BOTTOMFEEDER BASEBALL BLOG

Dedicated to the constructive criticism of the Washington Nationals.

ALL ARTICLES AND PICTURES UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED ARE (C) DAVID W. NICHOLS

E-mail us at: natsnewsnetwork@gmail.com

Thursday, August 28, 2008

GB&U: Dodgers Dead In The Water

RESULT: Nats spank Dodgers 11-2.

GOOD: Cristian Guzman! Hits for the CYCLE!!! His career rebirth continues with a feat not accomplished in these parts since April 2005. Relatively recent history for a Cycle. Anyway, Guz went 4-for-5 with two runs and three RBIs.

Elijah Dukes! Two home runs, three runs and four RBIs! His moderate showboating on the second homer aside, these are the kinds of nights Nats fans dream of out of Dukes.

Ryan Zimmerman! 3-for-5, two runs scored. Zim's got the average up to .272. Maybe his shoulder is starting to feel less cranky on him. Still think we're going to see a completely different player in spring training. Oh, by the way...Ryan's only 23. Bob and Don reminded me of that tonight.

John Lannan! Another quality start, dominating after allowing a two-run shot to Manny in the first. 6 IP, 2 ERs, 4 hits, 3 BBs, 2 Ks, WIN! He's now 8-12, 3.92.

BAD: Not much to choose from. Have to hang it on Wil Nieves (0-for-4, K) Sorry Wil.

UGLY: The Dodgers. Whew, they stink. Getting swept by the worst team in baseball, losers of seven straight and nine straight overall on the road. They go into Arizona

NEXT GAME: Tomorrow the Nats welcome Atlanta for a three-game series. Odalis Perez (5-10, 4.21) takes on Jorge Campillo (7-6, 3.37).

PROGRAMMING NOTE: I will be on vacation as soon as I finish typing, and will return Monday afternoon. Cheryl has permission to post over the weekend if she likes. Have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend.

GB&U: Not Every Day You Beat a Legend

RESULT: Nats beat Greg Maddux and the Dodgers 5-4.

GOOD: Ryan Zimmerman. His first homer since May 17 (really?!?). Guz and Emilio! Two hits apiece from the middle infield. Lastings. RBI and SB. Tim Redding. Despite three solo homers given up, he had a another quality start. Joel Hanrahan. A four-out, one-run save with very little nervousness.

BAD: Saul Rivera. Two-thirds of an inning, one run on three hits and a walk. Joel had to bail him out in the eighth. Signs of wear on Sa-ool recently.

UGLY: Lastings Milledge. Got caught on the oldest trick in the book. After embarrassing Maddux the play earlier by taking third on a groundout when Maddux slipped and was a little bit late covering the base, the 17-time Gold Glover took his revenge.

A combacker took Maddux close to the third base line, and he looked at Milledge, then poised to throw to first to make the play. Milledge broke when Maddux' arm went through, but Maddux held the ball and Milledge was a dead duck. Lastings managed to get into a run-down, allowing Jesus Flores to advance to second, but it was a done deal. Maddux got his.

NEXT GAME: Tonight, looking for the sweep agaisnt the Dodgers. A pair of impressive rookies face off, with John Lannan (7-12, 3.95) on the hill for the Nats, facing Clayton Kershaw (2-4, 4.11) for L.A.

Here's the slideshow from last night's game:



All photos (c) C.Nichols 2008.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

GB&U: Now With More Happiness!

RESULT: Nats beat L.A. 2-1.

GOOD: Joel Hanrahan. Walks the tightrope to earn his fifth save. Lastings Milledge. Hits his 13th homer of the season, his sixth in August, and made a terrific diving catch in center field. Guz went 3-for-4 with an RBI.

Ryan Zimmerman. Despite alomst throwing two balls away (one to second, one to first), he made four double plays from third base and could have had an around-the-horn triple play if he'd throw to second instead of home on the botched play that allowed the Dodger's only run.

BAD: Lots of 0-fers last night. Wee Willie, Belly-yard, Jesus, Langerhans all went hitless. Derek Lowe was on last night, and made mince-meat of some of the guys.

UGLY: Lack of control. Balestar only walked one, but hit two batters -- in succession, no less. And Hanrahan had zero control of his 97 MPH heater, but managed to get Kemp and Ethier to swing anyway. Stuff like that will do that.

INJURY REPORT: Kearns down (15 DL for stress fracture in left foot--sayonara). Dukes up (1-for11 with one home run and one ejections arguing balls and strikes. Mid-Season form!).

NEXT GAME: Tonight against the sinking Dodgers. Tim Redding (8-8, 4.54) faces future Hall of Famer 353-game winner Greg Maddux (6-10, 4.25).

Nats Walk High Wire, Beat L.A. 2-1

Washington -- The Washington Nationals newly-appointed closer, Joel Hanrahan, had a rare one-run lead to protect in the ninth inning Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers. And though he struggled with his control and put two runners on base with only one out, he managed to wiggle free of his self-induced predicament to record the final two outs without incident to hold on to that precarious lead, earn his fifth save of the season, and deliver a victory for the home crowd, the first win at home for the Nationals in 23 days. The 2-1 win was shared with 26,110 faithful at Nationals Park.

Hanrahan was throwing gas all inning, but had very little control over where the ball would end up. His fastball routinely touched 97 MPH, and a closer with a heater like that can get away with a few things on occasion. Luckily for the Nats, this was one of those occasions. Hanrahan got SS Nomar Garicaparra to ground to third to start the inning, but gave up a single to 3B Casey Blake before walking pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney on five pitches to set up the dramatics. Despite running the count to three balls on each of the final two batters, Hanrahan managed to induce CF Matt Kemp into flying out to center and RF Andre Ethier to ground out to 3B Ryan Zimmerman, who had a very busy night himself, to end this contest.

The Nats really had little business being in a game this close, much less with the lead after eight innings. Los Angeles seemed to keep the bases clogged all night long against starter Collin Balestar, who gave up five hits, two walks and two hit batters in five innings. But Balestar came up with the outs when he needed them most, and limited L.A. to one earned run among all those base runners. Balestar earned his third win of the season against six losses, and his ERA stood at 4.70 following the game.

Ryan Zimmerman deserves much of the credit for playing Houdini last night, as the third baseman turned four double plays, including two with the bases loaded to end rallies. But it may have been the one double-play that got away that was the most important play of the night. In the fifth, Balestar hit Garciaparra and Blake before walking pitcher Derek Lowe to load the bases --all with no outs. Lead-off hitter Kemp then smacked a sharp grounder down the third base line. In one motion, Zimmerman backhanded the ball, stepped on third and threw home for what should have been a double play.

However, catcher Jesus Flores thought Zimmerman missed the bag and the play at home was a force-out, so he tagged the base instead of Garciaparra, who scored without a play. Flores then fumbled the ball as he tried to transfer from glove to throwing hand, and he never got the throw off to first to try to get Kemp. But with one out and runners on first and second, Balestar got Ethier to fly out to center and 2B Jeff Kent to ground to third to end the threat.

"Any ball that comes at that guy [Zimmerman] is an out, so you don't have to worry about that," Balestar said. "I was able to throw a couple of two-seams in to get them to hit the ball over there, and that's where you want them to hit it."

Washington's hitters had difficulty with Dodgers veteran starter Derek Lowe all night long. He pitched an eight inning complete game, allowing just six hits and one walk, but made two mistakes and the Nats made him pay. In the second inning, Lowe (L, 10-11) left a cutter to high in the strike zone and CF Lastings Milledge got enough of it, sending it just over the left-center field fence into the flower garden that lines the Dodgers bullpen area. It was Milledge's 13th home run of the season, and sixth in August. He has raised his batting average and on-base percentage about 20 points over that time period as well, up to .260 and .325 respectively. The Nats played small-ball to get their second run. 2B Emilio Bonifacio dumped a single into shallow center field, took second on Balestar's successful sacrifice, advanced to third on a Willie Harris ground out, and scored on all-star SS Cristian Guzman's fisted liner to left center. Guzman had three of the Nats six hits, and raised his average back up to .296.

Los Angeles -- active at the trade deadline, adding Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake -- have lost five in a row, seven of eight, and are 0-5 midway through a ten-game road trip that could very well end their playoff chase. They are now two games below .500 and three games behind the Arizona Diamondback in the N.L. West. Only Arizona's three-game losing streak gives the Dodgers hope that the D-Backs aren't going to run away in the season's final four weeks.

The Nats wish they had a pennant chase to occupy themselves with, but must take solace that their efforts in the season's remaining 30 games could help shape how the National League seeds for the playoffs.

Wednesday, the Nats host the Dodgers in the second of the three-game series. Tim Redding (8-8, 4.54) faces 353-game winner Greg Maddux (6-10, 4.25) for L.A.

NATS NOTES: The win runs Washington's record to 47-85. They are 26 games behind division leading New York.

Before the game, the Nats placed struggling RF Austin Kearns on the 15-day disabled list with a stress fracture in his left foot. The injury was believed to have occurred August 3, and Kearns is expected to miss two-to-four weeks.

