Monday, April 30, 2007

More & More

UPDATE: Our Washington Nationals Designated D'Angelo Jimenez Today and Offically Recalled Kory Casto. Not Surprising in the least.
All spring long, the focus of Our Washington Nationals has rested nearly exclusively on The Starting Pitching. Game after Game during the first two weeks of the 2007 season, The Nationals never had a legitimate shot to win. Undependable Starting Pitching killing the team, putting Washington in early deficits, holes dug so deep, virtually no team in baseball could have clawed themselves out. Now, just as slowly as the weather has finally changed from bitter cold to expected spring warmth, Our Starting Pitching is warming up as well. More and More, Our Washington Nationals are competitive. Are they great?--by no means. But, they are better.

Shawn Hill has been Our Ace from the get go. Jason Bergmann has been a pleasant surprise. Matt Chico, a work in progress. Number 47 hangs in there though, even without his best stuff. Matt is making strides during his Major League ON THE JOB Training Program. Even Jerome Williams somehow pulled it out last Friday night against The Mets. Its a good thing he did, Jerome was heading to the Waiver Wire, now he's resting on The Disabled List. Only our supposed BEST PITCHER, John Patterson, has yet to show his expected promise.

And when your starting pitching holds up, MORE & MORE, the games become competitive. The closer the games, MORE & MORE, Our Manager Manny Acta must rely on strategy. Which ultimately means, MORE & MORE--Manny must rely on his bench players.

And, that's the subject of today's post.

MORE & MORE, Our Manager must realize--Our Washington Nationals DO NOT HAVE A BENCH.

On any given gameday, The Nationals bench players consist of Jesus Flores, Robert Fick, D'Angelo Jimenez, Josh Wilson and either Michael Restovich or Chris Snelling. That's it. That's Terrible.

Flores is a TERRIFIC YOUNG PLAYER. The Rule V Draftee must stay on The Major League Roster all year. That's fine with me. The more Jesus Plays, the better I like him. Number 3 is struggling at the plate, but is going to break out, sooner, rather than later. He just doesn't have experience.

After Jesus, those left sitting on the pine have been virtually unhelpful, some would say: USELESS.

No One to reliably trust to get a key hit. No One to provide Pop in the Bat for some late inning heroics. And, NOT A SINGLE PERSON THAT CAN BUNT. In fact, Jimenez and Wilson are not even trusted to play the field defensively. What kind of a bench is that? Would not even Bernie Castro be a better choice over Jimenez?

Our Manager, Manny Acta has few choices to counteract an opposing Manager's Moves. The Chess Match, so crucial to National League Baseball, is barely possible with Our Washington Nationals. Manny can ONLY HOPE Fick, Jimenez, Wilson, Restovich/Snelling or Flores can get the job done. So far this season, Manny Acta can only cross his fingers, wishing for luck, then long for a fluke. Not a way to Manage a Major League Team.

What a far cry from the first two season's of Nationals Baseball. Jamey Carroll, Ryan Church, Marlon Anderson, Daryle Ward, Brendan Harris, Marlon Byrd, Alex Escobar, Bernie Castro and, of course, Carlos Baerga (only because We LOVE CARLOS BAERGA in Section 320, the man provided so much enjoyment in 2005). Not any great players there, but some serviceable talent. Skill Frank Robinson could depend on late in the game to give Our Washington Nationals an opportunity to get back into or over the top in a tight match.

A Lost Moment Now, when Jimenez and Wilson are sent to the plate by Manny. Neither decent sticks. Fick, not much better. Number 13 can play first base decently, is the emergency third catcher--but has struggled MIGHTILY at the plate. Time and Time again early this season, Our Manager has sent Robert up to provide that veteran spark off the bench. He has failed, repeatedly--in the clutch.

Help may well be on the way though. Although the move is not official, some reports have Kory Casto joining The Nationals in San Diego tonight. No corresponding roster move. Cristian Guzman and Nook Logan are days away from returning. Jimenez has to be gone. Wilson next. "The Guz" & Logan, nor Casto are going to provide much power. But this trio does give Manny Acta maneuvering space late in games. Stratagem Our Manager has no power over currently.

Yeah, I understand a $35 Million Payroll limits growth possibilities off the bench, but it doesn't mean Our Washington Nationals progess is limited, right now. Ronnie Belliard would be a terrific platoon/late inning replacement if Guzman returns to short, FLop to second. Clearly, Cristian has to help also, not return to his 2005 form. Snelling is a helpful player, a gamer. Logan a perfect 4th Outfielder, late inning replacement. And, what in world has happened to ALEX ESCOBAR? The King Of Injury has disappeared off the radar screen for Our Washington Nationals. How is it possible for a player to dislocate his shoulder last September, AND STILL NOT BE ABLE TO THROW THE BASEBALL?

Alex Escobar is a FIVE TOOL TALENT, arguably one of the most thrilling players on The 2006 Version of The Nationals. If healthy, how decent would a Church, Escobar, Kearns outfield look? Logan, Snelling, Belliard, Flores and most likely still Fick off the bench. That's LIGHT YEARS from where we stand right now. And, I haven't even mentioned Nick Johnson, he's still a few months away.

More & More, I would LOVE TO SEE THAT BENCH. Manny might work miracles with THAT BENCH. Better Competitors, ready at a moments notice. WITH THAT BENCH, Our Washington Nationals would be a far better team, than today.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Jason Bergmann Takes One For The Team

Our Washington Nationals were DRAINED. The New York Mets were playing out the string. The Fans, both Nationals & Mets appeared to be in recovery mode. After two physically demanding and emotionally riveting affairs, the rubber game of a three game set is USUALLY a GETAWAY DAY, most always A DAY GAME and, more times than not, an uneventful lackadaisical get together. No way, Our Washington Nationals and The New York Mets could possibly maintain the high level of competition seen this past Friday and Saturday at RFK Stadium. A rather somber crowd of 27,361 settled in, seemingly happy to take in the absolutely GREAT WEATHER. Not alot of noise, little jabbering, an almost serene day at the ballpark. With a New York team in town, THAT'S INCREDIBLE! Not alot of excitement today, but a decent, closely played baseball game, nonetheless.

A good old fashioned pitching duel broke out. The Mets Starter, John Maine, continued to prove--What In The World Were The Baltimore Orioles THINKING by trading him off before the beginning of the 2006 season. The tall lanky righthander CAN PITCH. And, apparently, SO CAN Our Washington Nationals Jason Bergmann. Number 57 proving with each successive outing, he may well be a decent end of the rotation starter in The Major Leagues. Not a single player, coach, manager, scout or fan could walk away from The Stadium on East Capitol Street not believing in the maturation process of Jason Bergmann.

If you had told Bergmann. on this Sunday Afternoon, to stand out on the pitchers mound, dominate a heavy hitting New York Mets Lineup, surrender just two hits, three walks and throw 50 of your 88 pitches for strikes through 7 strong innings, I would bet he would take those results each and every time Our Manager Manny Acta handed him the baseball. So would Our Washington Nationals. More times than not, you are going to win with a performance like that. Jason was fabulous today, but he wasn't perfect. And, it cost him, dearly.

One mistake pitch, a 0-1 fastball to Carlos Beltran decided this tight affair. Beltran, 5-8 lifetime against Jason, lofted the only toss Number 57 wanted to take back all afternoon. Rightfielder Austin Kearns drifting back to the warning track. Carlos depositing the ball off the Washington Hall Of Stars sign above the Nats Bullpen in rightfield for a 1-0 score in the top of the 6th. Still, you couldn't fault Jason, he gave his all. If he had received ANY OFFENSIVE HELP, at all, from his teammates, Bergmann would be flying to San Diego for The Nationals Two Week Road Trip tonight a much happier man. Any team, no matter who you are, needs to score ONE RUN, to win any game.

