Nats press release this morning about the results of today's MRI. He is day-to-day with a contusion (bruise) on his left thumb and will resume play when he can hold the bat with both hands.

Dukes went 2-for-3 last night in a rehab appearance for Columbus. Hurry back Elijah.

NEXT GAME: Tonight at 7:10 against the Washington-oops, I mean Philadelphia Phillies. Tim Redding (7-5, 3.98) faces ageless Jamie Moyer (9-6, 3.76).

Nats Bats Can't Dent Phils Myers; Lose 2-1

Washington--Right now, the Washington Nationals are the perfect team for a struggling pitcher to regain his confidence. Philadelphia's opening day starter Brett Myers has been ineffective most of the year -- including a much-publicized trip to the minor leagues. But on Tuesday night at Nationals Park before 34,039 fans split between the home and visiting teams, Myers (W, 4-9, 5.46) dominated the Nationals allowing one unearned run on just four hits and one walk and the Phillies bullpen held on to secure the 2-1 victory. The Nationals scored that unearned run in the eighth inning after being shut out in their last 25 innings, going back to Friday night's game in Los Angeles.

The Phils could not muster much more than that though against Nationals rookie starter Collin Balestar. Balestar went six full innings allowing just two earned runs --via Chase Utley's 26th home run of the season. He gave up six hits and no walks, striking out five. "One mistake," was all Balestar had to say about his performance. Balestar's record falls to 1-3, 5.13 ERA.

With a line-up that's last in the NL in average, runs, home runs, on base percentage and slugging percentage, however, one mistake is all it takes. Philadelphia did not get a runner past second base in any other inning against the rookie right-hander, but in the end did not need to.

Utley's homer was his first since July 7, snapping a fourteen game drought.

Washington has now lost seven straight games, eight of ten and have scored a total of three runs in their last five games. "The offense -- it's been a struggle the whole season," Washington manager Manny Acta said. The first four hitters in Acta's line-up Tuesday -- Willie Harris, Ronnie Belliard, Ryan Zimmerman, Austin Kearns -- combined to go 0-for-14 with one walk.

Ineffectiveness was again coupled with base running mistakes, as 1B Paul LoDuca and Zimmerman both were thrown out in run-downs on the base paths. "A dumb mistake," Zimmerman acknowledged. "You can't let that kind of stuff happen there. Learn from it and move on."

Garrett Mock, Charlie Manning and Joel Hanrahan all pitched one inning of shutout baseball to finish things up for Balestar. Brad Lidge pitched a perfect ninth inning for the Phils, recording his 25th save.

Wednesday night Tim Redding (7-5, 3.98) takes on Jamie Moyer (9-6, 3.76) in a 7:10 pm showdown at Nationals Park.

NATS NOTES: The loss moves the Nats record to 38-68, 19.5 games behind the division-leading Phillies.

All-star shortstop Cristian Guzman pinch-ran but was still not in the starting line-up, unable to grip the bat with both hands. The precautionary MRI performed Wednesday morning on his left thumb returned negative and confirmed the original diagnosis of a soft-tissue contusion at the base of the thumb. He is considered day-to-day.

Willie Harris drove in the Nats only run, set up by a single from LoDuca, Utley's fielding error and a sacrifice bunt by pinch-hitter Ryan Langerhans.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Well Said

Dave at USS Mariner, one of the higher thinking fan blogs going, had some very important ideas to consider today as we ponder the upcoming trade deadline:

Slowly but surely, teams are realizing the truth - prospects aren’t some willy-nilly lottery ticket that should be cashed in at the first chance to acquire a player you’ve actually heard of. Good teams build from within, and while there are trades that make sense for both teams, the crazy “my kingdom for a horse” type deals have seen their last days.

Here's the link to the entire post:

For all the Nats fans that have been crying that Bowden didn't get enough for Rauch, these are words to think about, digest and consider. He was closing this season due to a new opportunity, nothing else. If he'd been setting up Cordero, per the plan, we'd be throwing JimBow a parade. As I've been saying since the trade, closers grow on trees, and the Nats will find another closer. But they got absolutely fair value for Rauch in the deal. The D-Backs get a surly, reliable set-up guy that hasn't blown his shoulder out in a while and the Nats get a slick-fielding 2B with 40 steal speed that is still learning plate discipline.

Here's hoping some desperate GM that hasn't gotten the message yet (Omar Minaya, anyone) will give us something of value for practically nothing.

Money for Nothing?

With the Major League non-waiver trade deadline approaching Thursday, there's lots of talk about who could be switching teams int he next couple of days. The Nats have already made one trade: the highly discussed Jon Rauch/Emilio Bonifacio deal. Will there be more? Only Trader Jim knows for sure, but it sure seems like he's trying.

There have been media reports (all taken with liberal amounts of grains of salt) that say the Nats have made just about anyone on the roster over 25 available. But what's really there? And what could Nats fans expect as a return? Let's run down the current, shall we?

Paul LoDuca: Every Nats' fans favorite to be moved. The Yankees and Marlins both have injuries at catcher, making them possible trade partners. LoDuca has made it known that he'd be willing to play in NY or Miami, really anywhere closer to horse race tracks. The returns would be minimal though for a 36-year old catcher who was forced out of playing catcher on the worst team in the National League.

Felipe Lopez: He certainly has position flexibility that contending teams may find useful. Hard to believe the ghost of FLop that Nats fans have watched for the last couple of seasons used to be a pretty decent option at shortstop. Currently hitting .235/.307/.313. If the Orioles weren't desperate enough to trade for him, I can't believe anyone else will be either. First candidate to be DFA'd after the deadline. Bonifacio can't get here soon enough.

Ronnie Belliard: Belly is a streaky hitter, but some team might find his decent pop and position flexibility something to take a chance on for the rest of the season. He'd probably only return a "C" level prospect, but it's players like that the Nats have to bring into the system to take a look-see. Won't cost 'em nothin'.

Wee Willie Harris: He's never been hotter in his career, so maybe JimBow can strike while the iron's hot. Willie is a decent defensive player both in the OF and at 2B, and his speed is something that many teams covet. Again, he wouldn't bring a minor league all-star back, but could fetch a low-level thrower that the organization could try to teach to be a pitcher.