Following the game, the team announced that they reinstated OF Elijah Dukes from the DL. Dukes missed the last 19 games with a right calf strain. He went 1-for-11 with a solo home run and three walks in six games during his rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus. The 24-year-old is batting .264 with nine doubles, two triples, six home runs and 23 RBI in 54 games with the Nationals. He owns a .364 on-base percentage and has recorded 10 stolen bases in 11 attempts. He has missed a combined 72 games during three DL stints this season.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

NATIONALS PLACE AUSTIN KEARNS ON DISABLED LIST

Fromteh Nats Press Release:

The Washington Nationals today placed right fielder Austin Kearns on the 15-Day Disabled List, retroactive to August 25, with a stress fracture of his left foot. Nationals Senior Vice President and General Manager Jim Bowden made this announcement.

Kearns is expected to miss two-to-four weeks with the injury which was originally sustained on August 3. He was examined yesterday in Washington, DC by orthopedist Dr. Edward Magur, who recommended rest and immobilization with a walking cast. This is Kearns’ second DL stint this season. He missed 38 games after having surgery to remove loose bodies from his right elbow on May 23.

Kearns has batted .217 with 10 doubles, seven home runs and 32 RBI in 86 games this season with Washington.

Did anyone know Kearns was hurt? Was this reported anywhere? Originally sustained August 3? He's been playing on a stress fracture for over three weeks?

Stephen Hunter, and Me, on Baseball

The Post's Pulitzer-winning movie critic, Stephen Hunter, wrote an essay today about baseball. It is pure genius, and if you haven't read it yet, here's the link. It's touching, insightful, obvious, subtle, subversive and genius.

He writes so much better than most, and so eloquently, what it means to be a baseball fan and how to cope with loving baseball. He takes the now-famous A. Bartlett Giamatti quote and derives even deeper meaning than Commissioner Giamatti even instilled.

It is difficult to be a fan of the current Washington Nationals.

Poor play, mismanagement, divisiveness and contention between the team and the city, continuous injury, scandal and investigation of the scouting department and General Manager, high prices for refreshments, exclusivity of certain sections of the ballpark for the privileged, and a stadium built to provide baseball as entertainment instead of letting the game serve as the primary focal point all are among the laundry list of challenges Nationals fans have to their enjoyment of the local team, for so long missing from the Nation's Capital.

I suppose I should add cranky blog proprietors to that list as well.

But Hunter's main point is correct: Baseball is hard on those who love it. And while I fully endorse his conclusion, I'm sure you have your own coping mechanism. But the moral is the same: One does what one has to in order to continue their love of the game. Some of us love by worship. Some love by immersion in statistics. Some love by monetary gain. Some love by collecting memorabilia. Some love by collecting memories, good and bad.

And some, like myself, and as Mr. Hunter advises, love by hating. And I think it may be an inherent trait, one born of a Know-It-All (guilty, I'm afraid). I hate the things I hate because if I were in charge, I would not do things that way and therefore they are wrong and I hate them. I know what's right and wrong. Others have some grasp of the concepts. Inevitably, though, others' knowledge of right and wrong is faulty, because mine is the only perfect right and wrong.

And that is why I hate. And why I continue to be a fan of the worst team -- and one of the worst-run teams -- in baseball. Because I know what's right. And by picking out and publicizing all the faults, and problems, and misdirections of the team it is my way of making those wrongs right, at least in my own head.

No wonder my daily column is called Good, Bad and Ugly. It's two-thirds negative.

Monday, August 25, 2008

GB&U: Cubs Take Rubber Match

RESULT: Nats lose 6-1 to Cubs.

GOOD: Austin Kearns. Put the Nats on the board with his 7th home run of the season. Want to know why the Nats are so bad this year? Check out this analysis on Runs Created by Fire Jim Bowden. Excellent work.

BAD: Jason Bergmann. 6.1 IP, 4 ERs, 4 hits, 4BBs, 6 Ks. He's a reliever. Get over it.

UGLY: Only 4 hits and one walk yesterday off Rich Harden, Carlos Marmol and Jeff Samardzija. In fact, the Nats got Harden into exactly ONE three-ball count before the 7th inning. That is not winning baseball.

INJURY UPDATE: Good news: Elijah Dukes is rehabbing in Columbus. Bad news: He was ejected for arguing balls and strikes yesterday.

NEXT GAME: Off-day Monday. Tuesday starts a three-game series with the Los Angels Dodgers. Collin Balestar (2-6, 4.99) takes on Derek Lowe (0-10, 3.89) for the Dodgers.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

GB&U: Back To Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

RESULT: Nats beaten by Cubs 9-2.

GOOD: Ryan Zimmerman. Zim had three singles on the day. That has to count for something. I guess asking Zim to hit a home run once in a while would be out of the question though.

BAD: There was enough to go around. Perez was stinky, giving up 5 runs -- 4 earned -- in 4.1 IP on 10 hits and 4 walks. How did he only give up five total? Marco Estrada was not nearly as successful as he was in his debut the other night, giving up three earned on Ramirez' second homer of the day.

UGLY: Today's RBIs? From Emilio! and the Man With Two Last Names. Enough said.

NEXT GAME: Sunday in the sunshine from Wrigley. Jason Bergmann (2-9, 4.50) versus Rich Harden (8-2, 2.04). Who do YOU like in that match-up?

Cubs Follow Script; Pound Nats 9-2

Chicago -- A day after the Washington Nationals had their way with the N.L. leading Chicago Cubs, the Cubbies returned the favor, riding the strong right arm of all-star Ryan Dempster and two home runs by slugging third baseman Aramis Ramirez to defeat the Nats 9-3 before 40,000-plus at Wrigley Field Saturday afternoon.

Dempster scattered eight hits in his seven and one-third innings, but gave up just one run -- on an RBI single by Anderson Hernandez -- notching his 15th win of the season against just five losses, setting a career-high mark for victories in one year. He walked just one batter and struck out four along the way. "I don't know. I'm not worried about that. It's a great personal accomplishment, but my motivation is one reason and one reason only and that's to get to the playoffs and win the World Series," Dempster said. "I will take 15 wins and a World Series and I'd be the happiest player in baseball."

Washington starter Odalis Perez was not nearly as sharp. He battled constant trouble, and allowed four earned runs -- all in the fourth inning -- on ten hits and four walks in four and one-third innings. Perez put multiple runners on each of the first three innings but remained unscathed -- until the Cubs finally made him pay in the fourth.

Perez got Dempster to ground out to start the inning innocently enough, but then walked OF Alfonso Soriano, no small feat. 2B Ryan Theriot followed with a single to center field, and Derrick Lee smacked a ball up the middle that scored Soriano. That brought Aramis Ramirez to the plate, and he deposited a 1-2 fastball over the ivy in left field for a three-run home run, all the offense the Cubs would need on this day.

"You can only work out of so many jams against such a good ball club," Nationals manager Manny Acta said.

Perez (L, 5-10, 4.21) found himself in another jam to start the fifth. OF Kosuke Fukudome reached on an error by second baseman Hernandez, and after Dempster sacrificed him to second, Fukudome scored on a Soriano double to left field. That extra base hit sent Perez to the showers, his day -- and that of the Nats for all intent -- over.

Ramirez would add another three-run home run off reliever Marco Estrada in the eighth inning, his 22nd of the season. Theriot reached on an infield single, Daryle Ward walked, and Ramirez drove another offering over the ivy, this one to right field. Mark DeRosa added his 17th homer of the season as well for Chicago.

Ryan Zimmerman had three singles in four trips to the plate, but could not find a batter behind him to drive him in today. Maybe the Nats should have saved a couple of those extra runs they scored Friday afternoon for this contest.

The series wraps up Sunday at 2:20 pm. Jason Bergmann (2-9, 4.50) matches up with Rich Harden (8-2, 2.04) for the Cubs.

NATS NOTES: The loss lowers the team record to 46-84, 26 games behind division leading New York. The Nats have lost thirteen of their last fifteen games.

OF Lastings Milledge took a Dempster fastball off his left hand late in the game, but seemed to be fine, despite some nasty bruising. "I'll be all right," said Milledge, who remained in the game but didn't have to bat again. "It's a little sore, but I've got to play."

OF Elijah Dukes, on the DL with a right calf strain, homered Friday night during his rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus. The Nats hope he can rejoin the team next week

Saturday, August 23, 2008

GB&U: Big Willie Style!

RESULT: Nats beat Cubbies 13-5. Two wins in a row.

GOOD: Big Willie! Two homers, six RBIs. Nuf said. Ronnie Belliard, hitting in the five hole, went 4-for-5 with a homer and two RBIs. Lead-off hitter Emilio! Bonifacio went 2-for-5 with two runs, Jesus Flores went 2-for-2 after pinch-hitting.

BAD: John Lannan. He earned the win, but was not sharp. He pitched six and one-third innings, allowed five earned runs on seven hits and three walks, and struck out just three. He's had plenty go the other way though, so he gets a pass for today.