One Run, The New York Mets plated today. One Run, Our Washington Nationals could not. Even though, Our Washington Nationals had their chances. As I have stated before, EVERY TEAM, in EVERY GAME, has at least ONE CHANCE. Washington had two HUGE OPPORTUNITIES this sunny afternoon. And, they failed, miserably, with the game on the line. The failure continuing to hammer home the truth--Our Bench needs a serious realignment.

With Maine beginning to stumble, Kearns led off the bottom of the 7th ripping a clean double down the left field line. Austin's bat coming alive of late, eight of his last 11 hits have been for extra bases. Then, Ryan Church continues to show patience at the plate, receiving his 6th walk over the past two games. The Mets in trouble now, No Outs, runners on first and second. Jesus Flores was next. Flores, who may well turnout to be A TERRIFIC PLAYER (more on him in the game notes) has yet to breakout at the plate so far this season. Manny realizing this, and looking to tie the game up, signaled for Jesus to bunt the runners up. As has been the case throughout the brief HISTORY OF OUR WASHINGTON NATIONALS, WE CAN NOT BUNT!!! Number 3, with The Mets expecting, bunted the ball right to Julio Franco charging in from first base. The Oldest Man in the Majors, scooped up the ball, and with 25 years of Major League Experience, wheeled, tossed the ball to David Wright at third to retire the hard sliding Kearns. Although Flores was safe at First Base, Our Washington Nationals had, one again, failed to move runners up, to put pressure on an opponent. The Collective GROANS from Nats Fans, palpable. How much longer will fans have to put up with poor bunting skills (Complaining about it so much, Its become MY PASSION to have it fixed. Bunting is a basic skill. Really, THERE IS NO EXCUSE, NONE).

Chris Snelling was next. My Favorite Aussie playing inconsistently lately, now seems lost at the plate. No longer the patient, confident hitter from earlier in April. Chris struck out swinging for Out Number 2. Still, we had a chance. Yet, with Bergmann the next scheduled hitter, Our Manager decided to send Robert Fick to the plate to pinch hit. Maybe, since Manny Acta knew it was Sunday, Today would be Redemption Day for Robert Fick. I apologize for harping on the point, but, to be honest, Fick has been struggling this season. Time and Time again, he has been ineffective--no key hits, an unproductive batter. Yet, the man wearing unlucky Number 13 would not be blessed today either, striking out badly, yet again, to kill the rally. Sorry, but, as much as I like Robert Fick personally (He was incredibly kind to The African Queen and I during Spring Training), he is not getting the job done. Our Washington Nationals need a finer choice.

Then, in the bottom of the 8th, a prime opportunity to steal the game, and the first series win arose. Mets Manager Willie Randolph decided Maine was done. Aaron Heilman was sent out by New York. Our Washington Nationals went right after him. Felipe Lopez continued to show he may be a decent leadoff hitter after all, greeting Heilman with a single to left. The EVER HOT HITTING Ronnie Belliard rapped out his third hit of the game (and second three hit game in consecutive days) by lining a single to left. FLop to second. First and Second, No Outs. With Ryan Zimmerman stepping to the plate, who at RFK did not believe Number 11 would lash his patented opposite field liner to the gap in right scoring both, a victory possibly in hand? Yet, Ryan continued his early season struggles, striking out on a slider in the dirt by Heilman. Zimmerman, flat out pissed at himself as he walk back to the Nats Third Base Dugout. When will "Z" break out of it? Nearly One Month into the 2007 Season, Ryan Zimmerman is hitting .236 with One Homer and 8 RBI. How badly does he miss Nick Johnson?

Dimitri Young, simply not a factor today, striking out in his first three at bats, then lofted a routine fly to right, FLop scurrying to third. With two out now, the hot hitting Austin Kearns was next. The Mets really wanted nothing to do with him. Austin walking to load the bases and My MAIN MAN!! Ryan Church next.

Fearing Church's Power Potential, Willie Randolph made the right move, calling for lefty Scott Schoeneweis. With the crowd now STANDING for the very first time all day, Ryan would take ball one, then lash Schoeneweis' very next pitch toward first base--RIGHT AT JULIO FRANCO. Franco running to first to retire the HARD CHARGING CHURCH. "Church on Sunday" was also not be today. A great disappointment in Section 320.

And, when Fireballer Billy Wagner came on to close this one out in the bottom of the 9th for The New York Mets, Our Washington Nationals had lost their second 1-0 game at RFK Stadium since the Inaugural Season. Would I have loved to see them win today? Yeah, you bet. But, I couldn't feel bad, really. Jason Bergmann pitched as well as he ever has in the Major Leagues. He was, sadly, the designated scapegoat. He deserved better. Frankly, we simply got beat, in a close game, that teetered to the opposing side. Our Nationals need some help, assistance that will hopefully come our way early next week. Cristian Guzman and Nook Logan are expected back. Kory Casto is being recalled from AAA Columbus. With a better bench, Washington has a GREATER CHANCE to win. Our Pitching is really not that bad, right now--as long as we can straighten out "The Chief".

Game Notes & Highlights:

FLop made two terrific defensive plays at shortstop. Leading off the 5th, Damion Easley ground sharply into the hole between Short and Third Base. Lopez backhanded the ball on the grass, taking the short hop, set himself, AND FLAT OUT HUMMED THE BALL ACROSS THE DIAMOND to retire Easley. Dimtri Young did not even stretch. Big League Throw, Big League Play, and The Defensive Play of the Game. Too Bad FLop couldn't get off the same strong throw last night in the 9th with two outs, against the same Easley. An Out would have resolved all the late night Histrionics and Angst in that brutal 12th inning loss.

Then, in the 9th, Moises Alou would sharply ground to the hole, once again. FLop sort of lost his balance, stumbled, but still backhanded the ball on the short hop, FIRING to Young at first. Dimitri scooped the ball out of the dirt to retire Alou. Felipe has one of the strongest INFIELD ARMS in the game. If only he could be more consistent. When he applies himself, Lopez is a decent talent.

Jesus Flores continues to impress behind the plate. Now getting familiar with opposing hitters, he's setting up the pitches better. And, when Jose Reyes stole second base in the top of the second inning, it was not due to a BAD THROW. From his knees, Jesus ROPED A LINER to second, just missing the speedy roadster Reyes. With more experience, there is NO DOUBT, Jesus Flores is a keeper. You gotta give Jim Bowden credit for snatching him last December in the Rule V Draft.

In the top of the second inning, Julio Franco popped a foul ball down the right field line. Dimitri Young, Ronnie Belliard and Austin Kearns all converged. As has been the case all season long, Kearns gave way to another fielder. In this case Young, who dropped the ball. Austin had the angle, the speed and agility to make the play, more so than the other two. Continually, he concerns me that he is UNWILLING to dive in, take charge, and more likely to avoid than be in a collision with another player. Afraid to be involved in an incident similar to that which Nick Johnson broke his left femur last September against these same Mets. That's troubling.

The only other 1-0 game in Washington Nationals History was May 18, 2005, when Jeffrey Hammonds rapped a two out, bottom of the ninth single to score the winning run against The Milwaukee Brewers.

In 22 games at RFK Stadium, The New York Mets have won 17 of them. Not Good for Our Washington Nationals.

Finally, late in today's game, Loyal Nats320 Reader Chris stopped by to introduce himself to The African Queen and I. We both appreciated his kind words and comments. What really peaked my interest, during his visit, was his DC Flag Patch, attached to his "Washington" Away Jersey. Chris mentioned he thought it was appropriate for Our Washington Nationals to wear this Logo on their Game Uniforms. Honestly, I thought it was a great idea. So, I am passing on the info to The Nationals for review. We shall see what they think.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Heart Wrenching

The Mastery of This GREAT GAME to RIP MY HEART OUT at the very moment I COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MUCH HAPPIER, is what makes BASEBALL SO COMPELLING. Tonight, 29,292 witnessed one of the WILDEST GAMES ever played by Our Washington Nationals since baseball returned to The Nation's Capital in 2005. RFK Stadium Rocked. This One HAD IT ALL. Some of which, including a Two Out, Two Strike Game Changing Moment, was not good, and extremely costly.

