Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Home Game after Home Game, Sohna and I dutifully attend. Now, its become a great burden to show up at RFK and watch our awful Washington Nationals. The Nationals are just not competitive. What in the world is this management thinking?? The worse we get, to build for the future--is this really going to build the fan base?? This team stinks. And, its only going to get worse.
In tonight's 5-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, Washington slept right threw the game. Even Screech was in an odd mood tonight. There was NO FUN AT RFK TONIGHT for the announced crowd of 24,438 on a rainy night.
Here's the Cliff Notes on what occurred, as I need to get up a 4AM tomorrow morning.
With Ramon Oritz on the mound in the 3rd, retiring the first two hitters on the inning, Jimmy Rollins hits a grounder to Jose Vidro's left, Vidro amazingly dives for the ball--AND THE BALL ROLLS UNDER HIS LEFT ARMPIT!! Completely missing the ball. If you are diving for the ball, why is the ball going UNDER YOU!!. Then, with Shane Victorino at the plate, Rollins takes off, well before Ortiz goes into his windup. With Rollins already halfway to second, Ortiz delivers the ball to the plate for a ball. Then proceeds to yell at Nick Johnson at first. Totally shaken by his own stupidity, Oritz then walks Victorino. And on the very next pitch, Chase Utley hits a grounder to Vidro's right that he dives for AGAIN, and IT GOES UNDER HIS BODY AGAIN!! Rollins Scores easily 1-0 Phils.
Ryan Howard steps to the plate, after a visit to the mound from Randy St.Claire. Ortiz throws three straight balls. There are 2 outs. Go ahead and walk him to bring up Pat Burrell. A better chance for an out. Instead, Frank Robinson allows Ramon to pitch to Howard, and Ortiz throws it over the plate, Howard drilling it over Ryan Church's head for a 2 run double. How can you NOT WALK RYAN HOWARD IN THE SITUATION! Frank then proceeds to WALK Pat Burrell to get to Jeff Conine. The Howard at bat WAS THE GAME!! Insane baseball. Insane decision making.
Later, the Phils would score an unearned run in the 6th when Burrell would drive a deep fly ball to left center that Church had all the way, only to see Alfonso Soriano try to catch it at the last second. It bounces off both their gloves and the wall for a 2 base error. No one took charge. Typical of a bad team. Burrell would score on a high chopper fielders choice by Abraham Nunez. 4-0.
In the bottom half of the 6th and 1 out, Zimmerman would drill a 2 strike fastball up the middle for a single and Nick Johnson with a deep opposite field drive down the left field line that Pat Burrell fielded cleaning and threw to Jimmy Rollins as the cutoff man. For some reason, Nats Third Base Coach, Tony Beasley sent Z home where he was gunned down by Rollins. Its appeared that Zimmerman might have jumped over the tag, but, still, there was NO REASON to send Ryan with 1 out. Runners would be on 2nd and 3rd. Kearns coming up. Why Kill The Rally? Beasley continues to be a terrible 3rd base coach. The crowd was just STUNNED that Z was sent home. No one could believe it. Even when the Nats have a chance to be successful, either a player or coach makes a poor decision. They are very consistent.
The Nats only other excitement for the crowd was Alfonso Soriano BLASTING a first pitch fastball from Cole Hamels in the 8th into the Mezzanine Level below Section 453. Its was HAMMERED! It was also the only fun for the night.
Later, Ryan Wagner would come on when Jon Rauch got into trouble in the 9th, the Phillies had scored on a bases loaded sacrifice fly by David Delucci, highlighted only by the fact that Soriano turned on the ball, first to his left, then to his right before jumping back to his left, catching the ball at the warning track backpeddling. It was very funny to see. Then with runners on 1st and 3rd, 2 outs, Wagner continued his decent pitching of late, coming on in a tough situation and getting Jeff Conine to line out to Vidro. The ball was hit right a Vidro. He couldn't miss that one.
Its very sad watching the 2006 Washington Nationals. Lifeless bunch, and as September nears, there could not be a playoff contender that does not want to play us. Our pitching gets us down early in games, and we can never fight back consistently. 19 more home games to go. And, unfortunately--COUNTING!!
The Washington Nationals starting pitching has been awful of late. And, it was no different tonight with Tony Armas, Jr on the mound. Armas was his typical frustrating self, getting ahead to many batters, yet never able to throw the out pitch. Giving up 2 strike singles, the Phillies just hanging in there, and getting the Nats down early, first 2-0 and then 5-1. Lasting only 3.1 innings and throwing 82 pitches.
Despite his early exit, the Nationals made a nice comeback on Alfonso Soriano's 42nd Home Run, a MAMMOTH Shot to LEFT CENTER, to the Mezzanine just below Section 452 and Ryan Zimmerman's electrifying 2 run triple in the 5th, getting the crowd back into it. 5-3 Phillies. Ryan Wagner had replaced Armas in the 4th and proceeded to shutdown the dangerous Philadelphia lineup, giving up a walk to Pat Burrell and nothing else in 1.2 innings. Wagner continues to make strides in overcoming his pitching problems with Cincinnati and since his trade to Washington. His slider is getting outs, and he's very confident on the mound. More promising than anyone could have thought just one month ago.
We had a good chance heading to the top of the sixth. And, what does our Manager, Frank Robinson do?--He brings to the mound the very worst pitcher on the team--Kevin Gryboski, when last seen at RFK Stadium on July 21, had given up a COLOSSAL HOME RUN to the DEEP UPPER DECK IN LEFT CENTER to the Chicago Cubs, Aramis Ramirez. Gryboski was sent down the very next day. He's been terrible.
Now, Frank has been using Jason Bergmann, as a spot starter during this time of great need for the pitching staff. He's nothing great, but Jason has not been terrible. Bergmann is being skipped over in the rotation as the Nats have a few off days in the current schedule. He's available for JUST THIS SITUATION!
Your starter has only given you 3+ innings, Wagner has shut the Phillies down and you are back into it. The Nationals need to stretch out the bullpen, you have a guy in the pen that can get you to possibly the 8th inning for Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero, if you take the lead. Frank doesn't use that guy.