UGLY: Zim. 0-for-4.

NEXT GAME: Little late getting this posted, so the next game is the current game. Nats currently losing 9-1 in the eighth. Ugh.

Cubs Can't Stop Willie; Nats Beat Cubs 13-5

Chicago -- The Cubs intentionally walked Willie Harris, for good reason. In a career day, Harris went 2-for-4 with two home runs, six RBIs and three runs scored, and the aforementioned intentional walk, the second of his eight big league seasons. Harris' big day carried the Washington Nationals over the Chicago Cubs, owners of the best record in Major League Baseball,13-3 before 40,513 sun-drenched Cubs fans at Wrigley Field.

The Nationals had a field day against four different Cubs pitchers. 1B Ronnie Belliard, hitting in the five hole, went 4-for-5 with a homer and two RBIs, lead-off hitter Emilio Bonifacio went 2-for-5 with two runs, Jesus Flores went 2-for-2 after pinch-hitting, and Aaron Boone had abases-clearing 3-run double pinch-hitting in the eighth inning.

The Nats fun on the base paths didn't start until the sixth inning, after the Cubs got up to a 4-0 lead. Cubs starter Jason Marquis lost control of the strike zone, walking Cristian Guzman and Ryan Zimmerman after allowing an infield single to Bonifacio. Lastings Milledge drove in the first run with a sacrifice fly, followed by a two-run double by Belliard. Austin Kearns walked and Harris hit his first homer of the day.

In the seventh, Bonifacio reached via infield hit again, stole second and scored on Guzman's base hit.

In the eighth inning against reliever Chad Gaudin, Belliard hit his second double of the day, Harris earned his intentional pass, and Flores muscled a single out to left field, loading the bases. Boone pinch-hit for reliever Steven Shell and delivered a double to deep center field, clearing the bases. The ninth inning provided some fireworks as well, with Belliard and Harris both going deep with the wind blowing out to left field.

John Lannan (7-12, 3.95) earned the win despite having rough patches of his own, but he's had plenty go the other way this year. He pitched six and one-third innings, allowing five earned runs on seven hits and three walks,striking out three. Shell, Saul Rivera and Jesus Colome kept the Cubs off the scoreboard the rest of the way.

Neal Cotts (0-2) took the loss for the Cubs. Game two of the three-game series is today at 1:05 pm. Odalis Perez (5-9,4.06) faces all-star Ryan Dempster (14-5, 2.92) for the Cubs.

NATS NOTES: The Nats meager two-game winning streak pushes their record to46-83, 26 games behind the division-leading New York Mets.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Aaron Crow Speaks!

If you want to hear Mr. Crow give the reasons why he turned down $3.3M- $3.5M and is willing to risk his career to pitch in an independant league until next year's draft, you can listen in tomorrow at noon to Baseball Digest Daily Live (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/baseballdigestdaily).

Eric SanInocencio, Ass't SID for the Gulf South League is the host, and he e-mailed me today and asked if I would help spread the word. Here's his e-mail:

For this week's show, we've booked former National top draft pick Aaron Crow. Aaron will be joining us in our second segment, and chat about everything that took place before the deadline that didn't allow him to get a contract completed with Washington.

The show as I mentioned starts at Noon ET, and Crow will join us right at 12:30. Our first half will feature Lars Anderson, one of the top prospects in the Boston Red Sox organization.

I'll post the link to the show below, and on that page you can archive any other show I've done.

I've had some great guests (Dayton Moore, Chad Durbin, Matt LaPorta, etc.) so feel free to check any of those out as well.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/baseballdigestdaily

Eric SanInocencio
Assistant Sports Information Director
Gulf South Conference

I have an engagement tomorrow during the day, but you can be sure I will listen to the chat once it's in the archive. It should be a very interesting listen.

Nats beat Phils 4-3; Halt 12 Game Skid

Philadelphia -- For one game, at least, the breaks fell to the Washington Nationals. It was the Philadelphia Phillies reliever that surrendered an eighth inning lead. It was the Phillies shortstop that could not handle a ground ball, allowing a go-ahead run to score. It was the Phillies second baseman that threw a ball away to lose a double play. It was the Phillies first baseman who struck out three times and left four runners on base. And it was the Phillies starting pitcher that allowed one earned run over six and two-thirds innings, only to be victimized by a lack of run support.

Granted, the Nats did a bunch of similar things that kept this game close as well, but on this night they made fewer mistakes than the competition and quietly got back into the win column.

The winning runs scored in the top of the eighth against Phillies reliever Ryan Madson (L, 3-2). Ryan Zimmerman led off with an infield single and Lastings Milledge singled to right field. 1B Ronnie Belliard put down a perfect sacrifice moving both runners up. Nats RBI leader Jesus Flores dumped a ball into shallow center field scoring Zimmerman, and slumping Austin Kearns muscled a ball up the middle for an RBI single, plating Milledge with what turned out to be the winning run. Manager Manny Acta called on closer Joel Hanrahan in the bottom of the eighth, and Hanrahan did his job, pitching two shutout innings to nail down his fourth save of the year.

"It's a big weight off our shoulders," Hanrahan said. "We knew people were writing about it everywhere. Now we want to win a couple more."

Things should not have been that close though. Reliever Saul Rivera had an atypical poor outing in the seventh, giving up two earned runs on three hits, including light-hitting catcher Carlos Ruiz' third home run of the season. The other run came courtesy of Ryan Zimmerman's two base throwing error (sixth of the season) on a Shane Victorino nubber and ground-out RBI by pinch-hitter extraordinaire Greg Dobbs. Rivera (4-5) was credited with his fifth blown save of the season, but was awarded the win as he was the pitcher of record when the Nats took the lead in the eighth inning after he had departed.

The game was scoreless through five innings, as veterans Tim Redding and Jamie Moyer matched each other pitch-for-pitch. Neither hurler factored in the decision, but both took advantage of slumping offenses to keep their respective teams in the game. Redding finished six innings, allowing one earned run on three hits and one walk, striking out five. He gave up a run in the sixth when OF Jayson Werth double to deep right field, and all-star 2B Chase Utley drove him in with a single up the middle.

Moyer was just as good, going six and two-thirds innings, allowing two runs -- one earned -- on five hits and three walks while striking out four Nationals. He was, however, victimized by his defense. Nats 2B Anderson Hernandez and SS Christian Guzman started the sixth inning off with back-to-back singles. After Zimmerman struck out, Milledge hit a would-be double play grounder to third, but Guzman made a hard "take-out" slide into second, and on the turn Utley fired the ball down the first base line, drawing 1B Ryan Howard off the bag for an error. Hernandez scored without a throw for an unearned run. In the top of the seventh with one out, Moyer walked Kearns and gave up a single to Willie Harris. After pinch-hitter Aaron Boone popped out to Howard, Hernandez pushed a ball up the middle that Jimmy Rollins got his glove on, but then lost in the transfer from glove to throwing hand. It was officially scored a hit, but the Phillies faithful scored the play an error and rained boos down on 2007's N.L. MVP, who is also in the midst of a 3-for-33 slump at the plate.

Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. After twelve straight losses, the Nats were perfectly happy that the boos were coming from the other side of the field last night.

Washington faces the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field for the first of a three-game series this afternoon at 2:20 pm. John Lannan (6-12, 3.81) takes the mound for the Nats against Jason Marquis (8-7, 4.67) for the first place Cubbies, who own the best record in baseball.

NATS NOTES: The win raises the Nats record to 45-83. They trail the New York Mets by 26 games in the N.L. East.

SS Cristian Guzman made his first start after missing six games with an injury to his left thumb.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

GB&U: One In A Row

RESULT: Nats beat the Phillies, 4-3. They stop the losing streak at 12.

GOOD: Tim Redding. 6 IP, 1 ER, 3 hits, 1 BB, 5 Ks. Joel Hanrahan. 2 IP, o runs, 2 hits 1 BB, 2 Ks. Anderson Hernandez played second, went 2-for-5 with a run and an RBI. Guz went 2-for-5. Zim went 2-for-5. Kearns bounced one up the middle for an RBI.

BAD: Saul Rivera. He was awarded the win, but was the least effective pitcher of the night for the Nats. He gave up two earned runs on three hits and a walk -- surrendering Carlos Ruiz' third homer of the year -- in his lone inning pitched.

Zim threw one down the line in the seventh allowing Shane Victorino to go from first to third, and scored on a ground out by Greg Dobbs before the Ruiz homer.

UGLY: Philly Phans. They booed Howard when he struck out. They booed Rollins when he ranged for a ball but couldn't come up with a throw. They said something nasty to Willie Harris in the left field corner after catching a fly ball by Pat Burrell.

NEXT GAME: Tomorrow afternoon at 2:20 pm at Wrigley. John Lannan (6-12, 3.81) takes the hill against Jason Marquis (8-7, 4.67).

GB&U: I Don't Have It In Me to be Funny Today

RESULT: Nats lose to Philies 4-0, loss number 12 in a row, shutout for the league-leading 19th time this season.