A Sure Fire Hall of Fame pitcher tossed a one hitter entering the 6th inning. His Journeyman counterpart--A NO HITTER. One of finest young fielders in the game today, made three terrific defensive gems, Highlight Reel Plays, then inexplicably threw away the final out of the 7th inning, putting tonight's opponent, The New York Mets back into the game. He also got plunked in the spine on a breaking pitch. One Manager would be kicked out the game. A pitcher would nearly hit a home run, then while watching the ball's flight, forget to run. The Ball hitting off the left field wall, leaving the hitter with merely a single. And, with two outs, nobody on base and a one run lead in hand in the top of the 9th, all HELL WOULD BREAK LOOSE. Two BANG BANG PLAYS, one of which, had EVERY FAN BELIEVING their team had just won or tied the game. Both of which sent this affair, AMAZINGLY, INTO EXTRA INNINGS. 12 innings, in fact, where New York's FANS eventually took over RFK STADIUM as more and more Nationals Fans went home. Was that EVER SADDENING. Our Washington Nationals continuing to fail at plating runners from scoring position. Something The Mets will, more time than not, succeed. When the final out was recorded 3 Hours & 59 Minutes after it began, The Mets might as well have been playing at SHEA STADIUM. Their Fans Owned RFK STADIUM. Not even Section 320, all of us staying until the bitter end, could overturn this tidal force.

In Gut Wrenching Style, Our Washington Nationals lost to the New York Mets, 6-2, on a night most anyone attending will not soon forget. Personally, I have to be up at 7AM tomorrow. Seriously, I doubt if I will be able to sleep this off. This Loss Hurt, BADLY. All because, of that wicked top of the 9th. With "The Chief Cardiologist" needing just one more out, not a single Washington Nationals Fan DID NOT BELIEVE Chad Cordero was going to close this one out. Up 2-1 on a clutch two out double by Ronnie Belliard in the bottom of the 8th scoring Jesus Flores, every single remaining Nats Fan was relishing a series win and another night of shutting down New York's OUTRAGEOUS FANS. What could be sweeter?

Yet, Shawn Green stepped to the plate and ripped the very first pitch from Chad to right for a clean single. Endy Chavez entered to pinch run. Damion Easley was next. The Fate of Baseball came into play. Easley, was in this game only because Mets Starting Second Baseman, Jose Valentin, hurt himself earlier in the affair. Valentin having to leave, Easley his replacement. Batting righthanded, Damion worked deep into the count. Ball one, Swinging Strike, Ball Two--CALLED STRIKE TWO!! The Mets down to their final strike of their final out. Really, this game was over. The RFK STADIUM CROWD WAS ROARING!! Easley fouled off Cordero's next offering. Then, on the sixth pitch of this At-Bat, Easley grounded into the hole between 3rd and Shortstop. A sure game ending out. Ryan Zimmerman seemed to have the better angle, but stayed back from the ball at the last moment. Felipe Lopez backhanded the ball, but seeing Easley running hard, did not set to throw across the diamond. Instead, FLop threw off his wrong foot, still getting some umph on the ball, the toss though not overly strong. All Night Long, First Base Umpire Tony Randazzo was in the spotlight on some very close calls. On this GAME CHANGER, Randazzo, by a hair lash, called Easley SAFE!! Chavez moving to second. The Collective Roar of DISGUST from Nats Fans alongside the vocal cheers of Mets Fans realizing their life extended, heart wrenching.

Then, it only got worse. No way, Our Washington Nationals want to see Julio Franco Pinch Hit in this situation with the game on the line. The 48 Year Old is quite savvy. Nothing will distract him. Distraction what Chad Cordero can't seem to get out of his mind. Sure enough, Franco would take ball one in the dirt, then DRILL Number 32's next fastball to right on a line. Endy Chavez running all the way looking to tie the game on this stroke. Austin Kearns took a nice track to the bouncing ball, scooped it up and UNLEASHED a beautiful throw to the plate. EVERYONE STANDING ROARING AT THE POTENTIAL OUTCOME.
This was going to be close. The ball bounced off the grass right into catcher Jesus Flores' Glove, but instead of letting the ball come to him, Jesus reached for the ball, slightly pulling himself away from the plate, toward the first base side of home. Chavez slid to the right back half of home plate. With EVERY FAN NOW ON THEIR FEET, NATS FANS BELIEVING CHAVEZ WAS OUT!! NEW YORKERS SAFE!! HOME PLATE UMPIRE GREG GIPSON EMPHATICALLY RULED SAFE!!! Game Tied. RFK Stadium erupting in shock and disbelief for Washington Fans. Mets Fans RUBBING IT IN!! "The Chief" Chad Cordero looking, not only stunned, but shocked at this unbelievable turn of events.

Just like that- a sure win was now gone. A Sure Win lost by the slimmest of margins. Mere split seconds on both close calls. How MADDENING BASEBALL CAN BE. And, when Our Washington Nationals could not plate the winning run in the bottom half of the 9th with two runners on and Robert Fick striking out badly to end the inning-many Nats Fans began to realize this was not going to be our night. As well as Our Pitching had shut down the vaunted Mets Lineup both last night and tonight, you just knew, their mighty bats would wake soon. Which they finally did in the 12th against a tired Saul Rivera. Pitching his 4th relief inning in less than 24 hours, Number 52 began to falter. Tonight's New York Game Changer, Easley, would double down the left field line. Ramon Castro would walk, then Jose Reyes would cleanly bunt safely toward third. A gorgeous bunt, along with his speed, gave Zimmerman no chance--loading the bases with nobody out. NEW YORKER'S really bringing it now. "Let GO METS!!" heard all over the cavernous ballpark.

Our Manager, Manny Acta then slowly walked out to relieve Rivera for Ryan Wagner. Two pitches later, THIS GAME WAS OVER. Paul Lo Duca would swing at Ryan's first pitch, grounding to Lopez, drawn in. FLop fired home for out number 1. Still Bases Loaded. The very dangerous, Carlos Beltran followed and sharply grounded Ryan's very next pitch down the right field line. Castro and Reyes score. 4-2 now. And, the PA System might as well have been playing "NEW YORK, NEW YORK" Many Mets Fans living the good life. Their comeback was complete. After intentionally walking Carlos Delgado to reload the bases for a force play, Wagner hammered the final coffin nail when David Wright singled to left, scoring Lo Duca and Beltran, finishing out the scoring, 6-2 Mets.

With 100MPH Fastball Closer, Billy Wagner coming out for the bottom of the 12th. The GAME WAS OVER, SADLY. Except for Khalil Greene's & Mike Piazza's 9th inning Home Runs off Cordero last July 9th in a come from behind win for San Diego over Our Washington Nationals at RFK, I can't recall a more depressing state while leaving the stadium after a game. All the way home, I was silent. The African Queen realizing, I just did not wish to talk about the loss tonight. And, in fact, am having a very difficult time writing about it. We lost TO THE METS, in a game, WE SHOULD HAVE WON, on a night, New Yorker's PUT IT IN OUR FACE--in our Very Own BALLPARK!! And, MOST OF OUR FANS WENT HOME EARLY!! In a Thriller. That sucks!!

As I mentioned yesterday, the atmosphere provided by a New York Team's following is always exciting. Yet that enjoyment quickly dissapates when Our Very OWN HOME FANS DID NOT SEEM TO CARE.

This game was played on a SATURDAY NIGHT!! Where are all you supposed Nationals' Fans GOING!!?? 15,000 of you are not going to work on Sunday Morning. I can understand a weeknight. But, not many Nats Fans have an excuse for the weekends. This really bothers me. And, it left RFK to New Yorkers to claim.

Game Notes & Highlights:

Tom Glavine was the Potential Hall of Famer who pitched a solid 6 innings tonight, but was not involved in the final decision.