Tim Redding: Ace of the Staff. Except for that blow-up in Atlanta, Redding's been pitching very well the last four weeks, and could be a real useful pick-up to a team that is looking to fill a 4 or 5 spot down the stretch. Could the Tigers, Mets or Phillies find him attractive? You bet. His contract is real easy to swallow too. But knowing the way Bowden overvalues his players, it would probably take quite a bit to pry Redding away. All he's done is take the ball every five days for the Nats since he got here and more often than not kept them in the game. He may be more valuable here than the return.

Odalis Perez: Here's a situation where a couple weeks make all the difference. At the all-star break Perez' ERA was around 3.50, now it's at 4.38, and rising every time up. He's lost three of his last four starts, getting hammered in two of them. He's only pitched into the seventh inning once in his last six starts. His window of attractiveness might have already closed. Still, he's a lefty who gets lefties out with a decent K rate.

Austin Kearns: The wildcard. The Mets could use a corner outfielder. Bowden LOVES trading with Omar Minaya. This could be a match in heaven. It would be like Bowden trading one of his own sons, but something tells me he'd even do that if the price were right. Kearns is hitting over .300 since his return from elbow troubles, maybe he could fetch a "B-" prospect out of Omar. C'mon, the Mets have Fernando Tatis and Endy Chavez playing left and right fields. You're telling me Kearns wouldn't be an upgrade there?

Bottom(feeder) Line: At this point, I don't think we're going to see anything of any significant value exchange hands for the Nats this trading deadline. I think the fans can expect more of the same as we've had for a while, with the eventual return of Dukes to the line-up, Bonifacio's call-up and maybe a pitcher or two making appearances after September 1. But never count out Trader Jim Bowden. He knows he's on the hot seat, and he has a propensity for being splashy anyway.

Monday, July 28, 2008

GB&U: The Dodger Series

Sorry about not posting over the weekend. I had to make an unexpected trip out of town and had no Internet service.

RESULTS: Nats Swept by Dodgers 3-2, 6-0 and 2-0.

GOOD: Hmm. John Lannan Friday went 7 innings and gave up just two runs on six hits and two walks. Sunday Jason Bergmann went six innings and gave up two earned on six hits and three walks.

BAD: Odalis Perez. Saturday night surrendered six earned on eight hits in four innings.

UGLY: Twelve hits and two runs in 27 innings of baseball. Back-to-back shutouts, one by a rookie for his first major league victory. Two-hit by Derek Lowe, a very hittable pitcher. The Nats are hitting .241/.314/.359 as a team, last in each category in the majors. And the "youth excuse" doesn't work anymore. Sunday's team average age was over 28 years old. When will someone be held accountable for this debacle?

INJURY UPDATE: Dmitri Young is still not well enough to travel. This is very bad news for him health-wise. Stepping aside from baseball for a moment, Diabetes can be a debilitating disease and I personally am hoping for better health for Meat and hope that he is now getting serious treatment and will get better soon. I don't care if he ever plays again so long as he can get better control over his blood sugar.

NEXT GAME: Tuesday night the Nats are BACK HOME at Nationals Park to face the Philadelphia Phillies. Seems like they've been gone for a month. I know with my vacation I haven't seen a game live at Nats park in that long. Tuesday, Collin Balestar (1-2, 5.75) hosts Brett Myers (3-9, 5.82).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Even Trying to Do Something Good...

The Nats Marketing can't get out of their own way.

So the Nats are offering a chance to win a suite or other great seats. Or are they? After filling out a survey obtaining so much demographic information that I think I provided dental records to them, I clicked the link they said to "Enter Here", and this was what popped up. Good work, Nats.

This was the link:

Redding Masterful, But Loses 1-0

San Francisco--Tim Redding truly pitched a gem Thursday afternoon at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Unfortunately, Giants starter Matt Cain was just a bit better than that, as he held the anemic Washington offense to four hits, including one by Redding himself, going the distance and beating the Nationals 1-0.

Cain went nine innings, surrendering just those four hits and no walks with four strikeouts. He allowed a two-out double to Ryan Zimmerman in the fourth inning, Redding's single to left in the sixth and Willie Harris' infield single and Cristian Guzman's hard liner double to left in the ninth. With Harris on third and Guzman on second with one out in the ninth, Giants Manager Bruce Bochy came to the mound to settle Cain down and contemplate bringing in All Star closer Brian Wilson. But Bochy remained with his starter, and got Zimmerman to fly out to medium right field and Austin Kearns to fly out to deep right, ending the threat and the game.

"He gave me a pitch to do the job and I just didn't hit it deep enough," Zimmerman said.

The Giants got their lone run in the bottom of the eighth against Redding. Catcher Steve Holm led off with a seeing eye single to left field, and Eugenio Velez, one of the fastest runners in the NL, pinch ran. Cain sacrificed Velez to second, which brought up former World Series hero Dave Roberts. Redding got Roberts into a 1-2 count, but left a fastball up that Roberts fisted up the middle to Guzman's left. The ball barely snuck by Guzman, who was unable to get his glove on it to at least knock it down, and Velez scored without a throw. Jesus Flores threw Roberts out trying to steal and Redding struck out Jose Castillo to end the inning, but the damage was done. Cain cleaned up his own mess in the top of the ninth, and the Nats had been swept by the Giants, not just in this series, but for the season as San Francisco won all seven contests between the two teams.

Cain's only other career shutout came August 21, 2006 against Oakland.

The Nats move down the Pacific coast to start a three-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday night. John Lannan (6-9, 3.29) goes against Chad Billingsly (9-9, 3.32) in the 10:40 Eastern match-up.

NATS NOTES: With the loss the Nats fall to 39-64, 17 games behind NL East leading New York Mets.

After the game, the Nationals activated CF Lastings Milledge (strained right groin) from the disabled list and designated C Johnny Estrada for assignment. Estrada hit .170 in 53 at bats for the Nats, with no home runs and four RBIs. The team expects to eat his $1.25 MM contract.

An MRI exam on INF Aaron Boone's injured left calf confirmed a strain that hasn't completely healed. He's been out since July 7.

Photo (c) C. Nichols 2008

Upon Further Review...

I still really like the Rauch deal. I think Bonifacio is going to turn out to be a very useful player. Certainly Mike Rizzo believes that, and given his track record I'm going to take his word for it until we see differently. Bonifacio will certainly bring a level of defense and enthusiasm to the middle infield that we haven't seen with this team...ever. His D, speed and passion are his calling cards right now. His OBP and lack of power are what's holding him back. If he can learn to take a pitch, he could be a very valuable player.

And if his being on the team means Bad Attitude Lopez is not, then I'm all for it.

