Thursday, July 31, 2008


As long as Our Washington Nationals are Re-Structuring, why not make one more move with a player currently on Our 25 Man Roster. Every team in the game wishes to be strong up the middle. Good Defensive Catcher with a strong throwing arm. Jesus Flores--We got that. Swift and Fancy fielding gloves at second base and shortstop. The newly acquired Alberto Gonzales--with "The Guz" hurting--and the recently traded for Emilio Bonifacio at 2nd. We supposedly have that too, now--at least on paper. A Quality Centerfielder with good defensive skills and a strong arm. No, we don't have that, yet. But, we do already have someone with that ability on Our Roster, Elijah Dukes--not Lastings Milledge.

Dukes has the five tool talents desired to be roaming the vast lands of centerfield. Our Number 44 may have the athletic talent, but Lastings does not have the skills, nor the required arm to patrol that position. Dukes does.

JimBo, please put Dukes in Centerfield, and Milledge in Left. Make this move NOW--with two months remaining in this oddest of Inaugural Seasons at New Nationals Park. Every Team in Major League Baseball wants to be strong up the middle. Every single team wants to put a quality defensive lineup out in the field to protect their starters. According to everything we've seen about Flores and Dukes, and according to EVERYTHING you and your Baseball Operations have raved about over Gonzalez and Bonifacio--What Do You Have To Lose? This is the right move.

Besides--just about every single person in the game agrees that Lastings Milledge is better suited to be a corner outfielder.

All this possible thanks to a flurry of official moves late this evening.

Johnny Estrada--Designated For Assignment Last Week--Gone. Paul LoDuca--Gone. FLop--Gone (But Never To Be Forgotten--no, now way--Felipe Lopez has provided so much fodder over his past two seasons in The District--he's been quite remarkable actually). All released, unconditionally, immediately following tonight's out of sync and dismal loss to The Philadelphia Phillies on South Capitol Street. An 8-4 defeat, Washington's 9th Straight, and 3rd Straight Sweep by an opponent. This was an ugly affair where missed baseballs, poor throws and some lifeless play added to an already hot, humid and uncomfortable night at the ballpark.

The fact that Our Supposed Franchise Player was hit on his wrist by a fastball from The Phillies Kyle Kendrick--didn't add to the fun. There could not have been a sole in the announced crowd of 31,658 that DID NOT BELIEVE Ryan Zimmerman had just fractured a bone in his right hand. The silence on South Capitol Street was erie. The African Queen later stating--"Ryan being out--again--would have just KILLED THE SEASON FOR ME!!" Fortunately, X-Ray's were negative, the injury is officially called a 'contusion' and Our Number 11 is listed as Day-To-Day.

As for the game itself, Our Washington Nationals were charged with three errors. The Official Scorer generous in not calling two more. But, The Signature Play of this game came with two outs in the top of the sixth. The Phillies already had scored three more runs, sending John Lannan to the showers. Garrett Mock now on the mound--trying to retire Jayson Werth. The Philadelphia Outfielder would pop up in the infield--to the right of mound--slightly toward third base. Ronnie Belliard, filling in for "Z", called the ball all the way. The very instant Our Number 10 was about to close his glove on the dropping baseball--Mock stepped in and OVER BELLIARD to make the catch. The force of Our Number 50's big body pushing Ronnie back and away--forcibly.

Was RONNIE BELLIARD EVER PISSED!! Our Number 10 slapped his glove hard against his side, said something that could not be heard, BUT NEVER LOOKED AT GARRETT MOCK. Not once--all the way to the dugout. Mock, for his part, never gazed over and attempted to apolgize to Ronnie. Walking side by side--two players for Our Washington Nationals REFUSED TO SPEAK TO EACH OTHER. That was shameful. These guys are supposedly teammates, but neither wanted to be on the field with the other at that moment. At that very point in time--THE GAME WAS OVER--Officially. Washington had surrendered.

As Belliard reached the Home Dugout, Austin Kearns and Lastings Milledge slapped their gloves on Belliard's legs in support. No One said a word to Garrett Mock (as far as we could see from Section 218). This moment was very odd and uncomfortable to watch. Sad actually, to witness Two Players on Our Team, that didn't wish to work things out--over something so small--as each attempting to record the out. Silly and Unprofessional.

Expectedly, Washington never really threatened again. How odd that Felipe Lopez doubled to the wall in right centerfield in the bottom of the 9th and eventually scored in his final At-Bat in a Nationals Jersey. Such a talented player--FLop. Such a disappointment on the field of play for so long.

How much I will miss yelling out out: "Come On FLop!!" and "Don't Kill The Rally!!" most every time Our Now Former Number 2 stepped to the plate. The Man's got a terrific arm. The GREATEST NICKNAME IS BASEBALL--"FLop", but played as if his moniker was FACT. Many times--his head apparently not in the game. How ironic that the so-called trade of Austin Kearns and Lopez, along with Ryan Wagner--praised highly by many in the Summer of 2006, now just a nothing swap. Washington left with "Bluegrass", The Cincinnati Reds left with Bill Bray, Gary Majewski and Darryl Thompson--all pitchers. How history can change, over time.

A new look team for Our Washington Nationals takes the field beginning tomorrow--August 1st, 2008. The Second Season Begins for Our Fans. Let's not waste any more time when quality youngsters are available to be placed in Our Lineup. This Version 4.5 of Our Washington Nationals is going to be a pretty good defensive team. What we don't know is whether by 2009, they will learn how to hit--consistently.

Today brought a new day--a fresh look at Our Washington Nationals. 23 Year Olds at Catcher, Second Base, Third Base, Left & Center (Dukes/Milledge). A 25 Year old Shortstop, 22 & 23 Year old Starters and three other 25 Year old Pitchers. All with varying degrees of talent and potential. This is how you finally begin building a team from scratch. Not with veterans on the down side of their careers. Tomorrow is The First Day of seeing The Future of Our Washington Nationals. In a season of lost hope--a rekindled spirit is upon us. Seeing young players that WANT TO BE OUT THERE ON THE FIELD, playing the game we all love--even if losing still--is far more preferable than the effort seen during most of the first four months of this 2008 campaign.

Tonight's Re-Structuring was a good start. Now--lets just put Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge in the positions they need to play to succeed at The Major League Level--consistently. Then, it will be time to find a First Baseman, and more hurlers from "Mr. Pitching, Pitching, & More Pitching"--who always seems to trade Pitching.

Thankfully, even Our General Manager Jim Bowden will have to admit--his pension for all things Cincinnati is FINALLY over--because All Things Arizona is the new fad of Our Washington Nationals and Assistant GM Mike Rizzo. (Matt Chico, Mock, Bonifacio and Gonzales are all Rizzo signed players--while he was with The Diamondbacks). All Snakes--En Vogue.