GOOD: Ronnie Belliard. He went 2-for-4. New bullpen fodder Marco Estrada pitched two scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and get this: NO WALKS! Keep it up, kid! EMILIO! 2-for-4 with a stolen base. Anderson Hernandez, making his first appearance as a National, went 3-for-4 hitting in the 8 hole.

BAD: No power! Nine hits, but only one extra base hit. Hard to go score when you need to string three singles together in one inning.

UGLY: Austin Kearns is almost an automatic out these days. Since his season high batting average mark of .231 (!) on August 5, he's gone 6-for-47 with one home run and 3 RBIs (both on that HR). His season numbers: 302 ABs, .215/.306/.305 with 6 HRs and 30 RBIs.

NEXT GAME: Another one today against the Phils. Tim Redding (8-8, 4.66) faces ageless Jamie Moyer (11-7, 3.64) at 7:05 pm from Citizen's Bank Park.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

GB&U: This One Goes to Eleven

RESULT: Nats beaten by Phillies 5-4, losing streak at eleven games.

GOOD: Ronnie Belliard. The Nats "slugging" 1B went 4-for-4 (with zero runs scored). Wee Willie Harris went 2-for-5 with his 10th home run. Jesus Flores. He played!

BAD: Emilio! 0-for-5, .216 for the season. Demonstrating the old axiom that you can't steal first base.

UGLY: Nothing particularly ugly, unless you count the awkward steal of third by 30-something journeyman 3B Greg Dobbs off Bergmann/Flores.

INJURY/ROSTER: Guz didn't play but the team assures us he's only a "day or two" away. Casto sent down to Columbus to make room for the "Man With two Last Names" Anderson Hernandez.

NEXT GAME: The misery continues tomorrow against the Phillies. Collin Balestar (2-5, 5.06) faces Brett "The Boxer" Myers (5-10, 5.02) at 7:05 pm from Citizen's Bank Park.

Monday, August 18, 2008

GB&U: Imperfect 10

RESULT: Nats lose to Colorado 7-2, another sweep, 10 in a row.

GOOD: Odalis Perez. He had another quality start, going six and allowing three earned. it was kinda ugly for a quality start, since he walked four, but he only gave up four hits. Unfortunately, one of the hits (Stewart's home run) came after an error and a walk. OK, so maybe it wasn't so good.

Wee Willie went 2-for-5. Milledge went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

BAD: Jesus Colome. The forgotten man reminded us of why he should be forgotten. 1 IP, 3 ERs, 2 hits, a walk and a HBP.

UGLY: Yet ANOTHER runner thrown out at home. This time it was Ryan Langerhans going on a "contact" play after the Nats had just taken the lead. It was the second out of the inning. Why do they keep doing this. This team is not good enough to be making bad out on the base paths, yet they seem to do it just about every game. In that situation, you made an out and traded Langerhans on third for Nieves on first. Does that sound like a good trade to you?

This quote, from Langerhans in the Post's write-up, kinda says it all about this team:

"When we're in a little stretch like this, everybody's trying to give it their all, and you're, like, 'I've got to do it' instead of almost like, 'I'm gonna do it,' " Langerhans said. "You just get up there and you want to get it done so bad sometimes it ends up working against you."

NEXT GAME: Monday's an off day, and Manny told the team to "have a barbeque" or something to get away from baseball for a day.

The Nats pick it back up Tuesday in Philadelphia, where Jason Bergmann (2-9, 4.51) tries to beat the streak against Joe Blanton (6-12, 4.79) at 7:05 pm from Citizen's Bank Park.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Weekend Round-Up: Nats Losing Streak at 10

Washington -- The Washington Nationals lost a pair of games over the weekend to the Colorado Rockies, extending their season-high losing streak to ten games, and traded Luis Ayala, one of their long-time bullpen pitchers, to a division rival.

Saturday: Starter John Lannan was not as sharp as normal, and the Rockies rode the arm of recently acquired starter Livan Hernandez (11-9) to beat the Nationals 13-6. The Rockies got a terrific performance from SS Troy Tulowitzki (three hits, three RBIs) and two hits apiece from 1B Garrett Atkins, RF Brad Hawpe and 3B Ian Stewart.

Lannan was rough from the start Saturday night. He gave up eight earned runs on seven hits and four walks with two strikeouts in four innings to take the loss. His record for the season is 6-12 with a3.81 ERA. Reliever Garrett Mock fared no better, allowing three earned runs on three hits and two walks in just two innings. The Nats got a good effort from Ronnie Belliard, who had three hit sand three RBIs. Lastings Milledge added three hits and scored twice.

Washington committed three errors, one each from Emilio Bonifacio,Ryan Zimmerman and Milledge. They also allowed four stolen bases, two each form Willie Tavares and Matt Holliday.

Sunday: Washington's losing streak reached ten games, as the Rockies had two big innings and the Nats offense was a no-show once again in the sunshine, with the final score 7-2. The Nats actually out-hit the Rockies on Sunday, but once again made bad outs on the bases and were otherwise unable to take advantage of having runners on base. Willie Harris, Pete Orr and Milledge all had two hits apiece as part of the ten-hit effort, but Ryan Langerhans was thrown out at home on a "contact" play in the second inning, and Emilio Bonifacio was thrown out trying to steal second base in the third.

Starter Odalis Perez (L, 5-0, 4.06) turned in a quality start,allowing three earned runs on four hits and four walks over six innings. The three runs came following an error by SS Pete Orr, a walk by Perez and three-run home run by 3B Ian Stewart. Colorado got four more runs in the eight inning off of Charlie Manning and Jesus Colome. OFs Brad Hawpe and Seth Smith both homered as well for the Rocks. All-star Aaron Cook (15-8) got the win, giving up only two earned runs on seven hits over five innings.

NATS NOTES: With the losses, the Nationals record stands at 44-81,24.5 games behind division-leading New York.

On Sunday, Washington announced a trade, sending RHP Luis Ayala to the Mets in exchange for a player to be named later, expected to be minor league SS Anderson Hernandez. Ayala was once the Nats most dependable reliever, but he has not been the same since surgery after an injury following the World Baseball Classic in 2006. Hernandez hit .301 for Triple-A New Orleans in 2007, but this season is hitting only .201 in441 bats for the Zephyrs.

Photo of Lannan (c) C. Nichols 2008.
Photo of Langerhans courtesy of Anthony Amobi, DC Sports Box.

Nationals Trade RHP Ayala to Mets

After some confusion with the press releases this morning from the team, MLB.com's Bill Ladson reports:

"The Nationals traded right-handed relief pitcher Luis Ayala to the Mets on Sunday morning for a player to be named later, but that player is expected to be infielder Anderson Hernandez.

Ayala requested the trade weeks ago because he wanted a change of scenery. He was going through a divorce and had other off-field problems.

Ayala has struggled this season, compiling a 1-8 record with a 5.77 ERA in 62 appearances.

Hernandez will join the Nationals on Tuesday against the Phillies. He will be a backup infielder for the remainder of the season."

At least the man with two last names is healthy and a legitimate shortstop, instead of having to run Ronnie Belliard and Pete Orr out there.

Ayala leaves the Nats/Expos organization after five major league seasons. His career record is 37-32 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. This year has been his worst as a pro though, going 1-8 , 5.77, 1.47 and his struggles recently have been worse than that. He's given up six earned runs over 6.1 inning in his last six appearances. He was once considered one of the best set-up men in baseball, but Tommy John surgery after his injury in 2006's World Baseball Classic has reduced his capacity and he has not been the same pitcher since.

Hernandez used to be a pretty decent prospect in the Mets organization, however, the luster has really fallen off of his star. He's hit over .300 several times in his seven-year minor league career, but this season is undoubtedly his worst. With Triple-A New Orleans, he's batting .201/.264/.306 with 5 HRs, 35 RBIs and 11 SB (with 7 CSs) in 441 at bats. Some of that can be attributed to the Mets yanking the starting 2B job from him last year in the Luis Castillo trade, but he's not made any reason for the Mets to regret their decision, despite Castillo's deflating numbers.

Anderson has not made an appearance for the Mets this season. He has a lifetime .139 average in 87 major league at bats.

GB&U: Number Nine, Number Nine...

RESULT: Nats lost to Rockies 13-6, ninth consecutive defeat.

GOOD: Ronnie Belliard. He went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and played SS/1B. Lastings Milledge. Despite another error in CF, he went 3-for-4 with an RBI.

BAD: John Lannan. For what it's worth, that was his worst outing as a big leaguer. We sat real close to home plate, and he had nothing. From the first pitch of the game you could tell. He had no location, no movement, nothing. Final line: 4 IP, 8 ERs, 7 hits, 4 BBs, 2 Ks. Throw this one out.

UGLY
: Tim Tolman. Sending Jesus Flores home in the sixth inning was unconscionable. He's arguably the slowest guy on the team, there's only one out, you've got the opposing pitcher on the ropes. Hold him and you've got second and third with one out. It's smart baseball. Tolman made a very poor decision, and now Flores -- the team leader in RBIs -- is day-to-day with a strained calf. It just keeps getting worse.