Keith Law of, former Toronto front office guy and former writer for Baseball Prospectus, isn't so sure about Bonifacio long-term, but agrees the Nats needed to make this deal. He is, as I am, critical of the team extending Guzman.

Meanwhile, learning nothing from the Young/Belliard mistakes, the Nationals re-upped Cristian Guzman for two years and $16 million. Guzman was a cipher in the first year of his four-year deal, then missed 2005 and most of '06 due to injury. His hot start in 2008 has masked the evaporation of his power (he's slugging .360 since June 1), and he has never had a lick of plate discipline. Like Young and Belliard before him, he was a candidate to be moved, not to be re-signed. Bad teams should not be locking up their mediocrities to long-term deals, but rather should be looking to convert them all into any kind of young players.

These "reward" contracts just don't work, especially for players with lousy conditioning, as Young, Belliard and Guzman are all guilty of. At least it's a two-year deal, so it doesn't kill the Nats as much as it could.

But let's all get one thing straight: Guzman is not a "good" major league player. He is exactly league average this year for his position, his defensive range is atrocious, and his arm is suspect. While he leads the NL is hits, it's a worthless designation, as he also leads in at bats and plate appearances, significant facts that illustrate that he is horrible getting on base. His OBP this season stands at .335, his average at .305. That's not the OBP of a 23-year-old trying to learn plate discipline. That is the OBP of a 10-year MLB veteran that is only going to regress. His lifeftime average is .267 and OBP is .305, so one can clearly see that he is overperforming this season, and the Nats, quite foolishly, are rewarding that.

There are plentiful comments on all the various blogs about Guzman's worth to the team, and what's really available next year anyway, and blah, blah, blah. I'm not going to fault casual fans and neophytes from confusing Guzman's hit-leading performance this year with brilliance. As bad as the Nats are right now, he has been their best player. And that's more evidence of Jim Bowden's ineptitude than anything else to a degree. I'm willing to cut Bowden some slack, since every opening day starter but Guzman has been on the DL, but the replacements he had waiting were just not major league quality. Rob Mackowiak been picked up by anyone yet? Didn't think so.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: Don't expect Guzman to do this next year. Shoot, don't expect him to do it in the second half. He's a player that is only going to regress, and we get to watch it for the next two years as he's the most expensive player on this team. Because I promise you the Nats, regardless of who the GM is this off-season, won't be signing any free agent of note.

The line-up will be Dukes, Milledge, Kearns, Zimmerman, Guzman, Bonifacio (Belliard), Johnson/Young and Flores. Hope they all get better together.

GB&U: Cain Shuts Down Nats

RESULT: Nats lose to Giants 1-0; Cain throws four-hitter.

GOOD: Tim Redding. After a couple not-so-good outings, Redding was awesome in an eight-inning complete game. Seven hits, no walks, five strikeouts. And a shortstop with average range would have kept the ball that scored Velez in the infield at least, if not get the out. But nothing can take away from Redding's excellent performance. He even had one of the four Nats hits!

BAD: Tim Tolman. Fastest guy on the team rounding third with two outs, gotta send Wee Willie home there and take your chances. Granted, Zim's fly wasn't the deepest, but Randy Winn has never been confused with Dwight Evans out there either. Send himhome, Tim!

UGLY: Johnny Estrada's exit. Wow, talk about ungracious and classless, not to mention clueless. To read his quotes, you'd think the Nats just cut A-Rod.
"Mentally, I'm ready to go home. It's been a grind for me all season." And "Yeah, it's been frustrating... I still know I have a lot left in the tank, and look forward to playing against the Nationals."
I guess when you go on the DL for four weeks and come back 15-20 pounds heavier, you kind of lose some persepective.

INJURY UPDATE: Estrada was sent packing since the Nats re-activated Lastings Milledge from the DL after the game. Hopefully he's fully recovered from the groin injury and can give the Nats a little spark in the closing two months of the season.

NEXT GAME: Friday night from Chavez Ravine. John "Hard Luck" Lannan (6-9, 3.29) takes on Chad Billingsly (9-9, 3.32) for the Dodgers. Man, I wish this game wasn't blacked out on MLB Extra Innings. Love me some Vin Scully!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

GB&U: Set-Up for Losing

RESULT: Nats lose to Giants 6-4.

GOOD: Ryan Zimmerman. He went 3-for-5. Feels good to type his name again. Jesus Flores. Who else? Homers and drives in two. Leads the team in RBIs. Not bad for a guy who the team felt they had to go out and sign TWO GUYS to block his play. Wee Willie Harris! Just another 2-for-5 day.

BAD: Cristian Guzman. 1-for-5, 1-for-9 since signing his new contract.

UGLY: Luis Ayala. Another 8th inning implosion. Issued a four-pitch walk. Gave up three earned on three hits. Pitching "backwards" and leaving soft breaking balls up and over the plate. Where's his nasty slider? Pitching coach Randy St. Claire doesn't know either.

INJURIES: Sounds like Lastings Milledge will be back this weekend from the groin injury he suffered a month ago. He's been hitting the ball solidly at Columbus on his rehab stint.

NEXT GAME: Today at 3:35 pm, the finale in San Fran. Looking to avoid the sweep, Tim Redding (7-4, 4.17) takes on hard-luck Matt Cain (5-8, 4.08). Boy, are we accustomed to that kind of story.

Ayala Implodes, Nats Lose 6-4

San Francisco--The Washington Nationals took a precarious 4-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning against the home-standing San Francisco Giants Wednesday night, and turned the game over to set-up man Luis Ayala as scripted. But as Ayala has done much of the season, he struggled, got behind in the count, walked a man, and surrendered three earned runs to erase the lead and lose the game 6-4.

Ayala (1-6, 5.77) was called on to start the eighth inning and had trouble from the start. The first batter he faced, Nats killer Bengie Molina (lifetime .400 hitter against the franchise) lead off with a solid single to left center, completing an 3-for-4 night for him. D.C. native Emmanuel Burriss then pinch-ran for the sloth-like Molina and promptly stole second. Ayala issued a four-pitch walk to first baseman John Bowker, and after a eight pitch at bat, despite falling behind 0-2, Rich Aurilia finally found a pitch to handle: a hanging breaking ball right down Broadway The veteran hammered the offering to straight-away center field for a two-run double, wresting the lead away. Omar Vizquel, hitting just .183 in this, his 21st big league season, followed with his own double to center, and it was all over but the crying for the Nats. Ayala was allowed to remain on the hill to get the final two outs, but the damage was done.