Game Notes & Highlights

John Lannan really got rocked tonight. Home Runs allowed to Jayson Werth and Jimmy Rollins. Yeah, his defense behind him was poor--but Our Number 31 didn't help is own cause much. 9 hits and 3 walks allowed. At times--he seemed even out of sync with his catcher Jesus Flores. Three times Jesus & John met at the mound to discuss the situation. Once, Lannan threw a pitch to Flores that obviously Our Number 3 was not expecting. Our Number 31 snapped at him--bringing Our Number 3 on the run to the mound to figure out the problem. Just another part of bad night on the field.

At least Pete Orr got some playing time with Cristian Guzman still listed as day-to-day with his thumb injury. Our Number 4's first start since turning down Team Canada to play in the 2008 Olympics. Orr responded with three hits and some solid play at shortstop.

Despite the thoughts of some against The Lerners--They did EAT THE SALARIES of Rob Mackowiak, Johnny Estrada, FLop and Paul LoDuca. That's approximately $12 Million--Folks. They didn't saddle the team with veterans taking up space for the remainder of 2008, when a fresh beginning was at hand. I applaud that effort. Chad Cordero's Salary of $6.2 Million is gone off the books come October 1st, as well. We are approaching an expected deduction of $20 Million in payroll off the ledger come 2009. Hopefully, enough money to sign some more top draft picks and maybe make some smart moves in a few off season transactions. Cristian Guzman's new two year contract only adds $4 million more to the projected 2009 Payroll.

So--why is Odalis Perez still with Our Team? Is Washington attempting to pass him through waivers--knowing someone might take him in a few weeks? If not, we might as well release him too.

How odd to realize that when Our Washington Nationals lost their very first game of this season--to The Phillies in Philadelphia, they were in first place that first week with a 3-0 record. Since that fateful first defeat Our Record, 35-70. .333 ball.

The 4th Inning President's Race was again unusual tonight. With Tom Leading The Race, handily, all the way from The Centerfield Gate--he suddenly stopped running upon seeing "Martha Washington" waiting along the front row of the stands down the right field line. Making a pass at Mrs. Washington, Tom immediately found himself passed out and knocked down--thanks to a hard running hit by a jealous George. Protecting his wife, GW SLAMMED TJ to the ground. Man, he hit him hard. So badly, you had to wonder whether Tom was going to see anything but stars and stripes for some time. This race might have been the most thrilling event on the field tonight at New Nationals Park.

Have you noticed these Widescreen HDTV's being placed in and round certain seating sections with overhangs above? They are FANTASTIC!! Two or three screens to each section showing the game on MASN and the images from The HDTV Scoreboard. All season long, the construction crews have been adding these sets during times Our Washington Nationals are out of town. Honestly, they look great. Terrific Picture.

Finally--Sohna and I have come to really look forward to the Welcome Home!!! Salute to the many military personnel back home and rehabbing from violent war injuries overseas. Taking place in the top of the 4th inning of every home game--the crowd has really responded well to this salute. Even the visiting teams have joined in the welcome. The Philadelphia Phillies clapping during each of the past three evenings for the Men & Women at New Nationals Park. The Home Crowd always now standing and applauding in great response. It's hard to watch these many solders with their debilitating injuries but this salute has also become a very nice moment--cherished every single game. Our Washington Nationals should keep this going--for as long as necessary.

Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Pablo Martinez Monsivais
All Other Photos--Nats320 (All Rights Reserved)

One Trade--A Minor One

Our General Manager Jim Bowden announced just before the 4PM Deadline for Non-Waiver Trades this afternoon that Our Washington Nationals had acquired Shortstop Alberto Gonzalez from The New York Yankees for Jhonny Nunez--a minor league pitcher acquired two season ago at the 2006 Deadline for Marlon Anderson.

Honestly, I don't much about Gonzalez, but Our Washington Nationals have stated that Gonzales will be in uniform this Friday Night when The Cincinnati Reds are in town. Does this spell the end of FLop? A roster move must be made. Felipe Lopez's time with Our Washington Nationals must be coming to an end?

The Washington Nationals today acquired shortstop Alberto Gonzalez from the New York Yankees in exchange for minor-league right-handed pitcher Jhonny Nunez. Gonzalez is expected to report to Washington, DC on Friday and be in uniform for the Nationals’ series opener vs. Cincinnati. Nationals Senior Vice President and General Manager Jim Bowden made the announcement.

Gonzalez, 25, is a plus defensive shortstop who last season was rated as the top defensive infielder in the Yankees’ minor-league system. Gonzalez, who played in 28 games during a pair of stints with the Yankees this season, batted .250 (47-for-188) with eight doubles, four home runs and 23 RBI in 47 games with Scranton/W-B of the Triple-A International League in 2008.

Gonzalez was acquired by the Yankees as part of the January 2007 five-player trade that brought Randy Johnson to New York. In 2005, he was rated by Baseball America as the top defensive infielder in Arizona’s minor-league system. At the minor-league level, Gonzalez tallied at least 20 doubles each of the last three seasons and has fanned just once every 8.6 at-bats in five-plus seasons.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


How could you leave him in the game? He didn't have it. Everyone knew it from the first inning on. Now, Tim Redding was in a big jam--thanks to his own doing--in a one run game in the top of the fifth. And no one was warming up in Our Washington Nationals Bullpen. No One.

A hot, steamy night. A starting pitcher laboring. The humidity effect certainly a factor. Washington having lost seven straight ball games. This was not the night to attempt to get your hurler through the required five innings just to register for a possible win. This was an evening to come out on top in a close ball game. A Winnable Affair that got out of hand--in a space of five batters. All of about 10 minutes in real time.

Tim Redding had just committed The Cardinal Sin in a 3-2 game. Our Number 17 walked the opposing pitcher for The Philadelphia Phillies. A 45 Year Old Starter that was ATTEMPTING to give himself up. Instead of sacrificing his teammate Carlos Ruiz to second base on a bunt--Jamie Moyer walked on five pitches, thanks to Redding's inability to locate his pitches. Tim's inconsistency should have sent up a red flag. A warning that Our Washington Nationals were about to be trounced.

Instead, with the Reigning National League MVP Jimmy Rollins stepping to the plate, the pesky Shane Victorino to follow him and the always dangerous Chase Utley in the hole--no one from Washington's Dugout came out to speak to Redding--until after Rollins had tied the the game at three--with a double to the gap in right--scoring Ruiz. Clearly, Our Number 17 did not have it. Finally, when Our Pitching Coach Randy St. Claire did run out to the mound to check on Redding--the Go Ahead Run now stood on third in Moyer, with an insurance run on second in Rollins. And the heart of Philadelphia's Order scheduled next.