Gryboski comes on--Abraham Nunez singles to Jose Vidro's left, Vidro showing no range (he missed 3 balls tonight, one to his right, 2 to his left) that an average second baseman would field, lets the ball play him, Nunez Safe. Brett Myers bunts Nunez to second. Jimmy Rollins comes to the plate and hits a high chopper at Nick Johnson. Johnson has no play, and Gyboski is late getting to the bag. For whatever reason, Nick decides to backarm sling the ball to Gryboski near the bag, Rollins already past the pitcher. Johnson throws the ball past the rear of Gyboski and toward the first base coaches box. Error on Johnson, number 13 this season. Nunez scores easily 6-3 Phils. Exasperating how frustrating it can be to watch the Nats. Just hold the ball. Just hold it!
And, then it got worse. Shane Victorino hits chopper up the middle, that Vidro just could not get to (again, a decent fielder would have had it), Rollins stops at second. The dangerous Chase Utley would step to the plate and fly out to Ryan Church. The EVEN MORE Dangerous, Ryan Howard would saunter to the plate, hold that big bat of his out in front of him, bat pointing straight up, looking very menacing (I called Section 467 for a HOME RUN) and he proceeded to LAUNCH a shot off the Mezzanine facing in Section 457 ---DEAD CENTER FIELD. The game essentially over now at 9-3. Howard's 48th Homer of the season would tie him for the Phillies ALL TIME SINGLE SEASON LEADER with the GREAT MIKE SCHMIDT.
Why?? Why is Kevin Gryboski in this game. We just had an off day, didn't travel from outside the time zone. You have better choices. Come on Frank!!!! It makes NO SENSE!! NONE!!
Saul Rivera would get himself in trouble in the 7th, walking in the 10th Phillies run in garbage time, before the Nats actually made it interesting with a broken bat single by Ryan Church scored Vidro, who had doubled in the 8th--making it 10-4.
And, then in the 9th, with only a few hundred DIE HARDS still in the announced crowd of 25,735, rallied BIG TIME, to make the game interesting and bring those faithful still there to their feet for a rousing ending--all with 2 outs.
Henry Mateo walked off Philadelphia's Aaron Fultz. Soriano, looking for jack number 2 of the night, went down swinging on a pitch in the dirt. And, pinch hitter Brandon Harper would meekly pop to second. 2 outs.
Ryan Zimmerman would step to the plate and DRILL a liner into the right centerfield gap, scoring Mateo, 10-6. And the crowd was stirring. The slumping, Nick Johnson got ahead in the count and singled right up the middle, scoring Z easily, 10-6 and the crowd was ON ITS FEET!! Austin Kearns proceeded to double down the left field line, Johnson stopping at 3rd. And the crowd was FRANTIC!! Could it be!! The Nats come all the way back!!
As Jose Vidro was up next. Church to follow, representing the tie run. It was conceivable. Phillies Manager, Charlie Manuel, realized it and decided to bring on Arthur Rhodes, his current left handed closer and former Oriole. Rhodes had shut the Nats down twice on Washington's just complete 2-7 roadtrip.
With the RFK STADIUM Faithful on its feet, making a tremendous amount of noise. Vidro would take a called first strike, take ball one. Rhodes would try to sneak a fastball over the outside corner of the plate that Jose DRILLED down the right field line, but it had too much spin and went into the stands just to the right of the foul pole, FOUL. After ball 2, Rhodes would throw an off speed slider that fooled Vidro badly, Jose swinging at it after it was past him-ending the game--to the great disappointment of those few fans that STUCK IT OUT TILL THE END.
As I have said many times before, never leave until the last out is recorded. You may well miss something in a baseball game you may never see again. The Nats made fine comeback. And, if they had won the jubilation would have been tremendous.
But it doesn't make up for the serious woes of this pitching staff. The starter's are making every game a come from behind necessity. The Nats are never in games, there's little life. Except for Soriano, Zimmerman, and to a lesser extent--Nick Johnson, we have no players doing their jobs. Its sorry to watch.
And, Frank didn't help with a awful pitching change decision in the 6th that WAS THE BALLGAME. It was funny that Gryboski entered the game at the exact same time the NatPack was delivering it RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS At RFK to Fans. Obviously, Frank decided to deliver a "RAK at RFK" to Philadelphia. No excuse for that one.
Finally, it was such a bad game for the Nats, that SCREECH, MY MAIN BIRD!! was played by a substitute tonight!! When Screech strolls by our section, everyone, including me yelling his name and he doesn't respond to me or anyone else. Got to be a fill in for the night. During the 8th inning Bustin Loose Song, Screech barely danced. Oh well, I guess everyone needs a day off every once in a while.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
The City Sports in Chinatown/Galleryplace (and probably the rest of them) is having a buy on get onefree sale (the second item bieng of lesser value). I know the Nats aren't playing well now, but we all should be showing our support for them, and this is a good way to do it cheaply.
Monday, August 28, 2006
2006 is a LOST season, We all know that. Its been that way for some time. So, with everyone so depressed, I thought I would look at what we have that is GOOD (and there is some). And really, if we had better pitching, the Nationals would be far from terrible.
Catching: Brian Schnieder has had a POOR 2006 season. His offensive production has been far below what a veteran 29 year old backstop with some pop should produce. And, his ability to throw out baserunners, his number 1 best asset over the early part of his MLB career, has eluded him this season. As the 2006 season is drawing to its conclusion, he's hit much better and thrown out more baserunners. The Nats terrible pitching has not helped. As, very few pitchers seem to be able to hold runners. Brian is a talented backstop, having a poor year. He's also the ONLY decent catcher we have. He's signed for 2 more seasons. We could actually do alot worse that Schneider. He can call a good game, behind the plate. He's worth building around. But, we need a BACKUP BADLY. A GOOD ONE!! Preferably a Right Handed hitting catcher.