Washington tried to mount a response in the ninth inning as Ryan Zimmerman (3-for-5) singled with one out and Jesus Flores was hit with a pitch with two outs. But Kory Casto, pinch-hitting for Ayala, could not deliver the blow that would tie the game up to force extras, as he struck out against the Giants All Star closer Brian Wilson.

The Nats actually had a late-inning lead to protect thanks to a three-run inning of their own. Against tiring Giants starter Kevin Correia in the sixth, Austin Kearns singled to lead off, and on the very next pitch, catcher Jesus Flores drilled a pitch to the left field bleachers for his sixth home run of the season, and team leading 41st and 42nd RBIs. Several batters later, pinch-hitter Johnny Estrada singled to center, driving in Ryan Langerhans, who was aboard via a double to right field. Red-hot Willie Harris (2-for-5) followed with a single to put two on with two outs, and Manager Bruce Bochy finally went to his pen for lefty Alex Hinshaw. Hinshaw, one of several rookies in Bochy's bullpen, calmly got All Star Cristian Guzman to ground into a fielder's choice to end the inning without further damage. As it turned out, Hinshaw may have won the game right there.

Collin Balestar started for the Nationals and despite some early struggles settled down to pitch fairly well overall. He went five full innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits and two walks, striking out two. Steven Shell, Charlie Manning and Saul Rivera all followed with shutout performances through the sixth and seventh innings before Ayala came on. Giants rookie Geno Espineli, making just his second appearance since his recall last week, pitched two-thirds of an inning to earn the victory, and Wilson recorded his 27th save of the season.

The Nats finish the series with San Francisco, hoping to avoid the sweep, at 3:35 eastern time today with Tim Redding (7-4, 4.17) on the hill. The Giants send out hard-luck starter Matt Cain (5-8, 4.08).

NATS NOTES: Washington has lost two in a row, and are 4-6 in their last 10 games. Overall, their record stands at 38-63, tied for worst in the majors, and 16 games behind Philadelphia and New York Mets, tied for first in the NL East.

CF Lastings Milledge, on the DL since June 28 with a right groin strain, has hit well during his minor league rehab stint with Triple-A Columbus and the team hopes to activate him during the series with the Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend.

GM Jim Bowden, on a talk radio appearance and later confirmed by other media sources yesterday, indicated the team would not tender P Chad Cordero a contract at the end of the season. Cordero, who apparently was not made aware of this before Bowden's public announcements, was surprised by the news. Cordero responded, "I'm shocked he would say it now and make it official. It's a bit upsetting. It's early. I understand that it's a business."

Photo (c) C. Nichols 2008.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

GB&U: Nats Fall and Can't Get Up

RESULT: Nats lose to Giants 6-3.

GOOD: Wee Willie Harris. 2-for4 again. Homered again. Maybe Bowden will reward him with a 2-year, $16 MM contract? Paul LoDuca. As much as it pains me, Cap't Red-Ass came through when he had the chance with a ground-rule double, infield single and 2 RBIs.

BAD: Jason Bergman. You can't put your team in a hole early, and Bergy just wasn't ready to start this game. Lead-off homer to Fred Lewis. Tow-run shot to Bengie Molina. Down by three after one. That's a death sentence to this team.

UGLY: Jim Bowden's propensity for handing out "reward" contracts. Look people, I admire as much as anyone what Guzman's done this year. Remarkable really. But making a guy with a lifetime .305 OBP your highest paid player? Really?? Bowden said yesterday that Guzman did the team a "favor" taking into consideration his last bloated contract and how he spent 4/5 of it not earning it.

FAVOR? Giving a pudgy shortstop who is allergic to walks $16MM for two years is a favor. Great that it's not a longer deal. But it's $2-4MM more PER YEAR more than he would have gotten on the market, which makes up for those extra year or two he may have gotten. It will be real interesting to see what Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson get as free agents this off-season. That's when we can really determine how lousy a deal this is.

Also, Bonifacio better be ready, as JimBow and Rizzo think. Because if Guz has to lead-off again, it's that much worst. Guz is a #2 or #8 hitter. That's it.

Another also: Closers grow on trees (see: Rauch, Jon). Stop worrying about it. The trade was a good one. I don't agree with Bowden often, but he got this one right:
"You have to trade a reliever when you have the chance to get an everyday position player who's 23 years old. You have to do it."
He's the fastest guy in professional baseball. He was MVP of the Dominican League last winter. He can hit and is learning plate discipline. He's 23! Again, this was a good deal. Stop worrying about trading "the closer". If he were still setting up Cordero, people would be throwing Bowden a parade today, getting a potential 40-steal guy for a set-up man. Closing is all about opportunity, nothing else. Now Hanrahan has that opportunity. A star is born. Rant over.

NEXT GAME: Wednesday night, 10:15 pm. Colin Balestar (1-2, 5.87) on the mound against Kevin Correia (1-5, 5.81). Enjoy. I'll be at Camden Yards celebrating the heroes of my youth, the 1983 World Series Champion Baltimore Orioles. Cal, Ed-die, Palmer, The Earl. Ah, sweet memories.

Molina Leads Giants Over Nationals 6-3

San Francisco--In what was one of the busiest days administratively in the Washington Nationals' history, they also had a ball game to play. Unfortunately, the Nats got out of the gate slowly and never caught back up with the San Francisco Giants as they dropped a 6-3 decision at AT&T Park.

The story of Tuesday night's game was Giants catcher Bengie Molina. Thrust in to the clean-up spot this season after the departure of Barry Bonds, Molina has responded with a career year, and he continued his success against the Nats, homering twice against starter Jason Bergmann and finishing 3-for-3 with a walk and three RBIs. Bergmann was not sharp, especially early, as he surrendered five runs, four earned, and five hits in five innings of work. He did not walk a batter, and struck out only one. The first inning doomed Bergmann, as he allowed a lead-off home run to outfielder Fred Lewis, an infield single to Eugenio Velez, and a two-run shot to Molina, a no-doubt-about-it shot to left center field.

Bergmann settled down for the second and third innings, but in the fourth he was bit again. Molina led off with his second home run, his eighth of the season, and Omar Vizquel, statistically one of the worst batters in the NL this season, doubled to right field driving in ancient Rich Aurilia, who reached on an infield single. Bergmann fell to 1-7 on the season with the decision, and his ERA sits at 4.21.