Mr. St.Claire's visit was too little, too late as Our Washington Nationals still had no one warming up in the bullpen.


A good contact switch hitter like Victorino is going to pounce on a struggling pitcher. And the heart of The Philadelphia Lineup is going to make these matters worse. With the slugging Utley waiting and the powerful Ryan Howard to follow--is this NOT THE TIME for Charlie Manning to be warming up in the pen? Our only lefthander reliever to turn Victorino around and pitch our strength to the lefthanded hitting strength of Utley and Howard?

Surprisingly, Washington made no countermove. Two Batters Later--This Game Was Over.

Shane Victorino singled in the 4th and 5th runs for Philadelphia and Chase Utley ended this affair with a NO DOUBT Two Run Shot off Tim Redding. A Five Run Inning resulted, all with No Outs for Philadelphia, and only then was someone warming up in Our Washington Nationals Bullpen.

Why did Our Washington Nationals keep Tim Redding in this game--for far too long? Why did Our Manager Manny Acta not trust his bullpen? Why were no moves made until AFTER Philadelphia's Big Inning had mostly erupted? Why did we not give ourselves The Very Best Chance To Win?

Our Friend Andrew and I must have discussed this throughout the remainder of the 5th and on into the 6th inning. We didn't quite understand the non-moves. Our Washington Nationals had nothing to lose, only to gain. Why not take every chance to stop the losing streak?

Really, Why?

Instead, all that resulted was Our Washington Nationals 8th Straight Defeat. Our Team now 31 Games below .500. Final Score from sultry New Nationals Park--The Philadelphia Phillies 8 and Our Washington Nationals 5--in disappointing style.

Really, this game was WINNABLE, instead it became loss number 69 of 2008.

Game Notes & Highlights

As well as Tim Redding has pitched most all season--tonight was simply not his night. Of course he couldn't have picked a worse time to stumble--less than 24 Hours from the Non-Waiver Deadline for trades. There may not be much interest for Our Number 17 anyway, but this outing certainly didn't help matters either.

Reliever Steven Shell had pitched 15 consecutive scoreless innings of relief--until Shane Victorino took him deep and over the right field wall for a home run in the 7th inning.

Another good crowd this Wednesday Evening at New Nationals Park--31,798.

In the game deciding fifth inning for Philadelphia, The Phillies Pat Burrell hammered a grounder just to the left of Ryan Zimmerman at third base. "Z" dove to his left, scooped the baseball, righted himself and threw out the not so fast running Burrell for what would have been The Defensive Play of This Game, if not for the fact that Burrell made a great effort of his own--when he retrieved a Jesus Flores drive over his head and off the left field wall in bottom of the sixth. With Our Number 3 not being the swiftest of runners either--Burrell flawlessly picked up the carom and fired a perfect strike to Chase Utley at second base to easily retire Flores for The Defensive Play of This Game. Replays actually showed that Utley MIGHT have missed the tag. But Jesus was so far away from the bag when the baseball arrived--there are very few umpires that are not going to give the defensive team the call on that neighborhood play.

Sohna and I started laughing when Willie Harris led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run over the right centerfield wall. A blast off Jamie Moyer which was the first Lead Off Homer for a member of Our Washington Nationals since Felipe Lopez did the trick on May 8th, 2007 at Milwaukee's Miller Park. Delighted we were to look over to our left to see Our General Manager Jim Bowden, in his private box, immediately start typing something on his blackberry. An effort that became more furious after Austin Kearns doubled to left and Jesus Flores followed with his 7th Home Run of the season. A two run shot to left that put Washington up 3-2 early. We were chuckling--wondering out loud--if JimBo was sending emails to other GM's around The Majors stating--"See, we can score some runs. Harris is a perfect leadoff hitter--You need him?" "How about that "Bluegrass" doing great since returning from surgery? Let's make a deal?" Having no idea what Jim Bowden was actually doing, it was fun to think about what he MIGHT BE WRITING.

And for the record--45 Year Old Jamie Moyer can not only still pitch, but bunt. Everyone else should be able to also. Moyer is quite amazing to watch throw. Everyone knows he can barely break a pane of glass with his fastball. Everyone knows he depends on his slop pitches. And many players today, still can not hit him. Remarkable how durable and good Jamie Moyer is still today. Makes me feel good that he is only three years younger than me.

Abe won The 4th Inning Presidents Race tonight. Teddy again led early, but was no match for his fellow "Rushmores" as the foursome turned the corner at the right field foul line toward the first base dugout. At least tonight--no odd animals jumped out to tackle, punch, kick or trip up Our Lovable Loser, winless in 172 Live Presidents Races since 2006.

Before the game--Sohna and I headed over to The Main Concourse, near The Washington Suites, to pick up The Season Ticket Holder Ceramic Replica of New Nationals Park. Available to those fans who paid for their accounts in full by The December 15th, 2007 Deadline--today was the very first game the gift could be picked up--by showing a proper ID. There are many more dates over the course of the next few weeks, where qualified season ticket holders can pick up their Stadium Replica.

Sohna and I found the Replica to be OK. Nothing that says "WOW". The detail not the best. But, it's free, different and we were happy to pick ours up.

Finally, before tonight's game and leading all the way up to The National Anthem--nearly the entire bullpen for Our Washington Nationals stood down the right field line, at the first row of seats and signed autographs for a good 15 minutes. Later, after warming up Austin Kearns was joined by Ryan Langerhans to sign autographs for fans near Washington's Dugout. Nothing officially announced, just something that happened. Good for the players to spend some unscheduled time with Our Fans. Stuff like that is always appreciated.

Tonight's InGame Photos (AP)--Charles Dharapak
All Other Photos--Nats320, All Rights Reserved

Back To School Drive

For the second consecutive year, The Wives and Girlfriends of Our Washington Nationals will be present at New Nationals Park for their special cause. The Ladies will be on hand this Saturday and Sunday to accept your donations of any New School Supplies for needy children in Washington, DC. These supplies will be given to a District School this coming Fall by Our Washington Nationals.

Also, Marines representing the Toys For Tots Literacy Program will also be on hand to receive your charitable gifts of new books for the many kids this coming school year wanting.

Donations will be accepted at The Center Field Gate to New Nationals Park on both Saturday and Sunday (August 2nd and 3rd) before and during the scheduled games between Our Washington Nationals and The Cincinnati Reds. The Ladies & Girlfriends will be stationed at their special table near Half & N Streets, SE until the end of the 4th inning each day. For Saturday Evening, your gifts are welcome beginning at 4:30PM. For Sunday Afternoon--beginning at 11:30AM.

If you are willing or want to participate in this Special Back To School Drive for the Kids--please read the press release below--which contains complete details of the many NEW ITEMS wanted for this worthy cause.