First Base: Hitting wise, Nick Johnson is having his BEST season in the Majors. Fielding--one of his worst. I would love to see Nick hit better in the clutch. He does not seem to be a good clean up hitter. And, as patient as he can be at the plate, drawing a decent amount of walks, he tends to swing at the first pitch, when the game is on the line, especially with bases loaded. His 2006 fielding problems seem to be more of a mental problem, as he's made an error, he has begun to think about everything hit his way-- making everything worse.
NIck Johnson is a very good player, and anyone that wants to get rid of him, for having some problems in one season on a very bad team--has got to be crazy. This guy, quietly, is a quality, respected player.
Second Base--Jose Vidro has no range, limited power, and if he didn't get injured before the July 31 trading deadline, would have certaintly been traded. Might well be traded over the winter before 2007, his $8 Million payroll is far to much for this team, and could be used to better use--like RESIGN Soriano.
Bernie Castro, Henry Mateo, Melvin Dorta, all have some talent, just not a complete package among them. Very possible that Felipe Lopez could be moved to second for 2007, unless the Nationals either eat Cristian Guzman's contract or let THE GUZ play short next season. None of these options are acceptable to me. Guz and Lopez have HUGE holes in their games.
Shortstop--Guz and FLop--not much more to say than I just said above. The Nationals may be the weakest team defensively UP THE MIDDLE of any team in baseball.
Third Base--Ryan Zimmerman--AT 21 is a tremendous young player. Can Hit, Hit For Power, Field His Position, Throw and has decent speed on the bases. I would rate him a 4 1/2 tool player. Franchise Player, can deliver in the clutch, both in the field and at the plate. LOVE THIS GUY!!
But he needs a reliable, quality backup, same with shortstop, to give the guys a breather every once in a while.
Leftfield--Alfonso Soriano--impact player, everyone knows how much I LOVE this guy. Crowd Pleaser, a player everyone in Washington knows about. Believe we should resign him, he's worth the cost. Improved dramatically in the outfield, but still tends to loose interest and loafs at times during game action. Nonetheless, the ONLY player on the team that EVERYONE watches whenever he steps to the plate. If Soriano was on the Nats in 2005, instead of Wilkerson, we would have made the PLAYOFFS!!
Centerfield--Alex Escobar-Walking MASH UNIT--can't stay healhty, but when he did play, showed the 5 Tools everyone thought he had as a youngster. Tends to misplay some flyballs, especially liners. If he could stay healthy, would probably be the shoo-in Centerfielder for 2007. But, since he can't, Ryan Church is getting is chance to show that HE DOES BELONG. Church has trouble with the breaking ball, but can deliver at times, and is a decent fielder. Has better power numbers against lefties, but Frank Robinson doesn't seem to know that for some reason. I like both of these guys, Escobar was very impressive batting 7th in the lineup--Both should be on the 2007 team. Both deserve the opportunity.
Rightfield--Austin Kearns. Decent outfielder, good arm, can cut off balls into the corner very well, struggled at the plate since arriving in Washington. Can't imagine Jim Bowden giving up on one of his boys. Hope he can somehow work out that UPPER CUT swing that gets him in so much trouble at the plate.
Reserve Outfielders: Jose Guillen, contract up, injured, not likely to be back for 6-12 months. Really believe he WILL COME BACK TO THE NATS for an incentive laden contract. No doubt in my mind, that when healthy is a DANGEROUS hitter. Can carry a team, has he did while healthy in early 2005. Loves playing in DC. A serious DIVA, but never dull. CAN HELP.
Kory Casto--The rising young star in the Nats Minor League System. Has hit well everywhere, now at AA Harrisburg. Can't imagine the Nats not letting him start 2007 at AAA. Frank Diaz, also at AA Harrisburg. Terrific Fielder, not the hitter and RBI producer that Casto is. But talented.
Bench: Daryle Ward (perfect pinch hitter off the bench) having a terrific 2006. Worth keeping. Dangerous. Marlon Anderson, decent fill in spot player, can hit, with tremendous speed for a 33 year old. Better than I expected. Like him. Helpful.
Robert Fick, Brandon Harper, Mike Vento, Mateo, etc. All below average bench players. We need a SERIOUS BACKUP CATCHER. No replacement for Schneider has just KILLED us in 2006. Need a good utility infielder (LIKE JAMEY CARROLL). We don't have one. Bowden needs to do his homework.
Starting Pitching: Well it just SUCKS!! Need John Patterson to come back strong, but even if he does, there is NO ONE ELSE behind him. No one. I've talked about it before, but JIMBO did a great job of destroying the limited pitching depth the Expos did have before moving here. The Nationals will need to hire a bunch of free agents to fill these roles for 2007, as there is NO ONE in the minors even closely ready. Ortiz, Astacio, Armas--they can all go away. Don't care much for O'Connor and Drese. Billy Trabor, I can't figure out. I did like Shawn Hill the few times I saw him pitch. Has maturity and command on the mound. And, the guy can actually BUNT the ball when called upon at the plate. Brian Lawrence owes us for 2006. The Nats are going to buy out his hefty contract for 2007. If he's not all about money, very unlikely, he would resign with Washington, knowing he WILL get the chance to pitch, in the rotation in 2007.
One way or another, the starting pitching, and what Bowden does to fix it over the winter, will make or break next season for all us fans.
Relief Pitching: Like Chad Cordero (despite he heart attack way of pitching), Jon Rauch (if he would just bear down when he's ahead and not give up so many cheap home runs). We need Luis Ayala back strong for 2007 to set up the Chief. Ryan Wagner has shown a serious slider the last 2 weeks, and I like how he stands up and talks about his outings after he fails. Big body, strange delivery from the elbow. Wagner--impressed with the guy the more I see him. Micah Bowie--came out of nowhere, once Mike Stanton was traded, to be very dependable out of the pen from the lefthanded side. Freak injury has him on the DL right now. If he comes back as good as before the injury, Bowie makes the team, no question, in 2007 . There is a real sleeper in the Minors at AA Harrisburg right now--Zechry Zinicola. Drafted in the 6th round by the Nats in the 2007 Draft, he has STORMED his way through Rookie ball--GULF COAST LEAGUE Nationals, Savannah Low A Ball, Potomac High A ball is now closing out games for AA Harrisburg. At every stop, this Arizona State hurler has been nothing short of lights out. If he keeps it up, I can't imagine this guy not making the team out of the bullpen in 2007. I saw him pitch 3 games in Woodbridge for the Potomac Nationals, as a closer, he was HEAD AND SHOULDERS, above every other pitcher from both teams. Has yet give up a homer this summer.