The Nats hitters kept trying to claw their was back into this one, getting single runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings, but never could catch up. In the second, Jesus Flores legged out his first major league triple, as Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand laid out for Flores' hard liner to right center, but just couldn't come up with it. The ball scooted all the way to the wall in the deepest part of the park, where right fielder Lewis retrieved it and threw late back into the infield. Flores slip into third for effect, as there was no play at the base. The next batter, Paul LoDuca, who was lustily booed by the fans remembering his long-time affiliation with the hated Los Angeles Dodgers, hit a ball into the left field corner that was ruled a ground-rule double, and Flores brought home the first Nats run.

In the fourth inning, Austin Kearns led off with a double and Ronnie Belliard walked against Giants starter Barry Zito (W, 5-12, 5.56). With one out, LoDuca again produced, as he eked out an infield hit and Kearns sneaked home with another run, Belliard advancing to third. But that's where he would stay, as Felipe Lopez struck out swinging, and Bergmann grounded out to end the inning. The Nats final run came courtesy of red-hot Willie Harris, who continues to push his career best home run total higher, as he hit his seventh of the season. Harris finished 2-for-4, raising his season average to .253.

The game marked the return of Ryan Zimmerman to third base for the Nats, as he was activated from the disabled list before the game, taking the roster spot from Dmitri Young, who was DL'd Friday due to complications with his diabetes and conditioning. Zimmerman went 1-for-3 with two walks upon his return.

Washington continues its series against the Giants Wednesday night at 10:15 pm Eastern, with Colin Balestar (1-2, 5.87) on the mound against Kevin Correia (1-5, 5.81).

NATS NOTES: The loss drops the Nats season record to 38-62, last in the NL East. They are 16 games behind division leading Philadelphia.

The Nationals announced before the game they re-signed SS Cristian Guzman to a two-year, $16MM contract.

Also, the team traded closer Jon Rauch to the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league 2B Emilio Bonifacio. Bonifacio was assigned to Triple-A Columbus, but GM Jim Bowden said, "For us, he's going to be our second-baseman long term. That's what he's going to be. We've optioned him to Columbus; we want him to develop. But he'll be up here at some point by the end of the year and he'll be our second baseman next year."

Molina Leads Giants Over Nationals 6-3 also posted at DC Sports Box

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Numbers Are In

Bill Ladson at has the terms of Cristian Guzman's brand spanking new two-year contract:

Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman has decided to forgo free agency and agreed to terms on a two-year $16 million contract extension. Guzman will make $8 million in 2009 and '10.

In my humble opinion, this is about $2MM per year more than he would have recieved on the open market. Most folks around here are overvaluing Guzman. With the "token" all-star selection and all the talk about leading the league in hits (and at bats, and plate appearances), he's still just a league average SS with below average defensive range and a lifetime OBP of .305.

I realize the Nats have to have someone to play SS, and he's the devil we know. But $16 MM for two years is $4-6 MM too much. But it ain't my money. It will be interesting to see what Orlando Hudson signs for during the off-season and compare the two. Because that's what today's moves costs us. By trading for Bonifacio and re-signing Guz, the team is telling us "We're not playing the free agent game next year. We see Hudson and Furcal and all the other middle infielders available, and we're decided that we're going to stick with Guz and a second baseman that isn't arbitration eligible for four years. Oh, and we'll bring Fat Ronnie back cause nobody else wants him."

All this being said, if Guz is hitting #2 or #8 next year, and he does what he's doing this year, I think the Nats would be perfectly happy. Now, if he's got to lead off again...that's a completely different story.

The Hits Keep On Coming: Nats Trade Rauch for Bonifacio

Here's the news:

The Washington Nationals today acquired second baseman Emilio Bonifacio from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for right-handed pitcher Jon Rauch. Bonifacio was optioned to Triple-A Columbus of the International League. Nationals Senior Vice President and General Manager Jim Bowden made the announcement.

The switch-hitting Bonifacio entered the 2008 season rated as Arizona's No. 6 prospect according to Baseball America. The same publication also cited Bonifacio as its 2008 Winter Player of the Year—an award encompassing the three Caribbean winter leagues (Dominican, Venezuelan and Mexican)—after he batted .300 and posted a .359 on-base percentage with Licey of the Dominican Winter League.

"This trade brings us a quality, young player, who has the potential to develop into a solid leadoff hitter and outstanding defensive second baseman," Bowden said. "He is a high-energy player with a lot of potential, and we anticipate he'll fit nicely into our long-term plan of drafting, acquiring and developing a solid nucleus that will lead our club in the near future."
Bottom(feeder) Line: I LOVE this deal. Bonifacio is legit. .302/.338/.360 in six minor league seasons. 229 total stolen bases with a 78% success rate. He plays a gold-glove caliber second base. And he's only 23. He immediately becomes the Nats best hitting prospect not onthe major league roster. Getting this kind of return for a run-of-the-mill set-up guy in Rauch is a coup.

Granted, Rauch pitched admirably this season in the closer's role, but closing is all about opportunity, and he's still the same guy that would have been setting up Cordero had Cordero not been injured. In fact, it's the same kind of deal Bowden SHOULD have made for Cordero last season!

And it's absolutely immaterial who closes the rest of the way out, unless they think Hanrahan can be the long-term solution. Closers grow on trees (see: Rauch, Jon) and someone will show an aptitude for it. As I said, it's all about opportunity. it will eb interesting to see who gets that first opportunity though, if it's one of the vets (Rivera, Ayala) or Hanny, who is best suited for it.


Nats Extend Guzman for Two Years, Terms Undisclosed

Nationals GM Jim Bowden just announced that the Nats have re-signed SS Cristian Guzman to a two-year extension, terms undisclosed. Here's the release:
The Washington Nationals today agreed to terms with shortstop Cristian Guzman on a two-year contract extension through the 2010 season. Nationals Senior Vice President and General Manager Jim Bowden made this announcement.

Guzman has led the Nationals’ offense this season, batting .310 with 56 runs scored, 26 doubles, three triples, five home runs and 34 RBI in 96 games. For his efforts, he was chosen to represent the Nationals in this year’s All-Star Game, which was played last week in New York. Guzman entered today leading the National League with 129 hits (third in MLB), and boasts the circuit’s seventh-best batting average. His 38 multi-hit games are second in the NL, and his 13 three-hit games are tops in the league.