The Washington Nationals and The UPS Store® have partnered for the Nationals First Ladies Second Annual Back-to-School Drive on Saturday, August 2 and Sunday, August 3, when the team faces the Cincinnati Reds. The First Ladies - Nationals players’ wives and girlfriends - and volunteers from The UPS Store® and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves will collect new school supplies outside of the Center Field Gate when gates open (4:30pm on Saturday and 11:30am on Sunday) through the end of the fourth inning. Supplies needed include, but are not limited to, backpacks, rulers, packs of pencils, pencil boxes, calculators, spiral and composition notebooks, loose leaf binders and paper, pocket folders, glue sticks, crayons, and new lunchboxes. The team will also collect new children’s books to benefit the Toys for Tots Literacy Program, an initiative of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation and The UPS Store®. For more information on this initiative, visit

“According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 33 percent of all fourth graders in this country still cannot read at even the basic level,” states The UPS Store® owner, Mariana Huberman. “With Nationals fans’ help, we hope to provide children in need with the resources to help them succeed now and in the future.”

The Nationals and The UPS Store® will give the school supplies and books collected during the drive to a District school in September. Through the Nationals longtime partnership with The Heart of America Foundation, the selected school will also be the beneficiary of a new reading corner in their library donated by the team and The UPS Store®. A reading corner is a warm, inviting area where students can spend time reading and learning.

About The UPS Store®

The UPS Store® and Mail Boxes Etc. retail locations are franchised by Mail Boxes Etc., Inc., a UPS subsidiary. Together The UPS Store® and Mail Boxes Etc. locations comprise the world's largest franchise network of retail shipping, postal and business service centers, with more than 5,900 locations around the world. In the United States, The UPS Store® and Mail Boxes Etc. locations are independently owned and operated by licensed franchisees of Mail Boxes Etc., Inc. Outside the United States, locations are owned and operated by MBE master licensees or their franchisees. For additional information, please visit or

About Heart of America

Heart of America Foundation’s® mission is to teach the values at the heart of America and to help people, particularly children, learn that they help themselves when they help others. Their goal is to give children everywhere the tools they need to read, succeed and make a difference.

Teddy Is A Ladies Man

In case you missed the moments, "Teddy" was out partying in Georgetown and Adams Morgan this past Friday Night. His mission, to promote "The Miller Lite Party Night" at all remaining Friday Night Home Games at New Nationals Park. As you can see from the pictures--all courtesy of Our Washington Nationals--Teddy was feeling the love from the ladies out partying last weekend.

From 10PM until 10:45PM on July 25th, Our Lovable Loser hung out on the corner of M St. & Wisconsin Avenue NW in Georgetown. Then, he headed up 18th Street, NW to Adams Morgan for some more Rebel Rousing.

The Pictures are pretty good. Seems Teddy is beloved by The Ladies. Who knew that Teddy is A Ladies Man!!??

My favorite picture of the group is this one--because at first look--doesn't this guy with a Curly "W" Cap look alot like Paul LoDuca? Funny.

Here the details surrounding "The Miller Lite Party Night" at New Nationals Park--per the team's press release.

The Nationals introduce the “Miller Lite Party Night” promotion for their remaining Friday home games, August 1, 15 and 29 and September 19. Fans may purchase a Scoreboard Pavilion ticket (Sections 240 through 243) which includes a voucher for one complimentary drink (soda, water or beer) for $25, normally a $34 value. Vouchers may only be redeemed at the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk Bar. Prior to these games, fans may enjoy live music and giveaways at the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk. The team will also continue Friday Night Fireworks and Saturday Night Movies following all Friday and Saturday evening games that end prior to 10:50pm.

New Nationals Park Replica Distribution

As promised to Season Ticket Holders who paid their 2008 entire amounts due on their accounts by The December 15th, 2007 Deadline--The Ceramic New Nationals Park Replica will be available for pickup beginning tonight when Our Washington Nationals continue their series with The Philadelphia Phillies.

Just stop by the special booth set up on The Main Concourse near The Washington Suites Entrance at New Nationals Park. Account Holders must bring ID with you. One Replica is available for each Account. No rush as not only can anyone entitled to the Ballpark Replica pick up the item throughout this week's series with The Phillies and Cincinnati Reds, but also, during the upcoming New York Mets and Colorado Rockies Homestand in Mid-August. Nationals Representatives will be on hand to distribute the Replica until the 7th Inning of each ballgame.

Here is the Email Sent To Season Ticket Holders:

Nationals Ballpark Replica Distribution

Dear Nationals Season Ticket Holder,

The Washington Nationals would like to thank all of our season ticket holders who have made the 2008 season a very memorable one. To recognize your payment in full and early commitment to the inaugural season in Nationals Park, the Nationals are proud to present you with a limited-edition replica of Nationals Park.

The account holder of record may pick up the Nationals Park replica at the season ticket holder table located on the main concourse outside of the Washington Suites. Season ticket holders will receive one (1) replica per account. As the account holder of record, please bring a picture ID to this table to receive your replica.

Season ticket holders will be able to pick up their replica on the following dates beginning an hour and a half before game time until the end of the seventh inning:
July 30 - July 31 (Phillies Series)
August 1 - August 3 (Reds Series)
August 12 - August 17 (Mets and Rockies Series)

If you have any further questions, please contact the Washington Nationals at 202.675.NATS (6287). The Nationals would like to thank you for your patience and support and we look forward to having you as a fan for many years to come!

I sure would like to know how big the replica is. Can you safely take it to your seat during the game? Anyway, Sohna and I will pick up ours this weekend.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hope For The Future

Let it be known that at 9:14PM Eastern Standard Time, Our Washington Nationals scored a run. One run to be exact--on a ground out--breaking a string on scoreless goose eggs at 26 consecutive innings. Even the Home Crowd at New Nationals Park understood the significance. But unfortunately, that sole run--was not enough again. Too bad, because Our Starting Pitcher, and Our Relief Pitching was pretty solid tonight. The same fate bestowed upon our hurlers this past Sunday; as well as this past Friday, both in Los Angeles. And not to forget this past Thursday Afternoon in San Francisco.

For four out of the past five Consecutive Ball Games, Our Manager Manny Acta has set out his choice of pitcher to the mound and received quality starts. Yet, no wins. Tim Redding lead off this string of successes in The City By The Bay on July 24th--going the distance in a 1-0 loss to The Giants. John Lannan followed with 7 solid innings of work in Dodger Stadium last Friday. And after Odalis Perez blew up and got blown out on Saturday Night in LA--Jason Bergmann rectified the situation and pitched a tremendous game--only to see himself lose once again--on a gopher ball given up to The Dodgers' James Loney. No offense by Our Washington Nationals dooming any chance of gaining a Curly "W".