100-LOSS WATCH: 20 to go with 38 games remaining.

NEXT GAME: Today to close out the series with Colorado. Odalis Perez (5-8, 4.12) versus all-star Aaron Cook (14-8, 3.87).

Photo (c) C. Nichols 2008.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

More Crow Post-Mortem

GM Jim Bowden's pathetic attempt at spin today is a shoddy attempt at damage control. The crocodile tears he shed for the Post's Chico Harlan may sway the casual fan, but the sheer hubris and fortitude it took for him to detail the negotiations in the press like this, regardless if you believe him or not (I do not), is incredible. It is unprofessional and immature to the extreme. It's no wonder many of his peers don't return his phone calls. They know anything they say can and will be held against them in the court of public opinion. Bowden's "interview" with the Post today was a disgusting attempt to shift blame to the player and his agent, and the disrespect he shows Crow and his father (Bowden repeatedly refers to him as "the father", not by name) is shameful and embarrassing.


Keith Law, of Scouts, Inc. and ESPN.com, a former member of the Toronto Blue Jays front office and former writer for Baseball Prospectus knows the draft. It's what he does. And his independent opinion: Bowden blew it. Not just with Crow, but the whole draft. Here's the sad indictment from his most recent column.

"The Nationals' failure to sign Aaron Crow is yet another strike against the regime of embattled general manager Jim Bowden, whose name has popped up in the investigation into embezzlement of signing bonuses in Latin America.

In full-on spin mode, Bowden now is claiming that Crow and his advisors didn't give the Nationals any indication before the draft what it might take for Crow to sign (even though this information was common knowledge in the industry) and didn't provide a dollar figure until Aug. 12. If the Nationals genuinely didn't know what Crow wanted, it was either willful ignorance or the worst case of a signability analysis I've ever seen. And if they weren't willing to go much over slot, they could have just taken Arizona State's Brett Wallace (taken by the Cardinals at No. 13) or Long Beach (Calif.) high school hitter Aaron Hicks (taken by the Twins at No. 14), signed either for slot at No. 9 and made the plausible argument that they took the best player available.

The Nationals didn't do anything later in their draft to salvage this misstep. They gave back-of-the-first-round money to outfielder J.P. Ramirez (selected in the 15th round, 451st overall), who didn't make my top 75 prospects for the draft and ranked No. 155 on Baseball America's list (roughly a fourth/fifth rounder). They signed just two prospects off my top 75, none higher than catcher Adrian Nieto at No. 40, and nobody in Baseball America's top 50.

It's not a Houston 2007 disaster -- where the Astros didn't have picks in the first and second rounds, then failed to sign their third- and fourth-rounders -- but it's a significant problem for a team whose farm system was gutted under years of MLB-state ownership. The Nationals now will have two picks in the top 10 next year, an extremely expensive proposition, and in a draft class that is no stronger than this one. (In fact, a rough cut at the top 10 prospects for next year's draft would include at least five that I expect will be advised by Scott Boras: Stephen Strasburg, Grant Green, Dustin Ackley, Andy Oliver and Donovan Tate.)

It's a bad outcome for a franchise that needed another good draft to continue the farm system's comeback, which has already had unforeseen setbacks this year with the struggles of their top two picks from 2007, Ross Detwiler and Josh Smoker. "

Wow. This isn't one of us saying it. Although each of us that have a blog the last 24 hours have said all of this ourselves--except probably detailing just how much was too much money spent on Ramirez and Jones. So not only did the Nats not sign their first round pick, but they gave first round money to a 15th round pick that isn't in anyone's top 75 and projects as a fifth outfielder.

"Worst case of a signability analysis I've [Keith Law] ever seen."

Fire Jim Bowden.

GB&U: Failed Draft Pick Signing Edition

RESULT: Nats fail to sign first round draft pick RHP Aaron Crow, now under contract to the Fort Worth Cats.

GOOD: I fail to see the good out of all of this, unless it is the last nail in Jim Bowden's coffin. Actually, the real good of this is that the Nats will definitely have two of the top dozen picks in next year's draft, hopefully with Rizzo at the helm and Bowden far, far away.

How can a team dedicated to rebuilding through the draft fail to sign its most important pick? Moreover: How can a team draft a player that all along had no inclination of coming to DC, when there are multiple needs throughout the organization, such as:

1) Quality Middle Infield Prospects;

2) Power, especially at first base;

3) Overall depth.

It's clear that Crow never wanted to play for Washington, and he's taking a very big risk to his future to avoid that fate. He ultimately turned down an awful lot of money to play independent ball, trying to avoid injury, and re-enter the draft next year. Godspeed, Mr. Crow.

BAD: This really has to be the last straw for Bowden. He gets up on the podium on draft day, pronounces Crow is the next great National first-round draft pick, announces very clearly that the organization has given him all the tools necessary to have a successful draft, then doesn't sign the player over what will ultimately be less than $1M. Granted, that's a lot of money to you and me, but shouldn't be what stands in the way of getting your first round draft pick signed.

UGLY: The reaction around the Natosphere has been anger, disappointment, apathy and disgust. There's a real feeling among Nats fans that there's little direction, no cohesiveness and a general distrust of management right now, from the top (the Larners) all the way down to the field manager. For a team and organization that's becoming the butt of jokes across the league, this is the icing on a nasty tasting cake.

GAME RELATED CONTENT: Oh, by the way, the current team on the field lost their eighth game in a row last night, and now the team's best pitcher is talking in veiled messages at his center fielder.
From the Post's game story: "Said Redding, after it was done: "The most frustrating is when you know the inning should have been over and you give up runs to guys who shouldn't have been at the plate. "
It was a poor play on Milledge's fault, but for crying out loud, it was in the FIFTH FREAKING INNING. If this team could score more than three runs a games (a good night these days), you wouldn't be having this conversation.

NEXT GAME: Nats go for nine in a row tonight against the Rocks. Hard Luck John Lannan (6-11, 3.40) against old Nat Livan Hernandez (10-9, 5.94). Hernandez has been the easiest starting pitcher to get a hit off of in the Major Leagues this year. Over/under tonight for the Nats? I'll set it at 6.5.

So That's It

According to Baseball America's John Manual:

The Nationals signed 15th round pick J.P. Ramirez, a lefthanded-hitting outfielder with a smooth stroke and a Tulane commitment, for $1 million.

Ramirez is a solid consolation prize, but the Nats missed on their top pick. Washington failed to sign Missouri righthander Aaron Crow, according to industry sources. One source indicated the Crow camp, led by his agents the Hendricks Brothers, dropped their demands to $4 million from the $8-$10 million range, and that the Nationals came up from slot to $3.3 million, but that the two sides ran out of time and wiggle room and couldn’t work out a compromise.

So the Nats didn't sign their #1 pick, their prized possession, over $700K? Shocking. This ought to be a heck of a press conference trying to dance their way out of this one. Simply incredible.

"Be patient," they said.

"Our guys know the draft," they said.

"Crow's a front-line, once a generation pitcher," they said.

"Build through the draft and spend once we're competitive," they said.

They lied.

Friday, August 15, 2008

O's Sign Matusz: What's It Mean For Crow?

Here's the story about the Orioles signing first round pick, fourth overall, LHP Brain Matusz out of San Diego.

Here's the pertinent part:

The Orioles and first-round pick Brian Matusz have agreed to terms on a major league deal that would immediately insert him onto the club's 40-man roster and toward the top of the organization's list of pitching prospects, The Sun has learned.

Matusz, a left-hander out of the University of San Diego and the fourth overall pick in June's amateur draft, will receive a $3.2 million bonus.


So what does it mean for the Nats first rounder RHP Aaron Crow? Well, that's quite a bit less bonus money than he's reportedly demanding, but he got the Major League contract. Would Kasten relent if Hendricks lowered the up front bonus money that much? Would Hendricks blink if Kasten ponied up $5M - $7M and not the contract?

This is really fascinating stuff. I haven't seen any other signings yet today, so this could very well be the first domino of the six top-ten picks (and 10 of the top 30) that at the start of the day were still left unsigned.

GB&U: Swept Away Again (and goodbye Mets fans!)

RESULT: Nats lose to Mets 9-3. Sweep. Seven-game losing streak.

GOOD: Pete Orr. Pinch-hittin' Pete comes through with a triple to make things interesting for a little while. Good for you, Pete. It's nice to see him have a little reward for sacrificing his shot at playing for the Canadian Olympic team to stay with this terrible, almost historically bad last place team.

BAD: Collin Balestar. Mama said there'd be days like these. 6 IP, 5 ERs, 4 hits, 5! BBs, 3 Ks, 2 HRs. For the season he's 2-5, 5.06. He looked good first time through, but lost something the second time through the line-up. Granted, the Mets can hit. But you can't expect to have success walking Argenis Reyes (.239) and Fernando Tatis three times!