Despite 5 walks, Jerome Williams surprised, probably even himself, by throwing a NO HITTER for 5.1 innings. Later, it was Williams who clobbered a two strike fastball from Glavine to the wall in left and proceeded to admire his blast, then shockingly discover the ball was not launched as far as he thought. Jerome Embarrassing himself by getting a single on a sure double. Then, attempting to break up the double play while running from first base on a grounder, twisted his ankle, resulting in Williams being taken out of the game after walking David Wright leading off the 7th.

In the top of the 5th, Ryan Zimmerman would snare two sharp grounders to his right, throwing out Damion Easley and the speedy Jose Reyes. For Reyes, Ryan dove to the line, picked himself up, threw off balance, and bounced the ball to Dimitri Young at first. It was The Defensive Play of the Game. Both close calls. Calls which Mets Manager Willie Randolph did not agree with. Eventually, Randolph would be tossed by Randazzo, the First Base Umpire, for arguing another close call, this time on an infield single by Felipe Lopez. Also, Zimmerman would turn his third 4-5-3 Double Play of the past week during an overshift with Carlos Delgado at the plate for the Mets.

But, in the 7th, disaster struck, "Z" would field a routine grounder by Easley with Green on first. Ryan decided to go the short way to second to end the inning with Green. Not setting his feet, Zimmerman just flipped the ball, and it sailed past Ronnie Belliard into short right field. Green moving to third, where he scored on a Wild Pitch by Jesus Colome. Cheap Run, and it was costly.

Ronnie Belliard had a terrific night. Getting three hits, two doubles and knocking in both Nats Runs tonight on identical pulled doubles down the leftfield line. If not for the terrible top of the 9th, Ronnie Belliard would have been Our Hero TONIGHT!!

In the bottom of the 3rd inning, two outs, Felipe Lopez on first. Ronnie Belliard was at the plate with a 3-1 count. On the pitch from Tom Glavine, FLop took off, Belliard took called strike two. Lopez, for whatever reason thought Ronnie had struck out, which he had not. Felipe stopped running and was tagged out by Jose Reyes on a throw from Paul LoDuca. Just terrible baserunning and not having your head in the game.

When Jesus Colome entered the game. Jesus found himself pitching to Jesus Flores. His first batter faced was Moises Alou. MickNats turned to me stating: "Jesus is pitching to Jesus and Moises (Moses) is at the plate. I guess this game change is of BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS!" We all laughed. It was funny. And, in retrospect, turned out to be true.

Later, The African Queen noted: "Maybe, we just didn't have a prayer."

Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Linda Spillers

Cell Phone Ticket Technology

Although I originally posted this story as part of my game recap last evening, I felt it very important to give Our Washington Nationals new Cell Phone Ticket Technology a bigger play, not buried at the bottom of another piece. So, here is a reprint of yesterday's tour I took with the folks from

Before tonight's game, I headed over to The NEW KIOSK SET UP by to teach Season Ticket Holders how to use their online accounts at, and transfer tickets to anyone, whether to their home computers, and onto a person's cellphone. The Demonstration, near The Red Hot & Blue Eatery was quite fascinating. Every Season Ticket Holder is allowed to have TWO BUDDIES that you can send tickets to all season long FOR FREE. Anyone else you transfer a game ticket to, a $2 service charge is applied to your account.

What's fascinating about this technology, which RFK STADIUM is one of the very first to utilize, is that, say you have the game tickets and are running late-your friend is already at RFK. If you both have Compatible Cell Phones that can handle this service, all you have to do is email a transfer code to your buddies phone. Your friend will receive an email with BAR CODE and Complete Ticket Information. Your friend just needs to show his phone at THE MAIN GATE to RFK Stadium (The only entrance accepting the service right now). The Ticket Attendant scans the bar code right off the phone, then proceeds to give the cell phone user a printed receipt with Game Date, Seat Location and Details.

Really, I thought this is a GREAT USE OF TECHNOLOGY. There are so many ways ticket holders can take advantage of this opportunity. Even selling your seats late, not even 15 minutes before a game begins, yet still getting the seats to the buyer. What a great deal, if you can not attend for whatever reason. And, if you are a COLLECTOR and a SPECIAL GAME is coming up and you VALUE A PERFECT TICKET, you no longer have to carry that game seat to the park with you. Just email the ticket to yourself, leave the ticket at home, scan your phone, get a receipt. What could be finer.

Finally, if you forgot your tickets at home, in the office or the car--NO PROBLEM NOW. Email the seats to yourself via Life is easy, thanks to A CELL PHONE. And besides, the folks gave out some nice white TEE Shirts with logo on the back for those that completed the demonstration.

Friday, April 27, 2007

New York!! New York!!

Bang! Zoom!!! Went The Fireworks, and Just Like That, Our Washington Nationals had scored in the first inning for the First Time during the 2007 Season. It only took them a Near Major League Record 23 Games to do so, but were those runs EVER BIG!! Austin Kearns unloaded on a Two Out, 1-1 Count Fastball by The New York Mets Oliver Perez, jacking the ball to dead centerfield, just over the wall, giving Washington an early 3-0 lead.

That was the beginning of a most enjoyable night of baseball at RFK Stadium. For the first time since Opening Day, the weather cooperated with a comfortable game time temperature of 76 Degrees. A rambunctious Friday Night Crowd was into this affair from the beginning. As every single fan, always is, when a New York Team comes to town. Nothing is better than rooting against ANY NEW YORK TEAM and their following. But, you can't deny the spice and near mayhem their fans bring to each and every baseball game. Whether New York Fans are Loud, Crude, or just downright Rude, its always a great joy to jabber with them at RFK. Especially when you BEAT THEM!! Section 320 in top form tonight with MickNats, Jill, Libby & Steve, Ann, Steve & Mikey, "The Noise Boys" and me. The African Queen, sick at home, sat this one out (Her first missed game of the season). But, what fun we had, shouting down every New Yorker in our presence.

Matt Chico got the nod tonight for Our Nationals against the very potent New York Mets Lineup, and he hung in there, giving up hits in every inning he pitched, getting into trouble severely in the 3rd, 4th and 6th, allowing two runs. Finally, when HIS MAGIC was done for the night--On came Saul Rivera to ABSOLUTELY SHUTDOWN THE NEW YORK METS. For 1 and 2/3rds innings tonight, Rivera pitched as well as he has EVER PERFORMED in the Major Leagues. Number 52 was TERRIFIC, and in many respects, the GAME SAVER. When Saul trotted to the mound in the top of the 6th inning tonight, The Mets had the bases loaded and ONE OUT. Their Faithful on their feet screaming "Lets Go Mets!!", in yet another attempt to HIGHJACK A VISITING BALLPARK. What a GREAT PLEASURE to see Saul Strike Out Oliver Perez and then get Jose Reyes (arguably the most pesky player in the game) to ground out to Ronnie Belliard to end the threat. The Wonderful Sight of New York Fans raising their arms in shear disgust at The Mets Failure, always a SIGHT TO BEHOLD!! Saul Rivera walking to the dugout a HUGE HERO!!!, to a well deserved Standing Ovation. Yet, not a sole attending, did not realize, THIS GAME WAS FAR FROM OVER!! The Score was only 3-2 Nationals. The Mets to bat three more times.

Fortunately, Dimtri Young would power an opposite field blast to right center past the very speedy Carlos Beltran of New York in the bottom of the 6th. A Good Runner would have tripled on this play, a speedy runner possibly a Inside The Park Home Run (Think Nook Logan or Bernie Castro), but this was DIMITRI YOUNG. The Big Guy stopped at second with a double. Where, with two outs, My Main Man!! Ryan Church performed the unusual, for him, lining an opposite field grounder over the third base bag, down the line. Young lumbering all the way towards home, Church reading RBI DOUBLE. Mets Leftfielder Moises Alou was on the ball quickly, with Young moving slowly, Ryan had two bagger on his mind. Alou realizing he may well have Church at second, threw behind Dimitri nailing Ryan Church at second, MERE SECONDS after Dimitri Young crossed home plate for Our Nationals 4th and final run of this evening. Home Plate Umpire Larry Vanover EMPHATICALLY calling Dimitri SAFE AT THE PLATE, before the final out was recorded at second. Vanover POINTING DECIDEDLY at HOME PLATE and then to The OFFICIAL SCORER. RallyTimeRichard and My Hearts DROPPING, believing Young, at first, DID NOT SCORE. We were both about to go after Ryan Church, if Our Washington Nationals did not score on this most crucial run.