A repeat performance witnessed on South Capitol Street tonight by 34,039 (and who said no one would show up at New Nationals Park for the remainder of this season--more on the attendance later). Collin Balester pitched a solid six innings of baseball against The Philadelphia Phillies. His only mistake--the costly one. Perennial All-Star, and quite simply an excellent player, Chase Utley took Our Number 40 deep over the right field wall for a two run shot in the top of the third. Balester's ONLY REAL BLUNDER of the evening. During his time on the mound, Pat Burrell, Ryan Howard and Greg Dobbs would all take Collin to the walls--but none of them were able to torch him for another big blow.

You had to be proud of Our Young Starter this evening. Balester's performance is EXACTLY what Our Washington Nationals need to build on over the next couple of months of this 2008 Season. Providing Hope that this loss is not significant in the long term goals of Our Team--as hard as that statement is to write. More and more, Our Number 40 is learning how to pitch, and survive in The Major Leagues. Against The Phillies, one of the best hitting teams in the game---Collin was effective. He was LEARNING, schooling himself on tossing against some of THE VERY BEST. You can't fault him for his one error. That miscue as a 22 Year Old, will pay dividends for seasons to come. You can count on that.

Tonight's effort is HOW YOU LEARN. Any talented arm may well blow the baseball past every single Minor Leaguer they have ever faced. But in The Major Leagues--you better understand HOW TO PITCH. No one can doubt that John Lannan, Jason Bergmann and Collin Balester are attempting to comprehend on the job. While Tim Redding is re-developing his talent, that so many felt he always had--10 years ago.

Yes, Our Washington Nationals Lost to The Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 this evening. A defeat that placed Washington 30 Games Below .500. Everyone knows, Our Offense has been pretty putrid. While Our Starting Pitching has, mostly, been pretty Outstanding. Unfortunately, one just doesn't go hand in hand with each other. It's clear now, this 2008 Season has come down to getting experience--ONE STEP AT A TIME. Our Number 14 realizes he can send out his selected starter on most any day and KNOW he is going to get a quality start. What Manny Acta DOES NOT KNOW is whether Our Hitters will step to the plate and deliver any assistance.

Final Score from Hot, Humid and downright SWEATY, New Nationals Park. The Philadelphia Phillies 2 and Our Washington Nationals 1. The Seventh Consecutive Loss for Washington, dropping Our Team to a staggering 38-68 Mark. The wind really was not blowing tonight off The Anacostia River. For most of the evening, Sohna and I felt we were back at RFK Stadium--where the damp, clammy and uncomfortable summer weather always took its toll, both on the field and in the stands.

At least at this balmy game--some success was found in a young pitcher--providing Hope For Our Future.

Game Notes & Highlights

He Pitched Well. Collin Balester made a fine start tonight for Our Washington Nationals. No walks, Five Strikeouts in six solid innings. Our Offense simply could not score any runs off Brett Myers--who entered this game with a ERA of 5.82. Like just about every other pitcher in the game of late facing Washington--for one game--they all become All-Stars. Sadly. I can't wait for that feeling to end.

Washington scored their only run in the bottom of the 8th, thanks to a crucial error by Chase Utley for The Phillies. After Paul LoDuca singled to center off Myers to lead off the frame, FLop followed with a hard hit grounder to The Philadelphia Second Baseman. Utley completely misplayed the ball--the stroked hit seeping through for an error and resulting in a 1st and 2nd, No Outs, situation. At this point, the game got mighty interesting. With Philadelphia already leading 2-0 thanks to Utley's previous blast, the respective Managers began to play the maneuvering game. Ryan Langerhans was sent to the plate by Manny Acta. Charlie Manuel, The Phillies Manager, countered by sending himself to the mound to replace Myers with journeyman lefthander J.C. Romero.

Our Manager then counter moved on his own--sending "The Guz" out to pinch run for LoDuca standing on second base. The very moment Cristian Guzman trotted out of Our Washington Nationals Dugout--Paulie became VISIBLY UPSET. He turned his back on Our Nats Dugout--and slapped his hands together in disgust. Our Number 16 DID NOT WANT TO COME OUT OF THE GAME. He had let EVERYONE KNOW.

Thankfully, Our Number 14 made this decision a correct one--because after Langerhans laid down a terrific bunt--where Our Number 29 nearly beat the throw from Romero--advancing each runner up one base--Willie Harris followed with ground out to The Phillies 3rd Baseman Eric Bruntlett. A grounder that Our Number 15 broke for home on contact to score. A decision that if Paul LoDuca had made--probably would have resulted in an out. As has been the case most all season--with Felipe Lopez now standing on third base with two outs--Ronnie Belliard could not get the tying score home--when he grounded out to Utley at second base to kill the rally. Our Number 10 disgustedly throwing his helmet to the ground over his failure.

In the top of the 4th, Ryan Zimmerman positioned himself to make a gorgeous short hop stab of a Chris Coste grounder to his right. Using a Windmill Motion with his left Glove Hand, Our Number 11 scooped the baseball, then threw out The Phillies Catcher in One Motion for the final out of the inning. Vintage "Z". Jesus Flores threw a beautiful peg to FLop covering second base in the top of the 5th to nail Shane Victorino attempting to steal a base.

But, the best defensive effort came on a drive to the wall in left field--just to the left of The Exxon Mobil Sign on the Green Pads. Shane Victorino was again the victim when Willie Harris tracked his drive to the fence, off Charlie Manning, by leaping and making an excellent catch while slamming into the wall. The making of OUT NUMBER TWO, by Our Number One in the 8th inning, was clearly The Defensive Play Of This Game.

As much as I love Ryan Zimmerman, what was he thinking in the bottom of the 7th? With two outs and Our Number 11 on first via a walk--Lastings Milledge singles on a ground ball to third misplayed by Bruntlett. For whatever reason--"Z" rounded second base TOO FAR. Phillies Shortstop Jimmy Rollings realizing Zimmerman's error in judgement, picked up the loose baseball and fired it to Chase Utley at Second Base. Ryan dove back into the bag headfirst--but was easily called out by Second Base Umpire Fieldin Culbreth. What became more concerning was whether Zimmerman might have re-injured his left shoulder. The African Queen stating--"The last time we saw him dive head first in Baltimore--he tore his shoulder." That comment had us wondering--if Sohna's statement might have some truth. Ryan was rotating his left arm while jogging back to the dugout.

Our Bullpen has now pitched 10 consecutive scoreless innings. But of course--in the only game Our Washington Nationals have led in late, over the past week--Our Relief Corp, blew that advantage--against The San Francisco Giants--last Wednesday.

Teddy was knocked out of The President's Race in the oddest way tonight. While a Cat was standing on the field during the middle of the 4th inning event between GW, Tom, Abe & Teddy--My Best Friend Screech!! believed this Cat was going to trip Our Lovable Loser while leading. Instead, SCREECH TACKLED TEDDY!! Sorry, but that one made NO SENSE?? None whatsoever.