UGLY: Mets fans. They apparently invaded the Ladies' Night tent pre-game last night, then committed a fan interference taking a David Wright foul ball from in front of Austin Kearns in the RF corner. And I don't know about the upper deck, but the lower bowl was crawling with them. I know it's an inherent problem in DC, but it still sucks.

INJURY: Guzman sat with lingering soreness in the bad thumb. Flores had a tummy ache. Gonzo finally put on the DL, with Boone returning from injury purgatory.

NEXT GAME: Tonight against the Rocks. Tim Redding (8-7, 4.61) hosts Jorge de la Rosa (5-6, 6.28) in game one at 7:35 pm from Nationals Park. See you there. Not too many Rockies fans in DC.

Photo (c) C. Nichols 2008.

Schneider, Mets Continue Pounding Nats, 9-3

Washington -- Brian Schneider and Carlos Delgado each hit home runs off Washington Nationals starter Collin Balestar, and the New York Mets took a one-game lead in the N.L. East over the Philadelphia Phillies as a result of their 9-3 victory over Washington Thursday night before 31,058 patrons at Nationals Park. Washington managed only six hits against Mets starter Oliver Perez and a trio of relievers. It was Washington's seventh straight loss.

Balestar was not sharp at all last night, as he allowed five earned runs on four hits and five walks in six innings. This is the second night in a row that walks have really hurt the Nationals' starters, as Jason Bergmann allowed six walks in Wednesday's start. Balestar took the loss, lowering his record to 2-5 and raising his ERA to 5.06. Balestar has yet to reach the seventh inning in any of his eight starts for the Nats. Last night was a season high for him in walks, and tied a season high in earned runs allowed. He also allowed five earned runs against Cincinnati on July 6, his second start.

The Washington rookie cruised through he first three innings, allowing no hits and just one walk, but the wheels came off in the fourth and things just got worse in the fifth. Mets OF Argenis Reyes led off the fourth inning with a single to left center field, and David Wright followed with a double to left that moved Reyes up to third. Carlos Delgado grounded to SS Ronnie Belliard, starting in place of Cristian Guzman, who was a late scratch with lingering soreness in his left thumb, and Reyes scored. Carlos Beltran drove a sacrifice fly to center that scored Wright on the next play, and the Mets took a 2-0 lead. In the fifth, OF Fernando Tatis walked on four straight balls, and Schneider drilled a 1-0 fastball to left center for his third home run of the season.

"This is the big leagues and guys make adjustments," Washington manager Manny Acta said. "That second time through the lineup, it looked like they made adjustments."

The Mets picked up another run in the sixth, as Delgado hit his 26th home run to straight-away left field, and the Mets held a 5-0 cushion.

Washington attempted to make a fight of it though. In the bottom of the seventh they finally got to New York starter Oliver Perez (W, 9-7, 3.91). Austin Kearns led off with a soft liner to center, but was erased on Aaron Boone's force out. C Wil Nieves walked, moving Boone up to second. Willie Harris fouled out for the second out, and Acta called for Pete Orr to pinch-hit for reliever Garrett Mock. Orr has been making the most of his time with Nats recently, and he has every right to relish his time with the team as he sacrificed a spot on Canada's Olympic team to remain with the last-place Nationals. Orr came though again last night, as he tripled to right field, driving in Boone and the slow-footed Nieves all the way from first base. Orr then scored on Emilio Bonifacio's bunt single -- not quite a suicide squeeze, but close enough -- and the Nats had cut the lead to 5-3. Unfortunately, that's as close as they could get.

"We had momentum for a little bit," Orr said. "But they did a good job of shutting us down the next three innings."

The Nats got two walks from Lastings Milledge and Austin Kearns in the bottom of the eighth, but Boone struck out and Nieves grounded out to end the inning without further incident. Milledge went hitless, ending his career-best 14-game hitting streak.

New York added four runs in the top of the ninth against closer Joel Hanrahan on a Damion Easley RBI single and errors on ground balls by Belliard and Bonifacio. Only two of the four runs charged to Hanrahan were earned.

Friday night Washington hosts the Colorado Rockies for the start of a three-game set. Tim Redding (8-7, 4.61) squares off with Jorge de la Rosa (5-6, 6.28) in game one at 7:35 pm from Nationals Park.

NATS NOTES: The loss drops Washington to 44-78 and are 21.5 games behind now division-leading New York, who move to 65-56 with the win. The Nats are now two games ahead of the Seattle Mariners and three ahead of the San Diego Padres for the worst record in the Major Leagues.

As of this post, the Nats have still not signed their first round selection from this year's Amateur Draft, RHP Aaron Crow from University of Missouri. Crow's agent, Randy Hendricks, issued a statement yesterday that Crow had signed a contract with the Independent League Fort Worth (TX) Rock Cats and will play there this season if their demands for an over-slot bonus and a Major League contract are not met. It is believed that Crow and Hendricks are looking for a bonus in the $5MM - $8MM range. MLB recommended slot bonus for the #9 pick is $2.15MM.

SS Cristian Guzman (thumb) and C Jesus Flores (stomach virus) were scratched from Washington's lineup. Guzman was originally listed with the starters but was a late scratch.

The Nationals activated INF Aaron Boone from the disabled list and placed SS Alberto Gonzalez on the DL. Gonzalez had lingered on the Nats bench for eleven games with his glut injury before finally being relegated to the DL.


Photo of Balestar (c) C. Nichols 2008.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mr. Oppenheim's Article, Part II

Gabe Oppenheim replied to my comment on his article this morning, and invited me to call him to talk about things. We then exchanged several e-mails and did eventually have our conversation. He gave me permission to paraphrase and use some of his remarks in his e-mails to explain his perspective, but declined to answer directly by commenting on my blog or as a comment to his own story on the Post.

I will start by saying that I believe him to be sorry about the way his article was perceived. But he also admitted that he really doesn't understand how or why people are misinterpreting his story. He said that he understands fan loyalty and passion and thought his article conveyed that, and not the condescending, mocking tone that I, and many others, perceived.

He stated his article was about the certain men at that certain table that he quoted, but readily admitted he did a poor job explaining that in the article. He even mentioned he had some filler at the end about the little boy that got the trivia contest right and won tickets, but that it was "trimmed" by his editor.

He stated in his opening e-mail:

I'm sorry if the story in any way misrepresented the scene. To be perfectly honest, I'm a huge baseball fan and as such, I have great, great respect for fans who follow teams -- especially ones who follow bad teams.

-snip-

I assure you I didn't came in with an intention to mock. I think the words I use in the piece can be taken of two ways: as indicators of the table's ineffaceable dignity, despite the losses, or as sardonic tweaks.
When pressed on the issue of categorizing Nats fans as "men, mostly middle-aged", he replied:

"You are obviously right that Nats fans aren't all middle-aged men, and my first graph is deceptively constructed (not intentionally). I realize now that it seems as if I'm characterizing the whole place, when really I was trying to characterize only the men at the table -- when really, I wanted the article to be ABOUT only the men at my table. But that doesn't come through, and it's my fault.

I did say that the 70 in attendance were "fanboys of various ages," which was supposed to cover the rest of the place. The problem became that people misinterpreted "fanboys" to be a term of mockery and male chauvinism; I assumed women could be subsumed under "fanboys," too, just as they can be under the phrase "you guys.""

We talked about the use of the term "fanboy" and it's generally negative connotation in the sporting world, but again, he didn't understand that and didn't feel the term was negative. And since I am not female, I won't speak to the phrase "you guys" as being insutling to women, but will allow the women who read this tell me if they are insulted that a writer for the Washington Post thinks it's ok to label women as "you guys" and "fanboys".

What is still troubling to me is that after trading e-mails and speaking for about 10 minutes, he still didn't understand why I, and others were upset. He was sorry that we were, and time and again stated that was not his intention, but he still didn't get it. It's not the references to old allegiances that people took exception to. It speaks more to the way the whole theme of the article seemed to belittle the subjects of the story.

He kept saying that it wasn't his intention, but that's obviously the perception.

But there is a larger point. The Post sent a writer from the Style section to cover a sports event, and Mr. Oppenheim did not understand my frustration at all about that distinction. He said,"They wouldn't send me to do a game story." But why not? They have interns write gamers. Why not someone from the Style section. Do you think they'd send Chico Harlan to write a story about the American Urological Association's yearly exhibition?

Mr. Oppenheim also admitted to me that he was unaware of the long-time problems fans have had with the Post's coverage of the Nationals, something he now is completely submersed in.

Here's what it boils down to: the Post sent a Style Reporter with no institutional knowledge to cover a baseball story and he wrote an article that had absolutely nothing to do with why the event was being held and many Nationals fans found it at least troubling, if not down-right insulting. And the author, though honestly sorry for the way his article was perceived, doesn't quite understand why they feel that way.


Photo (C) C. Nichols 2008.