Managing: I realize that Frank Robinson is our most famous persona. He's handled the team through some terrible times. Love, at times, how he gets into players faces. But, his time has come. We need a more competent leader making the decisions on the field. Sorry Frank, you have got to go. But you deserve a meaningful position with the team, if you desire.
Coaches: Randy St.Claire can stay forever, as far as I am concerned. The guy knows his stuff. Mitchell Paige, Davey Lopes and Randy Knorr don't have much of an opinion on. Tony Beasley should be outright fired. The guy is a terrible 3rd base coach. Eddie Rodriguez seems to be a decent bench coach.
The Nationals will be lucky to be a .500 team in 2007. And its all depends on the rag tag starting pitching the team can cobble together. Even if Soriano goes away as a free agent, those 2 DRAFT PICKS the team receives will have no impact for 4 years down the line. So we might as well resign our most exciting player. The 2nd base and shortstop situation must be hammered out EARLY in the winter. It can't linger like Soriano did all through spring training, 2006. The Nationals are going to have to be creative. There is some decent talent on the squad, and a few goodies in the minors, but we really need "PITCHING, PITCHING, PITCHING!!" What do you say--Jimbo, Mr. Kasten!!?? Please don't let the fanbase suffer as badly as we are at the end of the 2006 season. We as fans have been through alot over the embarrasing transfer of the franchise to Washington, and stadium debacle. GIVE US SO HOPE!!
Friday, August 25, 2006
Well, I wasn't expecting to BLOG over the next four days, but when Its RAINING CATS AND DOGS at Cape Canaveral for 2 straight hours, there wasn't much to do, so I checked up on Nationals.com and read that, MY MAIN MAN!!--Damian Jackson had been RELEASED by the Washington Nationals!!
AND I JUMPED RIGHT OUT OF MY CHAIR--SCREAMING "YEEEEEEEEEES!!!!!!"
ITS ABOUT TIME!! Made my day, which started at 3AM this morning, a whole lot better.
No use saying anymore other than HE WAS TERRIBLE!!!!! And, A Clubhouse Cancer!!
Makes Jimbo look foolish for signing him in the first place.
Gottta Get Back to Work.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Not to disappoint all those that have been kind enough to read and comment on my writings on the NATS320 blog. But, I must be away for the next 4 days covering the Launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis, scheduled for Sunday, August 27.
This will be my 14th Launch. I can't tell you how SPECIAL IT IS!! Its a sight EVERYONE should see in their lifetime--AT LEAST ONCE!!
I will be unable to blog, as TV work will be around the clock. But, I promise to return by Tuesday, August 29th. Its a HOME GAME for the NATS, against the Phillies. I am not expecting to miss the game. Besides, if I missed the game, SCREECH would be mighty UPSET with me!!
Hoping our Nats can get their act back to respectability. We look mighty AWFUL right now!!
But, I want EVERYONE TO REMEMBER.
WE DID NOT HAVE A TEAM FOR 34 YEARS.
During that time, its fairly safe to say, we would NOT HAVE WON 34 CHAMPIONSHIPS. Of course, during those 34 years, WE DID NOT EVEN HAVE A CHANCE!!
WE MAY STINK NOW, but PLEASE SUPPORT THE FRANCHISE!! Baseball is a wonderful sport. THAT WE ALL LOVE!! We have a team to cheer and complain about--GOOD OR TERRIBLE. Its great to be able to attend a game on a work night and make it home at a reasonable hour.
Our day will come, hopefully sooner than later. For me, I can't tell you HOW GREAT IT IS to watch, scream, cheer and curse OUR WASHINGTON NATIONALS. If you prefer, we could have the Kansas City Royals, who led the Cleveland Indians 10-1 after the 1st inning last night, ONLY TO LOSE IN EXTRA INNINGS!!. Even our BELOVED NATS haven't done that, YET!!
We have baseball in DC. And ITS GREAT FOR ALL OF US! Or we wouldn't be reading all these blogs.
I am hopeful, someone will come off the BENCH from Section 320 and fill the void for a few days.
See ALL OF YOU SOON. Thanks again for all your support. I really appreciate all the nice comments.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
I have found it hard to write about my beloved Nats play this week in Florida. Its looks like the team quit. So I've decided to write about something more positive and worthwhile--Our Stadium.
"RFK Stadium is a DUMP!" "ITS RUN DOWN"--"SHABBY" "A TERRIBLE PLACE TO WATCH A GAME"
That's all I ever read or hear about the HOME FOR OUR WASHINGTON NATIONALS. The press continually harps on the topic. And many people, many that have never even attended a game at the Stadium on East Capitol Street, continually pass on these half truths and nonsense.
Yes, the ARAMARK Food Service has been TERRIBLE!!; After a game ends, it can take some time to move your way out of the park along the narrow concourses. The audio system is far from perfect. There are broken seats here and there, The stadium could be a little cleaner. There has been many other problems, well documented, but mostly due to Poor Management by MLB, DC Government and the RFK Stadium Authority--Game day functions, that should not take away from what RFK STADIUM ACTUALLY DOES PROVIDE.
And, I want to state CLEARLY, I am looking forward to the NEW Stadium, as I truly believe, if its done correctly, and not cheapened, by budget considerations---The GLASS, STEEL and CONCRETE STRUCTURE WILL GLEAM!! Like the NEW WEMBLEY STADIUM outside London that was built in a similar way.