Don't forget, if your Season Ticket Plan includes a Free 2008 Yearbook, you can pick up the commemorative item on The Main Concourse--third base side--anytime up until the 7th inning during this homestand ending on August 3rd.

Finally--for a Tuesday Night--this was a pretty terrific crowd. When Sohna and I arrived about 6:30PM at New Nationals Park the line to purchase tickets at The Centerfield Gate was winding across N Street and Down Half Street. Quite remarkable, considering how poorly Our Washington Nationals have played of late. Yes, it was Tee-Shirt Tuesday, but that giveaway does not guarantee a large crowd. And I understand The Phillies are a nearby opponent. But this just goes to show--people want to enjoy a night out at the ballpark--during the summer--no matter who is playing. This evening proved that fact.

And the sight of this guy with a Blow Horn announcing to those waiting in line they could walk down South Capitol Street or Potomac Avenue to reach additional Open Ticket Booths--interesting to watch. I don't think we had witnessed this type of effort by Our Washington Nationals--beforehand.

34,039 attended. Even Presidents Club was mostly filled.

Tonight's InGame Photo--(AP) Chris Dharapak
All Other Photos--Nats320

Monday, July 28, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect

When players practice and put in the time they become better ballplayers. A good example of that might be Nate McLouth of The Pittsburgh Pirates. When this centerfielder first was brought up to The Big Leagues, most every scout in the game, and even his very own team--thought McLouth would be just a 4th or 5th Outfielder.

In 2008, Nate was a National League All-Star. With a little more luck, he might have been The Game's MVP. Flipping around the channels on DirecTv's Extra Innings Broadcasts tonight--McLouth hammered OUT OF PNC PARK and into the Allegheny River--A Mammoth Shot off The Colorado Rockies' Luis Vizcaino. After rounding the bases, and while The Pirate Centerfielder was cooling off in the Pittsburgh Dugout--The FSN Pittsburgh Broadcasters went out of their way to discuss how, each and every day, no matter the circumstances, Nate McLouth is out on the field, in the batting cages, watching tape, asking questions--trying to improve himself.

Nate McLouth cares about the game and how it is suppose to be played--correctly.

Nate McLouth does not wait to be told what to do. Nate McLouth does not want to be a one dimensional ballplayer. Nate McLouth strives to be a COMPLETE BALLPLAYER. Unfortunately, many others don't feel that way.

The problem in The Great Game today is that too many players are groomed as specialists. Closer, Set Up Man, Slick Fielder, Designated Hitter--Slugger. From an early age, many youngsters are not taught the game properly. They don't learn how to bunt. No one teaches how to run the bases properly. The DH so prevalent, many young pitchers NEVER BAT.

That was not the case when I was growing up. Every single player, on every single team I EVER PLAYED FOR--was taught the fundamentals of the game--at every single level of development. No one was ever left out. Those Baseball Basics--which many times these days--seem to be a Lost Arm Form.

Find a Slugger that can crush the ball, or a Pitcher that can throw High 90's today. None of whom may know how to play the game properly, but that's what most teams seem to relish these days. And it's what gets these players on SportsCenter. Fewer players these days, wish to become complete players. That's a shame.

But remember, the responsibility to be the best you can be--is not just the sole duty of the player. The Talent certainly must have the drive, but this commitment must also come from The Manager, The Coaches, and the entire Organization. The Support System. This OBLIGATION BELONGS TO EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. Baseball is a team game and each must work together. Yes, you need a willing student, and you also need a coaching staff--willing to provide. There is no way around that fact.

Nate McLouth has succeeded expectations because he cared while soaking up the instruction. Something every single person, both on and off the field for Our Washington Nationals should strive for, each and every day. Unfortunately, that's not been the case--at times. Our Players should not only be proud to wear Our Uniform, they should willingly accept tuteledge from Our Organization. They must take every opportunity to improve their game, at any age, from every single source of help. They are suppose to be Professsionals. They should act like ones.

Nothing else is acceptable.

Practice Makes Perfect, but you will never get there--if you don't put in the time--and try.

Honestly, if you have the talent to play Professional Baseball in the first place, these basics of the game should not be that hard to master.

No, not at all. Besides, they are suppose to be Athletes--playing a game.

PS--And talking from experience at Spring Training in Viera, Florida. Sohna and I have only attended Spring Training when Our Washington Nationals are practicing on the fields--not playing actual games. Over the past two February's, Our Manager Manny Acta is ACTIVELY participating in drills on the field. Whether fielding, hitting, bunting or pitching--Our Number 14 is pretty hands on. That experience alone--tells me that Manny is making the effort--more than some may realize. Manny's not sitting in the Golf Cart--just watching.

The Pains Of Summer

Watching Matt Kemp play this weekend against Our Washington Nationals, reminded me of how this young player struggled in his very first game in The Major Leagues. On May 28, 2006 At RFK Stadium, the Rookie Outfielder had been rushed to The Los Angeles Dodgers, from Double A Ball, to fill a void caused by injuries.

His first three At-Bats, Three Terrible Strikeouts. Kemp looked lost. OVERMATCHED, against Ramon Oritz that Sunday Afternoon. Finally, in his last At-Bat, Matt stroked a seeing eye single, off Big Jon Rauch, between Ryan Zimmmerman and Royce Clayton through to left field. His first Major League Hit. He was 21 years old.

Although Kemp was just trying to survive those first days in The Big Leagues, he eventually came around, became comfortable, and today is probably a pretty untouchable 23 Year Old Slugging Outfielder for The Los Angeles Dodgers. Two 22 year old rookies were on that same LA Ballclub--First Baseman James Loney and Pitcher Jonathan Braxton. Additionally, A 21 Year Old Starter in Chad Billingsly. A 23 Year Old Catcher in Russell Martin. And a sweet swinging 24 year old hitter in Andre Either.

While still attempting to compete for the playoffs in 2006--The Dodgers let their young talent get On The Job Training. The Los Angeles Front Office didn't hold back their future--to win for today. And those 2006 Dodgers were pretty competitive. They ended up winning 88 games two years ago.

Now--two seasons later, two additional youngsters have been added to their lineup--20Year Old Clayton Kershaw on the mound and 22 Year Old Third Baseman Blake DeWitt. Seven Players total that The Los Angeles Dodgers, building a foundation for the future, have never been afraid to put out on the field--to learn how to play Major League Baseball--the right way.

Yeah, The Dodgers have more talent on their Major League and Minor League Rosters than Our Washington Nationals, but that should not deter Washington Management from putting Our Youngsters out on the field, right now, for On The Job Training.