A fourth run ever more important when Jon Rauch came on to set up "The Chief" during the 8th inning. "The Wookie" would immediately give up back to back doubles by David Wright and Moises Alou making the score 4-3 Nats. As Pitching Coach Randy St.Claire trotted to the mound for a visit with Rauch, New York's Fans were SHOUTING IT OUT--"LETS GO METS!!" reverberating throughout the stadium. Whatever St.Claire said to Jon, got his juices flowing. With the game DEFINITELY on the line, The TALLEST MAN to ever play this GREAT GAME, fired away--getting the powerful Shawn Green to fly to Church in center. Washington catcher, Brian Schneider walking halfway out to the mound, fist pumping to Number 51 his encouragement and to keep throwing to the dangerous Mets Lineup the same way. Which Rauch did, getting Jose Valentin to fly to Kearns in right, then the only player still playing Major League Baseball today older than me, Julio Franco, (My Hero, 48 years to my 47, as he makes me feel young) proceeded to fly out to Church to kill, yet another Mets Rally.

Once again, Our Washington Nationals had survived the best New York had to offer, still leading 4-3. But, Chad Cordero was coming into the game to close it out. How ANYONE could leave after eight innings is beyond MY BELIEF. Yet, Thousands Did. Definitely, NOT BASEBALL FANS. And, certainly, no understanding of the excitement "The Chief Cardiologist" brings to the mound each and every game.

Our Most Thrilling Closer was TERRIFIC TONIGHT. Despite falling behind to Jose Reyes, Chad fought back, like he always does, getting Jose to pop in foul territory to Ryan Zimmerman for out number one. Paul LoDuca would follow with a drive to left center. Late inning defensive replacement Chris Snelling would snare the ball, running to his left, backhanding the catch. Finally, Chad Cordero would SHUTDOWN THE NEW YORK METS for the final time tonight, jamming the always dangerous Carlos Beltran getting him to pop to Ronnie Belliard to FINISH THE THRILLER!!!! BANG!! ZOOM!! GO THE FIREWORKS!! Curly "W" Number 8 for Our Washington Nationals and Save Number 3 for "The Chief". Make no mistake about it, Cordero was fabulous tonight!! And, there is no greater pleasure than shutting up New Yorkers!! April 27th, 2007 was an enjoyable night at RFK Stadium.

Just a reminder. No doubt, Our Washington Nationals will struggle throughout this season. But, it doesn't take away ANY of the pleasure of attending each and every game at RFK STADIUM. In Section 320, we have fun, no matter WHAT THE FINAL SCORE. You never know what you might see during each and every game. That's a major part of the thrill. And, BEATING NEW YORK, whether its The Yankees or The Mets, is ALWAYS GRATIFYING.

Game Notes & Highlights:

In the top of the second, Ryan Zimmerman reflex snared a SCREAMER by Moises Alou ripped down the left field line. Only cat like instincts make that play. Number 11 made THE DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE GAME.

Mets sidearm reliever, Joe Smith, whom I had never heard of was outstanding in one inning of relief. Throwing in the low 90's, his stuff was filthy. Not one of the three Nationals Batters that faced him, had any chance. His upshoot on his pitches were beautiful to watch. Not graceful as Chad Bradford (he of the knuckles dragging along the mound on each pitch) but very effective. Wow, he was good.

With two out in the Top of the 9th, Carlos Beltran attempted to call TIME OUT with an 0-1 count. Chad Cordero already had begun his windup. Home Plate Umpire Larry Vanover would not give it to him. Beltran, with his bat on his shoulder and one arm up in the air, had no choice but to take called STRIKE TWO. Beltran WAS HOT!!! He and Vanover got into it. Mets Manager Willie Randolph had to come out to calm Carlos down. Actually, Beltran was SO HOT its hard to believe Vanover DID NOT TOSS HIM OUT--As Carlos pushed past Willie Randolph to go after The Home Plate Umpire Again--To GREAT JOY FROM FANS FOR BOTH TEAMS!! Although Vanover did not toss Carlos Beltran, it didn't matter as Chad retired him two pitches later to end the game. But, it was fun to watch. The Moment was SO UNEXPECTED!!

Matt Chico, not only gained his second career Major League Victory tonight, but also rapped out his very first Major League Hit, a grounder up the middle off Oliver Perez in the bottom of the second inning.

For the first time in recent MEMORY, MY BEST FRIEND DID NOT POST UP at customary First Pitch. Could he have known HIS GIRL FRIEND, The African Queen was absent tonight? No Way. When Screech finally showed up in the 7th, "THE NOISE BOYS" took him to task. Many a time, Screech points at his illusionary watch, then to "THE BOYS", chiding them for ALWAYS BEING LATE. Tonight, turnabout was fair play. "THE NOISE BOYS" GAVE IT TO SCREECH!! My Best Friend took it well, but CRIED NONETHELESS--SORRY TO DISAPPOINT. That's OK SCREECH, WE LOVE YOU, ALWAYS. Just Don't MISS FIRST PITCH!!

The first two times The Mets Jose Valentin stepped to the plate, the Big Scoreboard in Right with the color pictures of the players spelled out Jose's last name "VALENTINE". Section 320 just HOWLING IN LAUGHTER. When you attend each and every game like most of us do, you notice even the smallest error. Yet, over the first two plus seasons of Nats Baseball at RFK Stadium we have CONSISTENTLY GRIMACED and CHUCKLED at Our Scoreboard Operator. Never it seems, a night goes by that something does not go wrong on the electronic boards. We look forward to these errors each and every night. Shameless we are, as we LOVE MAKING FUN OF THE TECHNICAL MISTAKES. We can never understand how they are NEVER CAUGHT, CONSISTENTLY!!

Finally, before tonight's game, I headed over to The NEW KIOSK SET UP by to teach Season Ticket Holders how to use their online accounts at, and transfer tickets to anyone, whether to their home computers, and onto a person's cellphone. The Demonstration, near The Red Hot & Blue Eatery was quite fascinating. Every Season Ticket Holder is allowed to have TWO BUDDIES that you can send tickets to all season long FOR FREE. Anyone else you transfer a game ticket to, a $2 service charge is applied to your account.

What's fascinating about this technology, which RFK STADIUM is one of the very first to utilize, is that, say you have the game tickets and are running late-your friend is already at RFK. If you both have Compatible Cell Phones that can handle this service, all you have to do is email a transfer code to your buddies phone. Your friend will receive an email with BAR CODE and Complete Ticket Information. Your friend just needs to show his phone at THE MAIN GATE to RFK Stadium (The only entrance accepting the service right now). The Ticket Attendant scans the bar code right off the phone, then proceeds to give the cell phone user a printed receipt with Game Date, Seat Location and Details.

Really, I thought this is a GREAT USE OF TECHNOLOGY. There are so many ways ticket holders can take advantage of this opportunity. Even selling your seats late, not even 15 minutes before a game begins, yet still getting the seats to the buyer. What a great deal, if you can not attend for whatever reason. And, if you are a COLLECTOR and a SPECIAL GAME is coming up and you VALUE A PERFECT TICKET, you no longer have to carry that game seat to the park with you. Just email the ticket to yourself, leave the ticket at home, scan your phone, get a receipt. What could be finer.

Finally, if you forgot your tickets at home, in the office or the car--NO PROBLEM NOW. Email the seats to yourself via Life is easy, thanks to A CELL PHONE. And besides, the folks gave out some nice white TEE Shirts with logo on the back for those that completed the demonstration.