None of those issues, though, has taken away my enjoyment of watching the Nats at RFK. If fact, I lOVE ATTENDING GAMES AT RFK!! And, when the Nats move to their NEW STADIUM on the Anacostia Waterfront, I will miss all of the following.
The stadium was built with a tremedous ease of commute in mind. Whether you come to the game via Downtown DC, The Southeast-Southwest Freeway, Anacostia Freeway, 395, 295, 495 & Route 50 or Benning Road, RFK is an easy reach for anyone living in the Capital City or the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. And, when Metro opened it doors in 1976, Fans attending Stadium Events came in DROVES on the subway. The Stadium Armory Station is covered by both the Blue and Orange Lines and easy access for Yellow and Green Line Transfering Passengers. In 2005, Metro estimated over 18,000 fans used Metro for EACH AND EVERY GAME.
On game days, when we drive, I can make it from my house, near the Franconia-Springfield Metro, in less than 25 minutes--even during RUSH HOUR. The Drive Home, at times, has been less than 20 minutes.
The South Capitol Street Stadium will not be providing such immediate access for some years. South Capitol Street is TOTAL GRIDLOCK during rush hours.
The stadium parking lots, which surround the stadium--HOLDS 10,000 Vehicles, enough for almost any event and provides in Lots 7 and 8 two of the GREATEST TAILGATE PARKING LOTS OF ALL TIME!! Sohna and I can never remember driving into Lot 8, on any game day, and not seeing a host of folks enjoying themselves---cooking, drinking and having fun before the game's start. Last October 2, Sohna and I hosted a final game of the season tailgate for Section 320--WE HAD MORE THAN ENOUGH ROOM. And, Hundreds more were having their tailgates at the same time.
The DC Government and The Lerners are fighting over parking for the "wealthy", well documented by many. But, no one is considering parking for you and me. In fact, the DC Government is "HOPING" lots pop up around and near the Stadium Site. Say Goodbye to $10 and $12 parking that RFK provides.
At night, RFK GLEAMS FROM THE OUTSIDE with the lighting and distinctive RIPPLED Rooftop that surrounds and encloses the Stadium. After every night game, walking to the car in Lot 8, I always take a good look at the structure shining against the night with all the lights. If you haven't, you are missing something very special.
And, its that Cantilever Roof Top that gives RFK STADIUM the HUGE HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE for all DC TEAMS that have played there. That great roof TRAPS THE SOUND inside, sending the crowds noises right down onto field level.
RFK has some of the very best, close to the field seats, you will ever enjoy at a baseball game. The Upper Deck hangs out far towards the baselines. In fact, the lower ring of seats in the upper deck are closer to the field than the rear sections of the lower bowl. How many stadiums today have more seats in the UPPER Deck than the lower deck?? I have not heard many complaints from fans sitting in the upper deck, especially the lower view seats, between 1st and 3rd base. Those seats might well be the BEST BARGAIN in all of the Major Leagues. From those seats it looks like you are sitting right overtop the action. You can see every play develop. Its PRIME FOUL BALL CATCHING TERRITORY!! From most any seat in the house, you have a decent view of the field.
Our fabulous SECTION 320, in the lower bowl, sits only 25 rows from the Nationals 3rd base dugout. And its under the overhang, protecting us from, not only rain and bad weather, but the HEATING STROKING SUNLIGHT that shines down on the field on nearly every single day game. How many people have you seen, move from the MOST EXPENSIVE SEATS in the house, to a far more comfortable, cheaper seat under the stadiums roof and overhang. Its a regular daytime event at RFK.
The Drawings for the New Stadium shows very little overhang, with the UPPER DECKS much farther back on each successive level. People are going to BAKE each summer on the Anacostia Waterfront and EVERYONE is going to be sitting MUCH FARTHER FROM THE ACTION. We are not looking forward to that.
Those portable stands that move from along the 3rd baseline to left and centerfield for football and soccer, accidentally provided the "Bouncing Sea Wave" effect of heads jumping up and down that so many people enjoy to this day. It was a STAPLE at REDSKINS GAMES for years. And, is an integral part of most every Nats game. The "JUMP" song is played after every 7th inning strech to get the heads bobbing up and down behind the Nats Dugout.
The Sounds at RFK STADIUM from the CROWD can be DEAFENING. You ask anybody that once played for the Dallas Cowboys during the HEY DAYS of the Redskins/Cowboys Rivalry, and I would guarantee you that they would ALL say that RFK STADIUM was their favorite road city to play. The ROAR OF THE CROWD WAS LOUD and only GOT LOUDER as the games continued. RFK stadium has a LIFE OF ITS OWN--IT CAN SHAKE AND SWAY to the STOMPING and RUMBLINGS of its fans. The Crowd noise at RFK was such a HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE for the Washington Redskins, that football games in DC have NEVER BEEN THE SAME, since Jack Kent Cooke moved the team, out of RFK, building his new Stadium in Landover, Maryland. I don't know the actual numbers, but during the George Allen, Joe Gibbs era of Redskins Football at RFK, I would bet WASHINGTON had one of the very best home records of any team during that time frame. The Redskins, under Daniel Snyder, may well be the wealthiest franchise in American Sport. But their games are no longer "EVENTS" that ALL Redskins games were on East Capitol Street.
Nationals fans got a GOOD TASTE of the DECIBEL LEVEL that RFK can reach when, on June 18, 2006, before a packed house of 45,157, Ryan Zimmerman hit his DRAMATIC, Bottom of the 9th, 2 run homer off Chien-Ming Wang to defeat the NEW YORK YANKEES 3-2. RFK has not ROCKED LIKE THAT SINCE THE WASHINGTON REDSKINS LAST PLAYED A HOME GAME IN DC. It was THE SIGNATURE MOMENT so far for the YOUNG NATIONALS FRANCHISE, and it brought back so many fine memories of attending Washington Redskins Game for so many years.
You could not take the SMILE OFF MY FACE for the entire week that followed.