Our Washington Nationals have nothing to lose--everything to gain. Collin Balester, John Lannan, Jason Bergmann and Garret Mock should be thrown out there on the mound every fifth day (barring injury), until the 2008 Season is over. There is no excuse not to. And, if you must give Tyler Clippard more of an opportunity--so be it. Let them all learn--toeing the rubber at New Nationals Park.

Jesus Flores, Lastings Milledge and Ryan Zimmmerman need to play as much as possible. And when he returns from The Disabled List--Elijah Dukes better be playing every single day. The same for Emilio Bonifacio--when Our, So-Called, New Starting Second Baseman is recalled from AAA Columbus.

As The Los Angeles Dodgers have proven--you can win with youth--as long as you give them the chance to succeed. Our Washington Nationals need to give Their Youth the opportunity to thrive. Not have them sitting behind a veteran player playing out the string of games--not caring whether Our Team Wins Or Not.

Please, Give Our True Youngsters All The On The Job Training they can squeeze into the final two months of 2008. Please don't use their inexperience as a crutch for all this season's woes--that fact along with all the injuries. Because years from now--Our Washington Nationals and Their Fans can find something to appreciate about all The Growing Pains Of Summer--2008. We can still grow up. We can still learn something from this season. Let's not waste every opportunity away.

And as for that first game Matt Kemp ever played in The Majors at RFK Stadium? Our Washington Nationals CRUSHED Los Angeles that Sunny Sunday, 10-4. More amazingly, Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Zimmerman and Nick Johnson all homered that wonderful afternoon. Why does that day seem like a full decade ago? Incredible actually, but that moment was just two short seasons removed from today. Wow.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

It Would Have Been Nice

It would have been nice if FLop had ran out a strike three passed ball in the top of the first. Instead, Felipe Lopez jogged and was easily thrown out by The Los Angeles Dodgers Catcher Russell Martin.

It would have been nice if Jason Bergmann could have laid down a bunt in top of the third. Instead, Our Number 57 tapped the ball directly back to Dodger's Pitcher Clayton Kershaw--who immediately threw to Nomar Garciaparra for the first out. The Dodgers shortstop relaying the baseball to first for a key double play. Why is it, that so many pitchers, in the short History of Our Washington Nationals, can not bunt?

It would have been nice if Lastings Milledge had not gotten himself thrown out at third base on a routine ground ball to Casey Blake at third base in the top of the fifth. Being aggressive, Our Number 44 never stopped rounding second base on Blake's toss to first base on Paul LoDuca's grounder. Dodger's First Baseman James Loney relayed a perfect toss to Nomar Garciaparra backing up the play at third for the very odd 5-3-6 Double Play. The Defensive Play of This Game which immediately found Milledge apologizing to Our Manager Manny Acta when Wil Nieves followed this odd twin killing, with a double down the left field line. A two baser that would have scored Lastings and tied this game at one run apiece. Yes, that would have been nice.

It would have been nice if Milledge and Willie Harris had communicated on a routine pop fly to left centerfield by Matt Kemp in the bottom of the 5th. A sure out misplayed when both players backed off calling for the ball. A muffed single that proved costly, when Russell Martin followed with a clean single to left scoring Juan Pierre--running one base ahead of Kemp.

It would have been nice, if Jason Bergmann, like John Lannan, could receive some offensive support from Our Washington Nationals when he pitches well. Unfortunately, few pitchers are perfect. And when Our Number 57 allowed a NO DOUBT Home Run to James Loney in the bottom of the second--you had to get that feeling--this game was lost--again.

Yes, it would have been nice, to think otherwise. But, after losing 2-0 to The Los Angeles Dodgers, shutout three of their last four games, and going Zero For California--Our Washington Nationals head back across the country tonight on pace to LOSE 103 Games. That's pretty remarkable considering all the high hopes during Spring Training for 2008.

It would have been nice if Washington had won ONE GAME in either San Francisco or Los Angeles.

And how nice would it be NOT to lead The Major Leagues in Being Shutout. Today--Washington's 15th Whitewash of 2008.

Still, I would love Our Washington Nationals to shutdown The Phillies & Their Fans this coming Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday--this coming week at New Nationals Park. It would be nice to beat Philadelphia--at home. That would be bring me Great Joy!!--Again.

Game Notes & Highlights

I guess Ryan Langerhans' terrific efforts earlier in the road trip meant nothing. Hot, consistently stroking some nice hits, and knocking in some key runs--Langerhans just sat on the pine--most of the West Coast Swing. I understand that Milledge needs to play, but you need to find a way to get Ryan's hot hitting bat into each game--in a meaningful way. He needs to play. Let's not waste his talents--again. Interestingly, On ESPN's Baseball Tonight this evening--they named Langerhans' catch over the leftfield wall at Petco Park in San Diego earlier this season--the finest catch of 2008--thus far. The man can play some "D".

It would also be nice if Our Washington Nationals had let Pete Orr know that they would not be using him anytime soon. Our Canadian Infielder was offered the opportunity to play for his native country in The 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. The last time Baseball will be played in this international competition, for the near future. Since telling Washington he decided to remain in The Majors, Orr has not played one inning of any game. That's sad. Pete Orr may be far from the best infielder out there, but he hustles and gives his all every time. Someone should thank him for turning down a big personal achievement--in his baseball career--and play him--every once and awhile.

It would also be nice if Our Washington Nationals start playing as many of their hungry youngsters as possible. I can root for youth. It's difficult to cheer for Odalis Perez, FLop and Paul LoDuca right now. That threesome has no collective future in Washington. None whatsoever. Put Our Future Out There On The Field--we have nothing else to lose.

Sorry to hear that "The Guz" has a thumb problem--apparently from being hit while batting in San Francisco earlier this week. Why do I have this feeling that Cristian Guzman is going on the Disabled List and eventually will be lost for an extended period of time?

Finally--it would be nice to know what maneuvers Our General Manager Jim Bowden is not only considering, but has been actually offered so far, for the potential July 31st Trading Deadline Deals. Having no idea what might transpire--I am curious to know whether Our Washington Nationals have ANY CHANCE of picking up a useful part in Our Future. Seems we already traded our most useful commodity, Big Jon Rauch, to Arizona earlier. This coming Thursday is going to be pretty interesting. Will Some Team Get Desperate--To Our Advantage? We can only hope.

PS--Never have I been a big fan of ESPN. The Sports Network which has become to big for itself. A Brand Name that many times means less sports reporting for hype. So, It really hurts when ESPN's Karl Ravech on Baseball Tonight makes the comment that The Los Angeles Dodgers Clayton Kershaw is looking for his first victory in 10 starts. And John Kruk replies--"Well no EASIER TO TEAM to gain a victory from than Washington." The fact may have some truth to it--but the way ESPN always makes fun of any team outside of New York & Boston--shameful. No respect. Last time I checked--John Kruk played for some pretty awful teams, as well, in his career. He must understand how it's difficult to perform, at times, when the media continually kicks you down.