And, many THANKS to Mick (Not MICKNATS) who was kind enough to stop by tonight, introduce himself and say how much he enjoys The Nats320 Blog. Your effort was well appreciated.

Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Nick Wass

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Last Canadian Still Standing

The first day I ever laid my eyes on him, Shawn Hill completed a shutout through seven solid innings against The Philadelphia Phillies. The Date was Sunday, June 11th, 2006. The African Queen and I remember that day well. Major League Baseball, then the Owners of Our Washington Nationals invited each and every season ticket holder on the turf at RFK Stadium for a Post Game Picnic. Most every Nats Player showed up, to sign autographs--Shawn Hill included.

Sitting on top of the first base dugout, signing autographs, most fans did not really know who was Number 41. In all honesty, for popularity, Shawn was low on totem pole. So, I approached him, thanked him for his outstanding effort that day, mentioning how much I enjoyed his poise on the pitching rubber. Looking up from signing my baseball, Shawn Hill appreciated the comments, extended his right hand, shook mine firmly--thanking me for noticing. Briefly, we chatted, nothing too substantial, but I enjoyed my moment with him. Not one single other Fan had spoken ONE WORD TO HIM. NOT ONE. Most everybody just wanting an autograph, while moving through to the next player. That very moment, Shawn Hill became special to me. Down to earth, head screwed on correctly. Someone new to cheer for.

Never did I run into him again, until this past February when Shawn Hill was kind enough to give me 15 minutes of his time during Spring Training to discuss his future in baseball with me. But, just like last June, Hill was kind, considerate, WANTING to speak baseball with me. It really was an enjoyable two way conversation. He liked my questions and I peaked his interest. Hill laughed mightily, surprised when I told him he is THE BEST BUNTING PITCHER on Our Nationals. "You better believe it," I reaffirmed. My followup comment NOT GOING UNNOTICED in The Nationals Clubhouse. Heads rising, players looking. All resulting in one of my favorite posts from Viera. Injuries have always curtailed this Ontario, Canada Native throughout his young professional career. Yet, Shawn told me that late February Day he was healthy, in shape, and ready to prove he belongs as a Starter In The Major Leagues. More than anyone else in Spring Camp, Shawn well knew this was HIS OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE A NAME FOR HIMSELF.

More and more throughout the six weeks of Spring Training, it became apparent that Hill WAS OUR BEST STARTER--UNQUESTIONABLY. And, when I saw him once again, On Opening Day, at The Main Gate to RFK Stadium, handing out Curly "W" Caps, I was proud when he recognized me right away, remembering my name, telling me "I hope I don't disappoint your faith in me." Replying, I stated:"I am happy to see you make it here (THE MAJORS), healthy and ready to go. Just do your best, that's all I ask." We shook hands strongly, snapped a quick photo (yeah I know its not my usual best-but my point is more important than the picture quality) and parted ways. As I said to The African Queen as we walked on to our seats in Section 320--"Shawn Hill is a decent young man. I really hope he pulls it all together. He's SO DESERVING."

No doubt, Shawn Hill has yet to falter in 2007. And, today, he pitched his FINEST GAME as a Major Leaguer. Shutting down the Philadelphia Phillies, yet again, through eight plus innings. Staying ahead in the count, his sinker was fabulous and unlike most pitchers in the game today, Number 41 lets the batter hit the ball. Why try to strike everyone out, when more times than not, a hitter will get himself out. When the great majority of batters only get a hit less than three out of 10 plate appearances, pinpoint control will succeed most every time out. Shawn Hill knows how to pitch. He pitches with confidence and a game plan. A plan which he sticks to. The very last True Canadian to ever play for The Montreal Expos, is Our ACE. The man can play. And, I am very proud of him.

Shawn Hill also pitched today with the lead. Facing Up Against Phillies Young Phenom, Cole Hamels, Our Washington Nationals were able to put some runs on the board against one of the game's finest young lefthanders. This, after Cole struck out 15 batters in his last game appearance. A solo Home Run to right by Dimitri Young in the 4th. A two run bloop single to left scoring Ronnie Belliard and Ryan Zimmerman in the sixth by Ryan Church. And, finally a bases loaded walk to Brian Schneider scored Austin Kearns in the same frame putting Washington up 4-0.

Really, that was all Hill needed today. For the most part, Shawn was dominant. Our Nationals played solid defense behind him. He did falter a little late, giving up a Homer to The HOT HITTING Aaron Roward (Why in the world would Philadelphia be shopping this guy, he's a terrific all around performer), but Our Manager, Manny Acta knew this was Shawn's Game to go the distance and rightly sent him out for the 9th in an attempt for the Complete Game.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. When Shane Victorino walked to lead off the bottom of the ninth, Manny had to take him out. There's NO WAY Acta lets Shawn Hill tire late and destroy a wonderful outing. On trotted "The Chief Cardiologist" to make it interesting as always. First getting Chase Utley, but not before Utley sent a Chad pitch to the wall and fence in Dead Centerfield at Citizens Bank Park. Ryan Church retrieving the ball, but not before a few hearts fell right into a few Nats Fans stomachs. Then, giving up a double to Ryan Howard, moving Victorino to third and a Sacrifice Fly to score Shane by Pat Burrell, also at the wall, this time in right, hauled in by Austin Kearns, making the score 4-2 Nats.

But, Chad was not to be denied today. Wes Helms was next. And, Cordero fired away. Reaching 91 Miles per hour on his fastball, "The Chief" would strike out Helms swinging to end the game, preserving Shawn Hill's much deserved win and releasing some serious tension for Cordero. Chad Cordero made it interesting, as always, but like more times than not, Number 32 was successful. Save Number 2 for Our Closer. Curly "W" number 7 for Our Washington Nationals.

On the heels of last night's terrible 9-3 lost to these same Phillies, Our Washington Nationals played a crisp, clean game. Pride was on the line today. To their great credit, Our Team played their hearts out. The Ups and Downs of Baseball, that I love so much. Playing most everyday for six months makes the game so much more special than any other sport. Whether today's win is a Harbinger of things to come, or a detour in the road of more frustration to follow (I would imagine a little of both), we shall not know for some time.

As for Today--April 26th, 2007, Our Washington Nationals finally confirmed we really do have, AT LEAST ONE Very Good Major League Caliber Starting Pitcher. Shawn Hill is here to stay.

Hope is on the horizon. What a nice feeling, after the depression of last night.

Tonight's In Game Photos--(AP) H. Rumph, Jr.

Our Washington Nationals

Obviously, I struck a cord. A Nerve that many Nats Naysayers were not expecting from me. Screech'sBestFriend is not blind, but I always attempt to be fair in my assessments. Not unexpected on many levels, Our Washington Nationals are off to a terrible start. Still, this poor April does not take away from my enjoyment of the game of baseball in my Hometown. Disappointing, yes, but the End Of The World has not arrived, at least not yet (I am actually chuckling while writing that phrase).

Previously, I stated how Our Washington Nationals of April, will not be Our Washington Nationals of May. And come September 1, Our Washington Nationals will be a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TEAM. Right before our eyes, Our Washington Nationals are changing. Collectively, those growing pains are excruciatingly difficult to swallow right now--especially in light of a 6-15 start to 2007.

As Our Washington Nationals have dug a deeper hole, their play on the field has brought back memories of the New York Mets of the early 1960's. No ground ball, no fly ball, is considered an out until said ball is cleanly fielded, thrown, or clenched within a fielder's glove. Every swing of an opponents bat makes me flinch seeing the baseball roll on the ground or lofted into the air, not sure if a Washington Fielder will complete the play. My Anxiety Level rising, just to view a routine play, sort of-laughable. It is funny. Really. And, VERY SAD.

At the plate, Our Washington Nationals DO NOT SHOW PATIENCE. When the bases are loaded and no one is out, the opposing pitcher in trouble--WHY ARE WE SWINGING AT THAT PITCHERS VERY FIRST NERVOUS OFFERING, usually his out pitch, taking a hack, grounding into a double play. How many baseball games does someone need to play to understand this game?