One of RFK's greatest oddities, just a green wall, and not stands behind the outfield fences, has given great credence to UPPER DECK SHOTS!! Home Runs of Mammoth proportions. "Wow!!--Did you see that rocket into Section 464!!" "Daryle Ward just launched that into the front row of Section 541--THE YELLOW SEATS!! What beauty to watch!!" Alfonso Sorino reaching Section 445. Barry Bonds reaching DEEP into Section 461. Earlier this year, on May 22nd, Lance Berkman of the Houston Astros Launched a LINE DRIVE that barely went over the Nationals Starter's, Zach Day, head and just kept on rising, it was stopped by the second row seats of Section 456 in DEAD CENTERFIELD!! Berkman WALLOPED IT!! If would have hit the ring road surrounding RFK if it had not hit the seats.
Anybody can appreciate the MAJESTY of those UPPER DECK HOME RUNS!! RFK HOME RUNS to the UPPER DECK are to be cherished, because you know how far away it really is, and how high the Upper Deck sits above the playing field. Batting Practice at RFK is a MUST SEE at times. I can vividly remember, last season, watching Mike Piazza, then a NEW YORK MET, launching 2 balls on consecutive Batting Practice swings into Section 535, the YELLOW SEATS well above the leftfield wall.
All of Piazza's Teammates stopped and applauded the moment, and there was not a sole in the stands that was NOT TALKING ABOUT IT.
Love watching BOMBS into the upper deck at RFK. The New Stadium will not have that same feel. I will miss that TREMENDOUSLY!! If fact, had this very same conversation with some of the Section 320 faithful during the last home games.
I attended my very first Major League Games at DC Stadium (now RFK). From 1966 through 1971, as a youngster, I was fortunate enough to make about 10 Washington Senators games per season. Loved FRANK HOWARD, was in his FAN CLUB, and could not wait to see him LAUNCH ONE INTO THE UPPER DECK. Whether during a game, or batting practice. We always went to the game early to see BP. And, I attended, as a 12 year old, THE VERY LAST GAME OF MY BELOVED WASHINGTON SENATORS AT RFK on September 30, 1971. I am proud to say, I DID NOT RUN OUT ONTO THE FIELD THAT NIGHT--which led to the Senators forfeiting their last game to the New York Yankees. RFK is where I first fell in LOVE WITH BASEBALL--and I am happy to be able to enjoy that game I love, once again, in THAT VERY SAME VENUE--for a little while longer. I am 47 years old, and I had spent most of my entire adult life, NEVER EXPECTING TO A SEE A WASHINGTON HOME GAME AGAIN--until, by all miracles, the Montreal Expos actually moved here in 2005.
Finally, on any given night during a Washington Nationals home game, when Section 320 is in Full Force, you can hear us throughout most of the stadium. The Overhang above us echo effects our cheering and helps send our noise out toward the field. Its a great site to see SO MANY turn their heads, to see it might be anywhere up to 16 folks in Section 320 causing all that noise. Their expressions of Awe and Amusement--FABULOUS.
RFK Stadium is the last of a dying breed. The one time MULTI-PURPOSE Stadium, a stadium so many cities copied to maintain their costs for housing professional sports team. A stadium style that fell out of fashion, just a few decades after being built. RFK is far from modern, with little frills. I have always called it the "GREATEST NO FRILLS PARK IN SPORTS!!"
People can say all the disparaging remarks they want about it. BUT I WILL ALWAYS LOVE RFK, for what it does provide--A GREAT PLACE TO WATCH A BALLGAME!!
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
During the last homestand that ended August 17 against the Atlanta Braves, the RFK STADIUM Field was noticeably in bad shape. There were distinctive brown and bald spots all around the outfield and in front of the pitchers mound. Even grass in front of both dugouts was in deteriorating condition. This, after the field had looked quite presentable right up until the July 27th home game against the San Francisco Giants.
When the Lerner Group talks about making the BEST OF THE FAN EXPERIENCE AT RFK, with what they were handed, A TOP QUALITY FIELD, ALL SEASON LONG--has to be high on their list. A baseball diamond is a beautiful field to look at. A SYMMETRICAL DELIGHT!
When the African Queen and I got on the field for the Sunday Team Picnic for Season Ticket holders the first weekend in June, the field was quite magnificent.
During the Inaugural 2005 Washington Nationals Season, the field was in TERRIBLE shape by the last home game on October 2. The RFK Stadium TURF WAS BROWN AND DEAD!! In fact, then team President, Tony Taveras, was quoted as saying he was "EMBARRASSED" by the sloppiness of the field. And, he would do everything in his power to make the playing surface better for 2006.
Some of this has to do with the fact that the Nats share the field and RFK Stadium with long time tenant, DC United--the most popular and most supported team in Major League Soccer. Between the 2 teams, the field is used over 100 times during the course of both teams overlapping schedules. In fact, for soccer, the pitchers mound retracts into the ground, flat, and is covered along with the dirt basepaths with sod. Sod that, DC United players, complain is too loose, and dangerous on wet gamedays--when a slip could lead to a major knee problem. I have no doubt the changeover from the Baseball Configuration to Soccer stresses the field to no end.
That's alot of use, and football(soccer) is a wear and tear sport. And those movable stands along the 3rd base side during Nationals Games (YES THE SAME STANDS THAT HOUSES SECTION 320), The ones that allow fans to jump up and down--causing the WONDERFUL "Sea of Bouncing Heads Wave Effect" a Distinctive Scene to DC Sport, that is so cool to view, are moved to left and centerfield for DC United Games---causing even more grass abuse.
But down the right field line, at the corner, near the foul pole and in front of the Nationals Bullpen the grass is absolutely DEAD. During DC United games, do they park a GIGANTIC TRUCK there?; or cover that portion of the baseball field with some sort of tarp? Whatever is done is just killing the baseball field.
I realize it hasn't rained much in the past 6 weeks, but water should be no problem for either teams grounds crews.
It also didn't help, in 2005, that before the Nats ever played their first game, the Bermuda Grass Sod, the team wanted to use, was not available locally due to the colder than normal winter season leading up to Opening Night, April 14, 2005. So, the Nats President, Tony Taveres, had to install 100,000 square feet of a lesser quality Georgia sod, that was overseeded with Rye Grass. Unfortunately, there was more RYE than Bermuda Grass. The Rye did not hold up in the heat and humidity of Washington, DC.