The switch-hitting shortstop has been the Nationals’ most-durable player this season, playing in a team-high 96 games. He also leads the club in batting, runs scored, hits, doubles and triples (tied). His 25 hits with runners in scoring position are tops on the Nationals, and his RBI total is second only to Jesus Flores’ 40.

Guzman became the franchise’s first All-Star shortstop since Wil Cordero represented the Montreal Expos in the 1994 Midsummer Classic. He became the first DC-based shortstop to represent The District in an All-Star Game since Rocky Bridges was selected but did not play in the 1958 game. This season marks the second All-Star campaign of Guzman’s career, as he also participated in the 2001 All-Star Game as a member of the Minnesota Twins.

The 30-year-old has batted .315 with 32 doubles, nine triples, seven home runs, 48 RBI and a .352 on-base percentage over the last two seasons (2007-08), since missing the entire 2006 campaign due to right-shoulder surgery. His batting average over the last two seasons is second-best among major league shortstops, behind only Florida’s Hanley Ramirez (.320).

Guzman was originally signed by the Nationals as a free agent on November 16, 2004, after playing his first six major league seasons with the Twins. The nine-year veteran has batted .268 with 193 doubles, 76 triples, 50 home runs, 368 RBI, 114 stolen bases and a .305 on-base percentage during his career.
Bottom(feeder) Line: Once the terms become public, we'll have something to digest here. Guzman has not been the problem this season, posting good overall numbers, despite his OBP being a little low for a traditional lead-off hitter. If the Nats could acquire someone better suited for the job, Guz would be a perfectly acceptable #2 or #7-8 hitter. It's symptomatic of the Nats' ills though that they trumpet him as an offensive force, since his OPS+ is an even 100, exactly average for his position. And just pleae re-read the last six words of the press release. THAT is the Nats' lone offensive weapon right now.

But like I said, we don't know how good or bad this is until we see the numbers.

Injury Update: Wily Mo Pena

The Nationals issued a press release this morning describing the surgery and rehab for Wily Mo Pena:

Earlier today, Nationals outfielder Wily Mo Pena had successful surgery performed on his left shoulder by Dr. Timothy Kremchek in Cincinnati, OH. Dr. Kremchek repaired a significant partial tear of his rotator cuff, as well as a tear and fraying of his posterior labrum.

Pena will be placed in a sling for approximately 3 weeks, at which time a formal rehab program will begin. Pena will be out for 4-6 months, but is expected to be ready for Spring Training 2009.

Bottom(feeder) Line: Pena may very well have played his last game in a Washington uniform, depending on the route the front office goes between now and the beginning of Spring Training next season. It's not a stretch to think that Pena's future hinges on GM Jim Bowden being retained. Pena was terrible this season, both at the plate (.205/.243/.267 with two homers and 10 rbis in 195 at bats) and in the field. Apparently some of that can be attributed to the injury.

Pena's actions, however, continue a disturbing trend in either players hiding or downgrading their injury, or the team's inability to properly diagnose the problem and get proper medical attention before a catastrophic result -- surgery. Patterson, Cordero, Hill, Kearns, Zimmerman and now Pena have all followed a similar disturbing pattern.

Photo (c) C. Nichols 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

This Just In: Wee Willie Harris Named Player of the Week!

From MLB:

Willie Harris of the Washington Nationals has been named Bank of America Presents the National League Player of the Week for the period ending July 20th. Bank of America, the Official Bank of Major League Baseball, is the presenting sponsor of the National League and American League Player of the Week Awards, which reflect Bank of America’s long-standing tradition of promoting and recognizing higher standards of accomplishment.

Harris hit .583 (7-for-12) during the week and led the N.L. with seven RBI. The 30-year-old left fielder recorded a double, triple, home run, stolen base and five runs scored, while posting a .688 on-base percentage and a 1.083 slugging percentage. Harris collected multi-hit games in each of his three games played, including a home run and five RBI in the Nationals’ 15-6 win at Atlanta on July 20th. The Cairo, Georgia native is the only active MLB player to attend Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. This marks Willie’s first career weekly award honor.
And the Nationals released some more interesting tidbits about Wee Willie:

*Harris is batting .366 (26-for-71) with 2 doubles, 2 triples, 4 home runs, 13 RBI, 12 walks and 3 stolen bags in 23 games beginning June 22. He has posted stellar OBP (.464), slugging (.620) and OPS (1.084) in the same span.

*Harris has started games at 4 positions (2B, LF, CF, RF) for Manny Acta this season. He has also appeared defensively for Washington at 3B and SS in 2008.

*Harris’ 6 home runs this season are not only a career high, they are only one shy of his career total (7) entering the 2008 campaign.

*By winning NL POTW, Harris becomes the first Washington National to earn the citation outright. Two other Nationals shared the award with other players: 1B Nick Johnson (June 6, 2005, shared with STL’s Albert Pujols) and 3B Ryan Zimmerman (August 5, 2007, shared with ARI’s Brandon Webb).

GB&U: Break Up the Nats (Two In A Row!!)

RESULT: Nats beat Braves 15-6, set DC mark for runs scored in one game.

GOOD: Willie Harris! 2-for-3, home run, three walks, five rbis from the lead-off spot. Austin Kearns! 3-for-5, home run, five runs, two rbis. Jesus Flores! 5-for-6, two runs, two rbis. Felipe Lopez?!? 3-for-4, three runs, three ribs. WOW!

BAD: Odalis Perez. It's good to have a bad day when your hitters stake you to a 12-2 lead. Perez surrendered five eraned in five innings, allowing 9 hits and two walks. He struggled just long enough to qualify for the win, though Manny had Shell warming in the 4th in case things got closer than they did.

UGLY: Paul LoDuca. PLoD went 1-for-6, stranding six base runners. I guess he didn't get the memo that today was going to be hit parade day in Atlanta.

NEWS: Meathook indeed went on the DL due to a spike in his blood sugar and overall conditioning. I'm not going to make light of Young's situation, as I am Type II Diabetic myself, so I understand better than most what Young is going through. We wish him the best and hope that someone can convince him that the best way he will get any relief from the symptoms of Type II is to really make a concerted effort to lose some weight. For three years I heard my doctor say "lose weight" and it didn't register. I then actually did lose weight (~50 pounds) and went from taking 7 pills a day to control my diabetes down to one.

But the kicker was JimBow's comments about Young when the announcement was made. Here's part of the statement:

"Well, it's a two-pronged approach. The first part is he's got get his diabetes under control, and you've got to get the blood-sugar levels right. The second thing is, we have to get him into first-class physical shape, the same shape he was in last year when he was comeback player of the year."