Is Baseball a DIFFICULT GAME? YES--MAYBE THE MOST DIFFICULT SPORT TO MASTER. Yet, as a game played DAILY, Baseball allows the player to experience, time and time again, hundreds, if not thousands, of IN GAME possibilities. That collective knowledge should be stored away, ready for retrieval in a moments notice to deal with an upcoming situation. So, why a veteran player of 29 years old can not hold back at the very first pitch with a pitcher in trouble is a quandary to me. I don't understand it. I would bet Our Manager, Manny Acta does not understand it, either.

Like Manny was quoted saying: "We're learning as a team. Like I said yesterday, preach, teach and be patient."

Manny's right, but it also helps if your talent WANTS TO LEARN AND BE PATIENT. Unfortunately, personally, I am not seeing that effort from some but, certainly no where near, all of our players. Our Washington Nationals have some talent. Just not enough of it, right now.

Our General Manager Jim Bowden has a history of breaking up a team by sending large groups of players to the minors for replacements or a huge trade. We are not going to be seeing that play out here in DC, but changes are on the way.

It has not helped that both Cristian Guzman and Nook Logan injured themselves on Opening Day and have not returned since. As much as Guzman is maligned by fans in Washington, DC, "The GUZ" is a far better choice as our shortstop. Felipe Lopez is a far better choice as our second baseman. Ronnie Belliard is a far better player off the bench. I can quibble with Belliard's two pop up fielding errors this season. But, quite frankly, he has been a decent substitute player. Off the bench, Ronnie would be an God Send--As Manny HAS NO BENCH. D'Angelo Jimenez and Josh Wilson are just taking up space. They can not play the field. Both are smaller versions of Matt LeCroy. DH's and nothing more. Personally, I like Michael Restovich (He of The Frank Howard Body), he's got some pop and is a well needed right handed hitter off the bench. A bench that will improve once Logan also returns. Robert Fick is a emergency fielder only. Sorry, but that's the truth. The stars have not aligned for Our Team this April, but things might actually be changing right now.

Within a matter of days, Our Washington Nationals will begin their May Metamorphosis. Guzman, Logan and Jason Simontacchi are coming back. Jason to the mound, Jerome Williams to the waiver wire or Matt Chico to Columbus. Later in May, Luis Ayala will suit up in his customary Number 56 after missing all of 2006. Not sure how hot he will be out of the gate, but I do know, he wants to make up for his lost season. More than any Original Washington National, Ayala feels he let down the Franchise and The FANS. If Luis is anything close to his 2005 form, we are in for some fun.

Mark Zuckerman at The Washington Times reports that Nick Johnson is now running at full speed, taking batting practice from his knees, but still well behind in his baseball skills. Nick is going to be rusty for the remainder of the season, at whatever point he returns. But, with Number 24 either at first or on the bench playing--Our WASHINGTON NATIONALS ARE A MUCH BETTER TEAM.

And, most importantly, if there is ONE PLAYER on Our Washington Nationals that is a LEADER BY EXAMPLE, its Nick Johnson. How badly this teams misses his everyday presence on the baseball diamond is extraordinary. Teammates play better when Nick Johnson, not the most graceful of athletes, gives his all, NO MATTER WHAT THE SCORE. Every SINGLE WASHINGTON NATIONAL should be showed that awful video reply of how Number 24 broke his femur last September, in a meaningless game, well out of hand, during the last week of a forgotten season. That's LEADERSHIP!! Our Washington Nationals need NICK JOHNSON, more than Nick Johnson needs Our Washington Nationals. Our Fans Need Him, TOO.

Then, once Jimenez and Wilson are gone, Our Bullpen will be next for the makeover. Ray King is only here until July. "The Chief" will get straightened out. If Simontacchi can be an innings eater and relieve some pressure off the relief corp, Our Nationals have a shot at decency. Jon Rauch, Ryan Wagner, Saul Rivera, Micah Bowie, and even Levale Speigner are decent. Not sure about Jesus Colome.

Many, MANY, more changes are in store. No doubt, Jim Bowden is wheeling and dealing behind the scenes as I write this. He is looking for now, next week, next month and this winter. Come August and the trading deadline, Our Washington Nationals may have 6-7 players on the roster not currently with the team. And, Jesus Flores is going to get the call, more and more, behind the plate. We have nothing to lose. For me, that a fascinating prospect. Flores has a CANNON ARM, good skills behind the plate with some pop. He just does not have experience or knowledge of the facing batters.

That being said, come May--Brian Schneider is the catcher, Dimtri Young at first, FLop at Second, "The GUZ" at Short, Ryan Zimmerman at 3rd, Ryan Church, Logan, Austin Kearns across the outfield, with Chris Snelling getting alot of playing time. Even with Young's poor defense at first, its a far better defensive lineup. Once Johnson comes back, say August, the "D" is even better. Our Pitching will constantly evolve throughout the summer, no one should be surprised. When it comes to pitching, everyone was well warned.

But, that still doesn't speak to CARING. No matter how bad Our Washington Nationals are, four things are all am asking for 2007--hustle, desire, thoughtfulness and spark. Even if the talent is not there, players need to make an honest effort. Nothing less is ever expected.

As I always do, I cheer for OUR WASHINGTON NATIONALS. For the remainder of my lifetime, I will continue to do so, through all the BAD and EVENTUALLY, ALL THE GOOD. You can criticize all you want, but that's HOW I FEEL about Our Washington Nationals.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dear Manny

Dear Manny:

You know I love you alot. Your Charismatic Smile is one of the finest I have ever seen. Dynamic, Interesting, Personable, and First Year Major League Manager, all descriptions of your character. All of which draws my interest to you. And, yet I can only feel sorry for you right now. Our Washington Nationals are playing poorly. Their inability to make the routine play is mind numbing at times. And, tonight's disaster of a game against The Phillies in Philadelphia nearly unwatchable.

Granted, it was well known, Your 2007 Washington Nationals were going to struggle. A FACT you have also known since the very day you graciously and willingly took this job. Never one to give up (and rightfully so), you have remained positive, despite the truth that your starting pitching for this season would in all likelihood bury The Nationals. Also, the truth that your hitters do not provide alot of power at the plate. But, never did you realize how over matched your Bullpen would be from all their early deficits. Not One Month into the season, Our Relief Corp is WIPED OUT.

AND, NEVER DID YOU REALIZE that your fielders would continually not be able to make the routine defensive play. Three errors tonight could have been called, you know that, but The Official Scorer was generous, as usual. Robert Fick could not track a fly ball to the wall in left with two outs, turning twice, then watching the ball land not even half way up the wall right behind him for a Chase Utley Double. Immediately followed by a John Patterson fastball down the middle of the plate HAMMERED OUT BY RYAN HOWARD for a two run homer.

Dimitri Young dropped a sure double play ball that led to a Phillie Run in the 5th. And, Ronnie Belliard dropped a popup to short right field in the 6th, leading to two additional runs for Philadelphia. One announcer blamed the wind. But, I am not buying that. Really, how bad can this get?

Manny, I am all for "THE PLAN", but please explain to me why Robert Fick started in leftfield tonight? Fick may well be a clubhouse favorite, and I know from personal experience, he is a TERRIFIC GUY. But, WHY IS HE STARTING? Robert Fick has yet to deliver in the clutch in 2007. And, only twice in 2006. If Our Washington Nationals are rebuilding, then why is Chris Snelling not out there playing leftfield each and every day, especially with Nook Logan still on the Disabled List. We are team building, not giving aged veterans with diminishing skills the opportunity to resurrect their career, for the sake of a youngster. If that was the case, why not keep Jose Guillen? Why not keep Jose Vidro, and definitely, Why not keep Livan Hernandez (Still MY FAVORITE & MOST ENTERTAINING NATIONAL TO EVER WEAR THE WASHINGTON UNIFORM)? Really, Why?