According to former Stadium Groundskeeper, Jimmy Rodgers, the heat & humidity combined with the little air movement inside the stadium to cause fungus to form on the grass roots. Killing the grass.
For 2006, Rodgers convinced the Stadium Authority to replace the barren turf with a locally produced Riviera Bermuda from the DelMarVa Peninsula. Sod that was suppose to be more durable. Obviously, that has not worked to full effect, and New Groundskeeper, Larry DiVito has similar problems.
Since both DC United and Washington Nationals had peacefully coexisted together for one year, you would think that they could have worked out a deal with the RFK Stadium Authority to install a better turf.
Or, Better yet, for DC United GameDays, roll out those removable Turf Trays, like they do at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands, used overtop many American Stadiums (both grass and artificial) that would save the baseball playing surface from excessive wear and tear, and giving DC United a quality playing field all their own.
But, considering the amount of money both teams bring to the coffers of the DC Government and Stadium Authority, it seems the tray solution is a solid temporary measure, since both teams are expecting to move to new stadiums on the Anacostia Waterfront, directly across the river from each other.
Curious to know why the removable trays were not used, or just not considered acceptable.
Loving baseball as much as I do, I can vividly remember the very first time I saw a spendid GREEN GRASS baseball field, in 1966, when I attended my very first Major League Game, against the Yankees, at DC Stadium (now RFK)...The sight of walking up the stadium ramps and getting that first peek of green, between levels, was exciting. I just couldn't wait to get to the upper deck!! It was, at that time, the greenest grass I had ever seen.
It would be great to see other youngsters viewing that sight for the very first time. But, the current condition of the field, certainty takes that initial JOY away. Gotta be a way to fix this.
Mr Lerner, Mr Kasten, DC United, RFK Stadium Authority-can we work out a system to give both teams a quality field for the last season together in 2007? A field all the fans would be proud to view---ALL SEASON LONG.
Monday, August 21, 2006
For a few weeks now, I have been considering this post. I have never been a big fan of Nats General Manager, Jim Bowden. The Montreal Expos players had suffered through tremendous hardships in the few years leading up to the transfer to Washington, DC. They players were close knit, they just needed someone to cheer for them and a place to call home. Despite the cheapness in the MLB Ownership of this franchise, money was in place, to be creative, and build a competitive team. All they really needed was a competent GM to get the ball rolling. And, I have felt for some time, JIMBO was not the creative person needed to lead this franchise to the promised land.
Jamey Carroll, Tomo Ohka, Claudio Vargas, Brendan Harris, all serviceable baseball players the Nationals in 2006 could have used, improving the teams depth. But, Jim Bowden decided to just give these players away, receving nothing in return during his reign as Interim and now Vice-President, General Manager of the Washington Nationals.
Bowden is a flashy showoff that makes every move in dramatic fashion, drawing attention to himself. And, in putting the spotlight on himself, has personally destroyed any chemistry the Nationals orginally had when they first arrived here from Montreal for the 2005 season.
Bowden has overpaid for free agents (the god awful Cristian Guzman--who the Nats still must pay for 2 more seasons and $8 million). Traded away an aging Vinny Castilla for a potential innings eating starting pitcher in Brian Lawrence, yet, not even consider a precautionary MRI exam to make sure the goods were not damaged. Lawrence threw out his arm during the very first few pitches of spring training this season.
Benched and demoted a rising Rookie Sensation in Ryan Church--just because he got INJURED RUNNING INTO A WALL IN PITTSBURGH LAST SEASON MAKING A GAME SAVING CATCH--Church never being the same the rest of the season. And, replacing him with the very Minor League--Brandon Watson--who, except for raw speed--HAD NO TALENT!! NONE!! Messing with Ryan's Head. Since Church's promotion back to the Majors, he has shown that, despite some holes in his swing on curve balls--the guy still can hit and help.
The man who always claims we need "PITCHING, PITCHING, PITCHING" has rarely picked up any pitching--in fact, traded away the Nationals top rising lefthander prospect, Bill Bray, along with the overused Gary Majewski, and 3 others for some his "HIS BOYS" from the Cincinnati Reds--Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez and Ryan Wagner. Oh Yeah--Jimbo threw in Brendan Harris just for the fun it.
This trade also set up another ugly situation in 2007, similar to the Vidro/Soriano debacle of spring training 2006. Who plays shortstop for the Nationals next season? Who plays second? You have Guz/Lopez/Vidro and Bernie Castro. Not one of these players, all 27 years old or above is going to be happy riding the pine.
And, that Cincinnati trade is killing us now that EVERYONE realizes how AWFUL Damian Jackson is. Yet, the Nats can't get rid of Jackson, because their backup 3rd baseman, Harris is now in the Reds Organization. And, we have NO BACKUP SHORTSTOP.
And the most BELOVED of all 2005 Washington Nationals, Jamey Carroll, was sold off for chump change, to Colorado to make room on the roster for--DAMIAN JACKSON!! Carroll is batting .100 points higher in batting average, and plays a smoother infield (2nd, 3rd or short). THE ULTIMATE TEAM PLAYER!! Could we have EVER used this guy, not only this past Sunday in Philadelphia, but throughout the season. You BETTER BELIEVE IT!! And, unlike Damian Jackson, Carroll would not be throwing chairs around the clubhouse. DAMIAN IS A CANCER. CARROLL AN ANGEL!! Of course, Jackson once played for Cincinnati and Bowden. If you have ever been drafted and played for the Reds, you are guaranteed a spot on a Jimbo team--whether you are deserving or not.
And, one day before selling off Carroll in February, Jim tried to sneak promising right handed power thrower, Darrell Rasner, through waivers to remove him from the 40 man roster. Even though the Nats still had 2 spaces available and were getting a 3rd spot for Jamey. The Yankees jumped all over it, picking him up, where, despite being on the injured list, has been very effective for both Columbus and the Yankees in 2006. We could have used this guy too!!