Open Letter to Gabe Oppenheim, Washington Post

Gabe Oppenheim of the Washington Post attended the Q&A event with John Lannan at the ESPN Zone yesterday, and he must have attended a different event than I did. Apparently, all he saw was middle-aged men giving pathetic worship to even bigger losers--the home team. What shame! Being a fan of a losing team. You can read Mr. Oppenheim's words here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/13/AR2008081304030.html

Even the title "Nats Don't Even Need a Hit to Reach Fan Base" is condescending. How did this get past the editors? I'll tell you why: THEY DON'T CARE. The game story wasn't even on the front page of the section. This is the respect the Major League Baseball team in Washington, DC gets from the local paper. A 24-year-old beat writer on his first real job, a couple of interns, and a hack from the Metro section writing about losers that root for other losers.

Below is my open letter to him, which I posted under the comments to his article. I suggest if you feel the same after reading his article to leave a comment as well.


Mr. Oppenheim,

I was at the event at ESPN Zone yesterday, and your report is misguided at best and disingenuous at worst. This event was attended by a wide variety of Nats fans, adult men, women, teenagers, children; everyone.

The Post's coverage of the Nationals has been much-maligned and criticized, but this is the first time a Post article has outright insulted the fan base. The condescending tone of your article implies that the true Nats fan is a pathetic loser that roots hopelessly for other losers--the only thing missing from your article was a reference to these men getting out of their pajamas and their mother's basements to attend the event.

You so obviously had an agenda when writing the article, since you ignored to speak with--or even mention--any number of the female fans, or the children who asked questions of one of their heroes, or the teenagers in the back of the room that had come up from their group party in the lower lever of the ESPN Zone to see a Major League player speak.

Ask your photographer that was there, she got all our names and hometowns for the pictures she took that never made it into the article since you ignored that section of the audience.

Your article is an embarrassment to what was once a proud, local sports page, but unfortunately now typical of the lack of coverage the Nationals receive. If a visitor from another town picked up yesterday's sports section, they wouldn't have even known there was a local MLB team here, since there was no mention of the only major sports team in season on the front page of the section. There were Olympics stories, and the obligatory Redskins story--but no mention of the Nats. Even when the Wizards and Capitals were truly pathetic, their game stories were on the front of the section. Below the fold maybe, but at least there.

The Nats are bad, but not invisible. And despite your misleading article, they have a passionate, diverse fan base; one that deserves respect, not ridicule.

Dave Nichols
Bottomfeeder Baseball Blog


Gee, look at the diverse crowd at the event yesterday. Women, children, teenagers. Oh hey, even a couple of middle-aged men were there too!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

GB&U: Rock Bottom?

RESULT: Nats lose 12-0 to Mets, shut out for league-leading 18th time. Sixth straight loss.

GOOD: Nothing. Absolutely positively freaking nothing. They were one-hit by a pitcher coming off the disabled list. They forced in a run by walking the starting pitcher. They gave up a base hit to a relief pitcher. They gave up 11 walks total. In the 8-run 3rd the Mets got four hits and five walks. A routine ground ball that would have halved the 8-run inning went right between the recently re-signed shortstop's legs. The batting averages of the three pinch-hitters? .257, .217 and .198. They have a guy on the bench that CAN'T EFFING PLAY and hasn't for NINE DAYS but yet still has not been put on the disabled list. WHO RUNS THIS TEAM?!?

BAD: See above. You know how bad it was? The Mets player of the game, recently called-up Daniel Murphy's bio page doesn't have a picture up yet, just a silouette of an anonymous player. Yuck.

UGLY: Jason Bergmann. Terrible. Terrible. Terrible. The numbers don't even tell the story. 3 IPS, 10 runs, 6 earned, 8 hits, 6 walks, 1 (one) strikeout. Simply terrible.

Bonus Ugly: Manny Acta. Manny, you're losing me. You created a stir last night arguing a call that was correct, then tonight when the first base umpire VERY CLEARLY missed the call on the first batter of the game, you sit there on your hands and do nothing. There's a reason these calls keep going against the Nats: You continue to do nothing when you have a right to speak out, and the umps have no fear of retribution or threat of being embarrassed in front of the crowd because you won't come out of the dugout. Being the manager of a major league team is an interactive position. You have to make your presence known. It's called "gravitas".

NEXT GAME: Tomorrow night against these same Mets. Rookie Collin Balestar (2-4, 4.66) faces Oliver (no relation) Perez (8-7, 3.90).

It's also Ladies' Night. Be nice to the ladies.

Photos of Willie Harris' Great Catch Last Night

Courtesy of Anthony Amobi, fellow DC Sports Box writer, photographer and baseball junkie, here are a couple pictures in succession of Wee Willie's great catch last night. Enjoy...





Nats Fall in 4-3 Nail-Biter to Mets

Washington -- When pinch-hitter Ryan Langerhans homered off of two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana in the bottom of the seventh inning last night, it looked like the Washington Nationals were right back in it, having tied the game at three runs apiece. But just as quickly as the Nats evened things up, they let things get away, as the New York Mets used two singles, a walk and a hit batter to re-take the lead, and held on to defeat the Nationals 4-3 before a decidedly split crowd of 32,186 at Nationals Park Tuesday night.

The top of the eighth inning proved to be the crucial portion of last night's game. To that point, starter Odalis Perez and reliever Steven Shell combined to hold the Mets line-up to three runs on eight hits over seven innings. Manager Manny Acta, who would have a busy inning, summoned much-used and normally reliable Saul Rivera to pitch the eighth, by-passing ousted set-up man Luis Ayala, who has struggled much of the season and particularly of late. Rivera started the inning allowing back-to-back singles to Mets 3B David Wright and CF Carlos Beltran. After striking out 1B Carlos Delgado, Rivera faced LF Fernando Tatis in a pivotal play. Rivera got Tatis in a 3-2 count and appeared to have struck out Tatis on a attempted checked swing. First base umpire Mike Reilly waived his arms across his chest with the familiar "safe" call however, deciding that in fact Tatis did check his swing and awarded him first base, loading the bases in the process.

That brought Mets 2B Damion Easley to the plate. Easley took a strike and swung through the second pitch to go 0-2. Rivera (L, 3-5, 3.51) then wasted one for ball one, then tried to come inside with a breaking ball that didn't break, and the ball glanced off the top of Easley's batting helmet, forcing in the deciding run. Acta came out to argue, vociferously, that the ball hit the bat first on the play and that the play should have been called a foul ball. But after deliberating with all four umpires, home plate umpire Rob Drake concluded that his first call was the correct one, and replays after the game confirmed his decision. Acta spent a few moments arguing, his most animated display all season, probably stemming from the missed check swing and a close play on the bases that went against the Nats earlier in the game. It was to no avail, though, and Acta managed to not get tossed for his display.

"I just thought the ball hit the bat, but they got it right," Acta said. "It is the human element of the game."

But after the way the Nats went quietly in the eighth and ninth innings against the beleaguered Mets bullpen, maybe he wished he had said the "magic word" and earned his first ejection of the season.

Nats starter Odalis Perez went six innings and allowed three earned runs on eight hits and one walk, striking out five. Steven Shell and Joel Hanrahan both pitched a scoreless inning. Johan Santana went seven innings and gave up three earned runs on eight hits and two walks to earn his tenth win of the season, running his record to 10-7, 2.89. He has not lost since June 27. Pedro Feliciano threw a perfect ninth inning to earn his first save of the season for the Mets.

Game two of the three-game series is Wednesday night at 7:10 pm. Jason Bergmann (2-8, 4.13) faces John Maine (9-7, 4.13) for the Metropolitans.

NATS NOTES: The loss drops Washington's record to 44-76, 20.5 games behind division leading Philadelphia. The Mets find themselves one game behind the Phillies and a half-game ahead of the Florida Marlins in the competitive N.L. East.

OF Lastings Milledge extended his career-best hitting streak to thirteen games with a sixth-inning bunt single.

GB&U: Can't Scratch Fever

RESULT: Nats lose nail-biter to Mets 4-3.

GOOD: Odalis Perez. He recovered nicely after allowing two in the first to settle down and keep the team in the game. He went six innings, allowing 3 ERs on 8 hits and one walk, striking out 5. Ryan Langerhans! Pinch-hit home run. YAY!

BAD: Emilio! 0-for-5 with 3 Ks. Might have to move him down for a while to get comfortable again. Looked real awkward in last at bat.

UGLY: The Umpiring. First base ump Mike Reilly missed a call on Guzman and the critical missed strike on what was called a check swing by Tatis in the pivotal seventh inning to set up the phantom hit by pitch that forced in the winning run.

And Manny, if you're going to blow up for the only time all season, you should, um, have it right. A caller post-game had it right: if you don't let the umpires know you're willing to go out and make yourself a pain in the ass to them, they have no impetus for getting the call right since they don't have to worry about you coming out and making them look bad. Manny, where were you on the blown checked swing?

NEXT GAME: Wednesday against the Mets. Jason Bergmann (2-8, 4.13) takes on John Maine (9-7, 4.13) Gee, identical ERAs, much different won-loss record. Still think wins is a good way to evaluate a pitcher's value. Nah, me either.

Monday, August 11, 2008

GB&U: It Comes and It Goes Just as Quickly

RESULT: Nats lose to Brewers 7-1, swept in four-game series.