"First-class physical shape" like last year? You mean, like in this picture? Is that your idea of "first-class shape" Jim? It's stupid stuff like that that really fuels the fire to get rid of this buffoon. Who does he think he's fooling? And does he even believe the things he says?

NEXT GAME: Tuesday night in San Francisco, home of Huey Lewis, Jerry Garcia and Joe Montana. Jason Bergmann (1-6, 4.03) faces washed up Barry Zito (4-12, 5.62).

Photo (c) C. Nichols 2007

Sunday, July 20, 2008

GB&U: Nats Burn Atlanta

RESULT: Nats defeat Braves 8-2.

GOOD: Wee Willlie Harris. Three runs and a couple ribbies from the leadoff spot. He's getting on base and that's what you want to see.

BAD: Meathook. Back to the DL to get his diabetes under control and get back into "world class shape like he was last season" according to JimBow.

UGLY: Trade rumors abound. Rauch to the White Sox?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

GB&U: Second Verse, Same as the First!

RESULT: Nats fall to Braves 7-6.

GOOD: Um, Willie Harris? He went 2-for-4. So did Langerhans. Charlie Manning pitched two scoreless.

BAD: Tim Redding. With a line-up like we threw out there yesterday (more on that coming), your starter has to get you deep into the game, and Redding has one of his worst appearances of the season. Six earned in 4 IPs with six hits and three walks. Yuck.

UGLY: The Line-up. It bears repeating here:

CF Harris .228
1B LoDuca .225
SS Guzman .312
RF Kearns .205
C Estrada .163
2B Belliard .234
3B Casto .214
LF Langerhans .222

Are you kidding me? Seriously? Where's the condemnation? I'm all for 'The Plan', but last time I checked, this was supposed to me MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL. This is a g-d damn embarrassment. Four catchers on the roster? Really JimBow? WTF?!? The current roster has four catchers and three outfielders. This is absurd. Please, PLEASE Mr. Kasten step in and do the right thing. Bowden's GOT TO GO.

NEXT GAME: Tonight in Atlanta. Lannan (5-9, 3.40) faces Jair Jurrjens (9-4, 3.00)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Off-Day News: Nats Sign Hood!

The Nationals just sent out a press release announcing the signing of outfielder Destin Hood, their second round pick from the 2008 Amateur Draft.

Hood was a two-sport star at his Alabama High School, and signed a letter of intent to play both baseball and football for the Crimson Tide.

Hood will be assigned to the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League affiliate in Viera, FL.

Here's the full text of the release:

The Washington Nationals today agreed to terms with outfielder Destin Hood, the club’s second-round selection in this year’s First-Year Player Draft. Hood will be assigned to the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League affiliate in Viera, FL. Nationals Senior Vice President and General Manager Jim Bowden, Vice President of Baseball Operations and Assistant General Manager Mike Rizzo, and Director of Scouting Dana Brown made this joint announcement.

Hood, 18, was a two-sport standout for St. Paul’s Episcopal High School in Mobile, AL. This year, the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder batted .485 with 19 extra-base hits, eight home runs, 32 RBI and 17 stolen bases while leading his team to the 5A state semifinals and earning a spot on the USA Today All-USA High School Baseball Team. Hood was recognized as the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s 5A Player of the Year, and was named the High School Baseball Player of the Year by the Mobile Press-Register. He was a 2008 Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American, after batting .517 with seven home runs, 36 RBI and 43 stolen bases as a junior. His impressive junior campaign earned him AFLAC All-American honors and a spot in the AFLAC All-American Home Run Derby, which he won with eight homers.

This season on the gridiron, Hood caught 56 passes for 995 yards and 15 touchdowns en route to Alabama’s 5A State Championship. A starter at wide receiver and defensive back, he was named First-Team All-State by The Birmingham News, Mobile Press-Register and the Alabama Sports Writers Association. Hood, who attended the same high school as San Diego Padres pitcher Jake Peavy, had signed a letter of intent to play both baseball and football at the University of Alabama.
Bottom(feeder) Line: This is certainly good news, especially considering Mark Lerner's ridiculous statements at the beginning of the week concerning the state of negotiations with the previously unsigned top five draft picks. Hood is a premium athlete with very good baseball acumen, and should advance fairly quickly through the minor league system. He fell to the second round primarily because of his commitment to Alabama.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

GB&U: All Star Edition

GOOD: The Game Itself. It was a sharply pitched, well defensed (for the most part), tensely played ballgame. Wish there were more like it in the regular season. J.D. Drew certainly had himself a nice game, homering and reaching base four times. Unsung heroes: George Sherrill, Orioles closer, throwing 2.1 scoreless relief innings and the Nats' Cristian Guzman, handling several tough plays at a position he'd NEVER PLAYED BEFORE.

BAD: Billy Wagner. He gave up the game-tying double to Evan Longoria and allowed one run on two hits in one-third of an inning.

UGGLA: Couldn't resist. Dan Uggla had perhaps the worst all star appearance in history, committing three defensive errors and going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and 6 men left on base. Brutal.

NEXT GAME: The Nats face the Atlanta Braves from Turner Field at 7:35 pm. Tim Redding (7-3, 3.85) versus Jair Jurrjens (9-4, 3.00).

Monday, July 14, 2008

All Stars: How'd I Do?

NL: 27 out of 32.

The fans corrected their early voting mistakes by removing Ken Griffey from the starting line-up and voting Ryan Braun in there, so I'll take the bite by projecting Griffey to the starters. For the hitters, I missed on Guzman, Tejada and Hart, selecting Jose Reyes and Wright as reserves, although Wright was named as an injury replacement. I had Rauch as the Nats rep. Figures one of the mistakes I made was for the team I cover. I still believe Rauch is the better pick to represent the Nats.

For the NL pitchers, I missed on Cook, Zambrano and Wilson, selecting Johan Santana, Matt Capps (injured after I picked) and Rauch. I took Santana over Cook and said as much thinking they would go with the bigger name, but I was wrong.

AL: 25 out of 32.

They did a number on me for the reserve hitters. I should have known they couldn't hold an all-star game with Jason Varitek. Others I missed were Carlos Guillen, Drew, Sizemore and Longoria (fans' pick). I selected Roberts, Pierzynski, Crawford, Magglio and Jose Guillen. Ordonez went DL'd after I picked.