To Bowden's credit, he did trade away the WILDLY Popular, but frustratingly inconsistent, Brad Wilkerson along with Terrmel Sledge and Minor League pitcher Armando Gallaraga for Alfonso Soriano. A trade that was hated, not only by me, but just about EVERYONE that follows baseball. Only to see Soriano show what a FABULOUS PLAYER and ATHLETE he is. A game changer on many nights--despite his free swinging nature at the plate.
Despite great PUBLIC PONTIFICATING about how ON FIRE his Blackberry was, Jim did manage to NOT Trade Soriano at the trading deadline. Setting up another OFF SEASON Soap Opera with Number 12.
And he traded for Jose Guillen for Macier Izturas and Juan Rivera--I know Rivera is having a very good 2006 season, but if Jose had remained healthy and actually rehabilitated his injuries instead of playing through them, Guillen would have been a steal. Esteban Loaiza was a good signing in 2005. Esteban went for the Dinero in 2006 and that's not Jimbo's fault. Ditto Hector Carrasco. Alex Escobar, one play away from an career derailing injury, has been very impressive at times.
But some good, does not even out the many, many, inconsistencies in his player management of this franchise.
Out of spite, for showing up Frank Robinson for taking him out of a game at RFK last season, Bowden gave Ohka away to Milwaukee for infielder, Junior Spivey--currently batting under .200 in the Cardinals system. Designated Claudio Vargas, 3 weeks after coming back from major shoulder surgery and struggling mightily last season. Only to see Vargas picked up by the Arizona Diamondbacks--has 10 wins already under his belt in 2006. 19 Win total since May, 2005. The Nationals have NO ONE on their current roster with that much success. Designated middle innings eater and spot starter, Sun Woo Kim, just so JIMBO could leave Rule 5 Draftee and Swinging Strikeout King, Tony Blanco, on the 40 man roster. Blanco is struggling this year at Single A Potomac. Blanco has no future. Of course, Tony was originally drafted by--SURPRISE--Jimbo and the Cincinnati Reds.
Sold solid hitting, poor fielding, Rick Short, THE FEEL GOOD STORY OF 2005, to a Japanese League team, even though the guy was helping out on the few nights he got the chance to play.
Then spent the 2005-2006 off season signing every available backup 2nd baseman--Jackson, Marlon Anderson and Bernie Castro while stocking the lineup with DH's more suited for the American League--Daryle Ward, Robert Fick and Matt LeCroy. And forgetting--that its important to get a decent backup catcher--because Brian Schneider can not possibly catch every single game. Anderson has been good --as a Backup/PH, Ward has been Terrific as a pinch hitter, and we are just finding out whether Castro can actually play. But the rest of the guys have not helped. Wiki Gonzalez was TERRIBLE!! as a backup catcher. Another Career Minor Leaguer, Brandon Harper, finally made it to the Big Leagues over the past two weeks at the age of 30--had a 2 homer game against the Phillies, but you can't rely on repeatedly throwing stuff on the wall just to see what sticks. But that's how Jimbo plays GM.
And now, the man who consistently has traded for, attempt to sign or signed such stellar players as Preston Wilson, Odalis Perez, Sammy Sosa, Jeff Weaver, Wil Cordero, Ryan Drese and Deivi Cruz--claims ALL ALONG that "WE NEED TO BUILD THE FOUNDATION FOR THE FUTURE" as per the demands of New Team President, Stan Kasten.
Are you kidding me??
This statement came just weeks before Bowden traded Washington Loving, but inconsistent, Starting Pitcher Livan Hernandez to Arizona for two fireballing pitching prospects Garrett Mock and Matt Chico. With Livan gone, the last flames of solid relationships forged among Nats Players that flourished together under MLB ownership in Montreal was basically extinquished. Only Schneider, Vidro, Armas, Chad Cordero and Nick Johnson played reguarly in Montreal. Although Rauch and Church remain, they played sparingly for the Expos.
No one knows whether the trading of Livan for those 2 prospects will be a good one for some time, but it will always bother me that the trade was made by the new Assistant GM and VP Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo--that just came over from the Diamondbacks. I really don't want us to NOW, ALSO sign or trade for every Arizona washout now!!
Jimbo's varous manuevers has left the 2006 Washington Nationals with a true Minor League Pitching Staff. Not one starter can be trusted on any given night. John Patterson has been injured all season. Luis Ayala put himself out by making a stupid decision to pitch for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, despite recovering from elbow surgery. Not Bowden's fault, but everything else is stuck decididly on his shoulders. And, the bullpen has just flamed the fire after the Bray/Majewski trade. Cordero has been fairly consistent. Rauch gives up too many home runs. Micah Bowie was decent, until pulling a muscle in his back. The rest are poor. Why Travis Hughes is still in the Big Leagues is beyond me.
If the Washington Nationals still had Jamey Carroll, Claudio Vargas, Tomo Ohka, Bill Bray and Majewski (the not OVERUSED Gary)--(I am not convinced the Kearns/Lopez trade has actually helped us yet), and subtracted Damian Jackson, we would be a much more solid team. I get a kick out of reading from Bowden that the Reds Organization SCREWED UP Ryan Wagner's pitching mechanics, and once we get him straight, he will be light outs. Only to also read that Bowden wants to CHANGE AUSTIN KEARNS BATTING STYLE. The style that got him to the big leagues and made him a decent, but not all star caliber player. Seems to me JIMBO is talking out of both sides of his mouth. As always.
The retention of these few players, certaintly would not make Washington a contender, but the Nationals would be more competitive AND still be building for the future.
And the fans would be happier, knowing we have players that TRY!! Bowden has messed all this up. I still attend every single home game, as difficult as some are to watch. I love baseball. Love the Nats. Would love to see a NEW GENERAL MANAGER!! A General Manager with a real idea of how to build a tem. With JIM BOWDEN, we may well be doomed to being terrible for years to come.
And that is SAD!