GOOD: Willie Harris went 2-for-5. Ryan Zimmerman went 2-for-4. Luis Ayala rebounded with a perfect inning pitched. Way to keep your chin up, Luis.

BAD: Garrett Mock. He got pounded in his spot start. 4.2 IP, 4 ERs, 5 hits, 3 BBs, but 9 Ks. That's right, 9 of his 14 outs were strikeouts.

UGLY: The whole darn weekend. Getting swept is never fun, but at least it was against the second best team in the NL and on the road, away from the legions of fans that flock to Nationals Park but apparently don't watch the team on the TV. Plus now the news that a former low-level scout is the head of a major internet gambling ring. Ew.

DRAFT PICKS: At least the Nats inked their third and fourth round draft picks, SS Daniel Espinosa and LHP Graham Hicks, to go along with second round pick OF Destin Hood and recently signed 5th rounder C Adrian Nieto. All that's left is to get the #1 pick, RHP Aaron Crow, to agree to terms. This one's liable to go down to the wire, which is this Friday, August 15, at midnight eastern.

NEXT GAME: The Nats return home to face their division rival New York Mets this week. These are important games for the Mets, who find themselves tied with Florida 2.5 games behind the Phillies in the division and 5.5 games behind Milwaukee for the wild card.

Tomorrow night at 7:10 pm Odalis Perez (5-8, 4.10) takes on Johan Santana (9-7, 2.85) from Nationals Park.

Just great...

Every bit of good news with this team (draft pick signings) comes with bad news. This ESPN.com article details how a former Nationals scout was a bookie for a major internet gambling syndicate. Just great.

Are there any more reasons not to just clean house of Jim Bowden? Everything he touches turns a familiar color of brown. Even his low-level bird-dog scouts are slimeballs. He makes it really difficult to be a fan of this team.

Nats Sign 3rd and 4th Round Picks

It's all starting to come together...here's the team press release. This leaves first round pick RHP Aaron Crow as the only unsigned pick of the top five selections.

NATIONALS AGREE TO TERMS WITH SHORTSTOP DANIEL ESPINOSA & LEFT-HANDED PITCHER GRAHAM HICKS

The Washington Nationals agreed to terms with shortstop Daniel Espinosa and left-handed pitcher Graham Hicks, their third and fourth-round selections in this year’s First-Year Player Draft. 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.

The 21-year-old Espinosa is a plus defensive infielder who hit .309 with 13 doubles, six triples, four home runs and 37 RBI as a junior this season at Long Beach State (CA), while compiling a .392 on-base percentage and earning an honorable mention nod on the Easton Big West All-Conference Team. Prior to his junior campaign, Espinosa was the starting shortstop and won a silver medal for Team USA in the 2007 Pan American Games.

A two-time All-Big West honoree, he was named the conference’s Freshman of the Year after batting .281 with 19 extra-base hits, 31 runs scored and 23 RBI as a college rookie. He batted .319 with a team-best seven home runs, 44 runs scored, 13 doubles, four triples and 40 RBI as a sophomore. The switch hitter graduated from Mater Dei High School (CA), where he lettered all four years and was twice recognized as an All-League selection. As a high school junior, he was a starter and batted .483 for the 2003 US Youth National Team that won a gold medal in Taiwan.

Hicks, 18, is coming off a spectacular career at George Jenkins High School (FL), which included a 15-2 record and 0.41 ERA with 155 strikeouts in 119.0 innings over his final two seasons. The 6-foot-5 southpaw dominated his competition as a senior, going 8-1 with a 0.24 ERA and earning a spot as a FACA Senior All-Star. He received an All-State honorable mention as a junior, compiling a 9-1 mark with a 0.53 ERA en route to a district title. Hicks led his AAU team to a 2007 national championship in the World Wood Bat Association’s 18-and-under division.

Nats Lose Heartbreaker to Brewers in 13th Inning 5-4

Milwaukee -- After Friday and Saturday night's shut-out losses, some of the Washington Nationals bats finally arrived in Milwaukee Sunday afternoon. The Nats had eleven hits and two home runs, by Lastings Milledge and Austin Kearns, but could still only manage to score four runs and although it took 13 innings, the Nats fell to the Brewers for the third straight day, by the score of 5-4. The loss wasted six innings of one-hit ball by starter John Lannan.

It only took five pitches in the bottom of the 13th inning to decide the Nats fate. Luis Ayala had been brought on by manager Manny Acta to start the inning, after shut-out relief performances by Joel Hanrahan, Jesus Colome and Charlie Manning. Ayala faced muscular slugger Gabe Kapler, who had gone 0-for-6 to that point in the game. Ayala got Kapler into a 1-2 count, but couldn't close out the hitter, and after taking another ball, Kapler picked out one he liked and drove it over the fence in left field, prompting a celebration of his teammates and the 42,423 fans at Miller Park. It was Kapler's first walk-off hit of his career. Kapler, recently turned 33, continued his playing career this season after managing for a Red Sox affiliate last season. He is hitting .304 with 12 home runs for the Brewers this season and is proving a very valuable bench player for a contending team.

Ayala's season-long troubles continue. He's allowed five earned runs in his last three appearances, covering one and one-third innings pitched. The loss lowers his season record to 1-8 with a 6.04 ERA. Worse yet, it seems he's lost the confidence of his manager.

"We can't even hide him now," Washington manager Manny Acta said. "He comes into situations like this and he's just not making pitches."

Nats starter John Lannan once again ends up in hard luck. He pitched six innings, allowing one unearned run and just one hit, walking five and striking out six. The unearned run came against him in the 6th inning, his last inning of work. Kapler reached on a fielding error by 3B Ronnie Belliard, took third on an infield single that glanced off 2B Emilio Bonifacio's glove and scored on a sacrifice fly by all-star Corey Hart.

"This guy had a no hitter going into the sixth inning without his best stuff," Acta said. "He ran his pitch count with those five walks, but we're so happy for this kid. We've got a pitcher here. He's got four pitches and he can throw them for strikes."

The Washington hitters went out in the eighth inning against former all-star closer Eric Gagne' and grabbed the lead for the Nats on Kearns two-run shot (6) and Milledge's 12th home run of the season. Milledge has hit five home runs in August already and is riding an eleven game hitting streak.

The lead was short-lived though, as normally reliable Saul Rivera walked two and gave up an infield single before allowing a three-run double to Brewers back-up catcher Mike Rivera. Rivera has 54 at bats this season and just six extra-base hits. No matter though, as his hit tied the game at four to set up the extra innings drama.

Washington looks to get back in the win column today to break a three-game losing streak and avoid the sweep against the Brew Crew. Garrett Mock (0-2, 4.91) makes today's 2:05 pm start against David Bush (6-9, 4.50) for Milwaukee. Milwaukee has the second best record in the N.L. and trails the Chicago Cubs by four games in the N.L. Central. They lead the wild-card race over the St. Louis Cardinals by three games

NATS NOTES: Washington's record is now 44-74, last in the NL East and trails division leading Philadelphia by 20.5 games.

GB&U: Muscled Out in Milwaukee

RESULT: Nats fall to Brewers 5-4 in 13 innings.

GOOD: John Lannan. Six innings of one-hit ball. This guy can't buy a break.

Lastings Milledge. He's been on a tear this week. Sunday he went 3-for-6 with a home run and 2 RBIs. Ryan Zimmerman went 3-for6, Ronnie Belliard went 2-for-5 and Cristian Guzman went 2-for-6. Austin Kearns hit his monthly home run.

BAD: Emilio! Bonifacio went 0-for-6 and is hitless in his last 17 at bats. Also, our pinch-hitters went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.

UGLY: Luis Ayala. Now that Wily Mo is gone, do we need to re-name the "Ugly" award? One batter faced. One home run allowed. One Loss. ERA stands at 6.04. This is what his manager had to say about him after the game:

"We can't even hide him now," Washington manager Manny Acta said. "He comes into situations like this and he's just not making pitches."

That ain't good.

NEXT GAME: Nats try to avoid the 4-game sweep at 2:05 eastern, Garrett Mock makes the start (0-2, 4.91) facing David Bush (6-9, 4.50)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

GB&U: Shooting Blanks

RESULT: Nats shut out by Brewers, 6-0.

GOOD: Ronnie Belliard. Only Nats to have more than one hit in Ben Sheets' 5-hit shut out.

BAD: Nats Bats. They've all gone quiet against two of the top starters in the N.L. the last couple of days. Really shows the value of having legitimate Number One starters, especially if you've got two of them. If the Brewers hang on and make the playoffs, they'll be tough.

UGLY: Tim Redding. Redding has been the rock of the Nats staff all year, but this one was a stinker. 5 IP, 5 ERs, 7 hits, 5 BBs and three home runs. Redding's not the type of pitcher that can play around with walking guys. He did not have his "good stuff" tonight.

NEXT GAME: Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee. Hard-luck John Lannan (6-11, 3.55) faces Manny Parra (9-5, 4.18).