For the AL pitchers, I did pretty good. I missed on Kazmir and Nathan, taking Mussina and Padilla. Padilla was just a big mistake, and he got hurt too. Not sure what I saw in him. I still don't quite understand the Kazmir selection though. There are any one of a dozen AL pitchers with comparable -- or better -- numbers.

GB&U: I'm Back (and another one bites the dust)!

So what happens when a blogger leaves town for 13 days and only posts two only-tangentially-related-to-baseball posts? Almost everyone stops reading!

Thanks to the few of you who checked in every day only to find: NOTHING! It's nice to know someone was looking for unfiltered content.

Now, back to the grind.

GOOD: Ronnie Belliard! Three homers and 10 RBIs since July 1. Granted, all three homers and 9 of 10 RBIs came in just two games. But still. By the way, if you had Belliard leading the Nats in homers at the All-Star break, come collect your winnings.

BAD: Can I cop out and say "Everything Else"? The Nats are 3-10 since I left for vacation July 1. They were shut out three times in the stretch. Guzman is now hitting in the 3-hole. Wow. The team is hitting .239/.314/.358. Basically, the team's overall average's look a lot like this guy's career numbers. Not good.

UGLY: I don't wish injury on anyone, especially the way this team has lost players. But the latest scheduled surgery doesn't look to affect the bottom line all that much. Wily Mo Pena is scheduled to have rotator cuff/labrum surgery in the next 7 to 10 days. The team will make an announcement along the lines of "Surgery successful, out 4-6 weeks" or some other nonsense, but I imagine we've seen the last of WMP this year, maybe for good.

NEXT GAME: Nats are off for the all-star break until Friday when they start a three-game series with the Braves in Atlanta. I think they, and all Nats fans, can use the break.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Greetings From Maui!

Just popped in to say "hi". Hi! Get it? We're in Hawai'i. The state code for Hawai'i is HI?!? It's a play-on-words!

Anyway, the Nats have lost six in a row, eight of their last 10. Finally home from a disastrous road trip and get shut down by Webb. Dukes out 4-to-6 weeks (6-to-8?) Can the all-star break come soon enough?

By the way, I did pretty good predicting the all-stars.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

So, I'm a Terrible Blogger

I have to admit, I have not had much of a chance to pay attention to the Nats while we're on vacation. I've glanced at sportscenter in the bars. I've had the cursory glance at the box score on line. But I have not really looked at anything any detail whatsoever.

It's tough to update a blog when you aren't watching any of the games.

What I've been able to ascertain is that the Nats are still losing, still getting injured, and still looking lost and somewhat hopeless. Bummer. I really hoped that they would go on a winning streak while we were gone, so at least the natives would have something to be excited about and maybe not pay attention to my lonely blog not getting updated. Alas, this is imply not the case.

The Nats lost again tonight, 3-2. Elijah Dukes, the only guy hitting, hurt himself slamming into a wall. And Felipe Lopez hasn't been traded. Sounds like just when I left.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

GB&U: A Win and Solid Debut

RESULT: Nats beat Marlins (finally) 9-6.

GOOD: Colin Balestar! Five innings of one-hit, three walk goodness. One earned run to go along with three strikeouts. Ronnie Belliard!!! Grand slam to back the rookie. Elijah Dukes with another home run and three more hits!

BAD: Steven Shell. One inning, three earned runs, two hits and a walk. He's getting hit every time up.

UGLY: Wily Mo Pena. 0-for-3. .215. One more time, with feeling.

NEXT GAME: Wednesday, get away day in Florida. Odalis Perez (2-5, 3.87) versus Ricky Nolasco (8-4, 4.05). Look at those ERAs and records and tell me again what's wrong with the Nats right now.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

For Your Edification

So I recently had someone ask me, "Why don't you write a game story for every game?" I've been toying with the idea for awhile now, but honestly, the answer is simple, really: It takes a lot of time. I also write for DC Sports Box, and when it's my responsibility to write the game story over there, I'll post it here too. Otherwise, I will post daily with the GB&U, which seems to be working pretty well, and bust in with any breaking news throughout the day.

That said, I'm going on vacation!

Cheryl and I are going to her high school reunion in Idaho. For the sake of modesty, I won't detail how many years Cheryl's been out of high school. If she wants to post it in a comment, that's up to her. She's been organizing the whole thing from here, so on top of being particularly busy with work, she's also been working 8 hours a day on reunion stuff -- she was in a class of over 500!

After the reunion, we're going to Maui for 6 days to get a little R&R. It's A LOT cheaper to fly to Hawaii when you're already on the west coast, plus we got a great deal three months ago. So Hawaii, here we come.

What does this mean to you, dear reader? I'm still going to try to post every day, but the possibility exists that a day or two may slip away. Please don't give up on clicking my link because I couldn't post. I want ALL of you to still be reading when I get back. Just because I won't physically be at the games doesn't mean I can't offer snarky commentary about them.

And who knows, when I get back maybe I'll take it upon myself to write game stories every day.

Thanks for your patience. Hope everyone has a tremendous - but safe - 4th of July.

GB&U: If the home team hits a walk off, and there's no one there to hear it...

RESULT: Nats lose to Marlins 6-5.

GOOD: Home runs by Elijah Dukes and Dmitri Young - back-to-back - in the fifth inning.

BAD: Jon Rauch. He's been doing the job all year long since Cordero went down, but tonight he got lit up. Homer in the bottom of the ninth to Hanley Ramirez to tie, homer to Josh Willingham in the bottom of the tenth to lose.

UGLY: Roger Bernadina. 0-for-5, 3 Ks. He's going to have some rough nights in the next few weeks, and this was certainly one of them.

NEWS: Pete Orr was returned to Triple-A Columbus to make room to activate Colin Balestar, Tuesday's starting pitcher, making his MLB debut.

INJURY UPDATE: Chad Cordero out for at leat this year, probalby most of next with a torn labrum. He's been hiding this all year long. Here's what Chico at WaPo had to say:
Chad Cordero was discovered today, after receiving an arthrogram, to have a torn labrum. He will miss the rest of the season -- at least. He had been down in Viera, Fla., trying to come back from the shoulder injury that's bothered him all season. Cordero likely had the tear -- to some degree -- all season. He had been troubled by his lack of progress during rehab, and the team had been looking for an explanation.
NEXT GAME: Tuesday in Florida against the Marlins. The aforementioned Balestar versus Mark Hendrickson (7-6, 5.93).