I can put up with loses, but I can't put up with the little pride shown by our players. Each and every time Our Washington Nationals step out on the field, I WANT TO SEE EFFORT!! I don't want to see a Nationals hitter bunt and watch himself get thrown out in a double play. I don't want to see fielders making a less than honest effort on defense. I don't want to see hitters swinging at the very first pitch when an opposing pitcher is in trouble. I don't want to hear your starters complain about their lack of confidence or not being 100% healthy. And, most importantly, I don't want to see a team that ACCEPTS LOSING and proceeds to make excuses for themselves.

Manny, my friend--There could be very few on The Nationals Bandwagon more than me. Never, will I turn my back on you or this team. Never in my lifetime. Yet, even I am bothered by the less than stellar effort put forth by Our Washington Nationals. Right now, we are in trouble. The ship is sinking fast.

You have been dealt a very uneven hand. With all your flair, decency and knowledge, please do your best, TO GIVE ME, THE AFRICAN QUEEN, SECTION 320 and OUR FANS, something to cheer for the remainder of 2007. I know its inside you. And, I know its inside many of our players. Hang in there. Be tough. Be Competitive. Help resurrect Our Franchise.

Manny, I am so sorry. You deserve better.



PS--During today's online chat with Barry Svrluga at, Barry did respond to my question whether Manny stills flashes his customary charismatic smile despite the teams troubles this season:

Acta: He's still got that smile. We see it more in the afternoon than late at night, though, after some of these games.

Personally, I was happy to read that fact.

Tonight's In Game Photos--(AP) Tom Mihalek

The Line Of The Day

Today, During Mark Zuckerman's online chat I asked him the following question:

From Screech'sBestFriend in Alexandria:

How has Nats management handled the rough start by the Nationals? Pretty much what they expected? Worse? Or not concerned with winning right now?

His Final Line in the answer was TERRIFIC!!:

Mark Zuckerman:

Management (and by that I'm referring to Jim Bowden, Stan Kasten and others in the front-office) seems to be handling this fine. They knew what they were getting into. I did hear something interesting from a front-office exec, though. This person didn't exactly think it was a great idea to go into this season with such a low payroll and so few established players (particularly in the starting rotation) but was overruled by others high up in the organization who felt there was no good reason to spend millions of dollars to sign second-tier free agents who wouldn't help this team win this year. There is a difference, this person noted, between a 110-loss club and a 95-loss club, certainly in the public's eye. Fans are less likely to throw a fit over a bad-yet-competitive team as opposed to one that frequently has no chance to win on a given night. Here's how this person summed it all up: "This is a learning year for these players, but maybe it'll also be a learning year for ownership." Interesting.

"...but maybe it'll also be a learning year for ownership."

What a Great Line and Telling at the same time!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Losing A Near Perfect Game

When Jamie Moyer completely discombobulated Our Washington Nationals last Thursday afternoon, the aging Philadelphia Phillies lefthander did his magic with the help of his opponents. Each and Every Nationals Hitter that day came to the plate believing Moyer was Nolan Ryan in his prime, fireballing away. Expecting fastballs, Washington Hitters proceeded to swing at every piece of junk Jamie threw at RFK Stadium. Not ONE NAT'S HITTER made an adjustment. Most looked silly, and all were ineffective. Many getting themselves out.

With that thorough whooping still fresh in their minds, Our Washington Nationals came out tonight against Moyer with a far different game plan. Forget about what works for you as a hitter, most Washington batters this evening waited, sitting back, looking for what Moyer throws, not what they wanted. And, it worked, for a time.

Then, to add ZEST to this affair, Tonight's Nats Starter, Jason Bergmann decided to just let The PHILLIES HIT HIM!! What does it matter if hitters are getting themselves out, they were overswinging at everything. For Jason, Be Jamie Moyer, for one night. Bergmann taking advantage of Philadelphia's impatience. Turnabout is not only fair play, but sweet.

Bergmann was cruising along into the 6th, ahead 3-1, then ONE AT-BAT changed this game. With two out in the bottom of the sixth, Chase Utley doubled to the wall in left center that Michael Restovich slid for, the ball hitting his glove, but the smash landing safely on the warning track. Up stepped the very dangerous Ryan Howard. The Reigning MVP has struggled through the early portion of 2007. Knowing this, Jason fired away, getting well ahead in the count, 1-2. All Number 57 had to do was finish Howard off. He couldn't do it. If there is one flaw in Ryan Howard's swing, is his inability to consistently make contact with a HIGH FASTBALL. Bergmann, who to this point had pitched smart baseball--became cautious, throwing outside breaking pitch after another, not willling to challenge Ryan. His one fastball was well outside. Bergmann was nervous and it cost him. Eventually, Howard walked. And, when Pat Burrell followed with a double to left, scoring Utley to make the score 3-2, Our Washington Nationals had positioned themselves to lose a game they may well have been able to win.

Saul Rivera relieved Bergmann for the 7th and promptly gave up a game tying homer to Aaron Rowand. Then, Jon Rauch continued to struggle with a bad 8th inning, in relief of Micah Bowie. A walk and two singles allowed a Bowie Inherited runner to score and two additional more. Our Washington Nationals now down 6-3, eventually the final score. One cautious At-Bat had changed the entire dimension of this game. If Bergmann goes after Howard, he survives into the 7th with a two run lead. Tonight's ballgame was his to win. A win he had no decision in at the conclusion, because Jason Bergmann WOULD NOT challenge a GREAT HITTER when it counted THE MOST.

Through 5 2/3rds inning Our Washington Nationals played a near perfect game. But, being an imperfect team, they once again showed why they are struggling. With the game on the line, The Nationals could not close it out. A very disappointing lost.

Game Notes and Highlights:

My Main Man!! Ryan Church, who looked as silly as most last week against Jamie, sat back for the slow stuff on a 2-2 count, his hips set, not swinging out open, and drove a Moyer pitch off the wall in right in the 2nd to score Austin Kearns for a quick 1-0 lead. Kearns had received a gift triple with Phillies Centerfielder Aaron Rowand thought too much, and dove for a drive to center he had NO CHANCE of catching. The Ball scooting pass Rowand to the wall for a stand up three bagger for Austin. The African Queen noticing, for the first time this season, how thinner Kearns looks than last season. And, he does. Kearns looks in shape and healthy.

Later in the 3rd, Felipe Lopez would sit back and drive a single to left off Moyer, the Belliard would follow with a liner down the left field line for a nice double, FLop scoring easily for a the second run of the night. Good Baseball, letting the game develop in front of you. And, when Brian Schneider hit a two single to center scoring Austin Kearns for a 3-1 Nats lead in the 6th, not one fan rooting for Washington did not believe this game was in hand. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

By the way, Schnieder, despite his below the Mendoza Line (under .200) batting average, knocked in his team leading 10th RBI on that third run of the game.

The Phillies scored their first run of the evening in frustrating fashion after Ryan Zimmerman made a nice play on a hard hit grounder by Wes Helms over the bag but moving him into foul territory. On the throw, Dimitri Young could not keep his foot on the bag for an error. Then Aaron Rowand would account for his mental mistake in the top of the 2nd by powering a drive to right center. As much as I love Ryan Church, it always bothers me that he refuses to dive, HEAD FIRST, for a drive. He didn't again tonight, missing the ball by a mere foot in a backhanded attempt. A run scoring double for Rowand. The only time this season I have wished for Nook Logan to have been playing centerfield. But, honestly, I would take Church over Logan any day. Ryan's offense is far more valuable than Nook's limited batting potential.

"Z" committed his 5th error of this young season when he missed a short hop on a Ryan Church toss to third during the crucial three run 8th inning for Philadelphia. Zimmerman only committed 15 errors all last season. He's on pace right now to make nearly 30. That's amazing!! for such a talented player.

Tonight's In Game Photos--(AP) Rusty Kennedy

PS--Virginia Tech, I just returned. Sad is the only way to explain it. JUST SAD. What is wrong with this world sometimes.