Today's InGame Photo--(AP) Francis Specker

Saturday, July 26, 2008

How To Defend For Yourself

All the news of late has been off the field, and with Our Washington Nationals on the West Coast this week, staying up late to watch the games in San Francisco and Los Angeles has been pretty much out of the question. Real Work (Thanks Barack, see you in Denver) has brought me in early every day this week.

So--getting back to baseball--there were two moments over the past two games that are worth mentioning. One, concerning The San Francisco Giants on Thursday Afternoon, the other, last night at Dodger Stadium.

Giants Manager Bruce Bochy showed tremendous GUTS, during the Getaway Game in San Francisco, to stick with Matt Cain with his starter teetering on the edge of losing the ballgame. The fact that Bochy left Cain in there with only one out, runners on 2nd and 3rd in the top of the 9th, leading just 1-0 against Washington--scored huge points down the line. Bruce showed trust and gave confidence to his youngster. Telling Cain, he is the man for the job. I liked that.

In fact, yesterday afternoon, a friend of mine and I discussed this moment at length. "That was old school!!," he said. "Bruce Bochy understood this was a game between two last place teams that meant little in the standings. So, instead of doing what every single other manager in the game will automatically do--he ran out to mound and told Cain--'This is your Game!' Terrific. Just think how much that will resonate down the line, when The Giants are playing more important games again."

Great Point and something Our Manager Manny Acta must have noticed and followed through on last night in Los Angeles. Over the course of the 2008 Season, Our Number 14 has protected John Lannan. If he gets in trouble, Manny may let Our Number 31 finish the inning--even if tagged for some runs--but rarely allowing the young southpaw to return to the mound to start the following frame.

After losing his control and confidence in the 6th against The Dodgers--John Lannan gave up three runs--with two outs. Our Pitching Coach Randy St.Claire jogged out to calm John down. He finished the inning and Manny rewarded John for his composure, by allowing Our Number 31 to finish strong in the bottom of the 7th before removing him from the game.

It's important to understand--that one move will pay dividends down the line. John Lannan lost last night, but he won the respect and confidence from the coaching staff that directly leads to success down the line.

Major League Teams, some times, need to quit doing everything "BY THE BOOK", protecting every single pitcher, the very moment one gets into trouble. Matt Cain learned an important lesson in San Francisco on Thursday Afternoon. How to defend for Himself. The same education John Lannan was schooled on last night in Los Angeles.

I like that when a Manager hands the ball to his starter and says--"Bring This Baby Home!! Go The Distance!"

As Don Sutton told The African Queen and I last year, in an interview--he doesn't like how today's pitchers are handled. "It's like telling a kid if you get all “C’s” throughout your High School Career, you are a great student. That’s BULL!!."

This Hall of Famer believes more pitchers should be given the opportunity Matt Cain and John Lannan were handed over the past 48 Hours. I agree. There is time for relief. And there is a time to defend for yourself. And no time better, than when your team has little to play for--in the standings.

Good for Bruce Bochy. Good for Manny Acta. Let's see more of that over the next few months. Our Washington Nationals can only win--in the long run--giving their pitchers the opportunity to wiggle out of their own mess.

Matt Cain Photo--(AP) Jeff Chiu
John Lannan Photo--(A) Mark J. Terrill

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Johnny Estrada Story

"Mentally, I'm ready to go home." Great, take the parting gifts with you. This comment, the actual statement by Johnny Estrada upon being Designated For Assignment by Our Washington Nationals. Followed up by this gem: "I still know I have a lot left in the tank, and look forward to playing against the Nationals."

Nice, thanks for coming, look forward to seeing you soon.

Johnny Estrada was Designated for Assignment this afternoon by Our Washington Nationals. A necessary move to recall Lastings Milledge from rehab and the disabled list. Then he took every opportunity given by the media to blast everyone in sight--including the very fact that "[Heck] no. You won't see me in Triple AAA. You can print that, too."

What a nice guy, Johnny Estrada, A man who can't appreciate that Our Washington Nationals gave him an opportunity, when NO ONE ELSE WOULD, and that's how he shows his appreciation. What a wonderful man.

And to think, this is the ONLY PLAYER IS THE HISTORY OF SPRING TRAINING for Our Washington Nationals, that has REFUSED to speak to The African Queen. That was his decision and she respected it. But that Story Is True--and Funny. It also was a memorable moment.

Case closed. As Sohna said upon hearing of his release--"GOOD RIDDANCE."

And that is The Johnny Estrada Story For The Ages.


Chad Cordero deserved better. For over three years, Our Number 32 has been a mainstay for Our Washington Nationals. Outside of Ryan Zimmerman, there could be few others more popular among Our Fans during that time span. "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" had his moments, some very good ones, and like every stopper, some bad outings as well. But make no mistake about it--Chad Cordero was the Heart & Soul of Our Bullpen. The Stand Up Guy--who never hid from the Press after any game.

He made things happen and was the Go-To Guy to close out most every game. That fact was rarely in question.

Look how dismal the 2008 Version of Our Washington Nationals has stacked up to previous relief corp staffs since Baseball's Return to Washington. Not even close--Chad was the linchpin to the operation.

Which all makes Our General Manager's comments last night on SportsTalk Radio 980 all the more worrisome. Responding to a question, Jim Bowden mentioned, off the cuff, that Our Washington Nationals will Non-Tender "The Chief" once this season is up and Cordero is given medical clearance (Many thanks to Brian at Nationals Farm Authority for bringing these comments to light).

Between the lines--Baseball is a game. Outside the chalk, it's all business. More and more, while we don't like it, The African Queen and I have come to realize, the players, are just pawns, to be moved around and across the chessboard. Eventually, to be discarded once deemed useless.

The fact that JimBo wishes to make Chad Cordero a Free Agent by essentially releasing him--is not the issue here. Rather, his comments send a signal, a bad one--that Our Washington Nationals may not care about some injured players. Intentional or not. And that's a shame.

Judging from Chad Cordero's comments given to Bill Ladson at Number 32 was stunned. Shaken over the very fact that two weeks after undergoing Season Ending Surgery due to a labrum tear--Washington was tossing him over the side.

That's not right. No, it's not right.

This PARTICULAR business of baseball should have been handled INTERNALLY. Now, every single player in the game must turn their heads in wonder over it's mis-handling. Do you think Chad Cordero would even consider re-signing with Our Washington Nationals after being publicly shoved aside by Our General Manager? What do the rest of our players think? Would other players give second thoughts to possibly coming here?

You want to bet that Chad Cordero will be given some pretty good offers to sign with other Major League Teams? Guaranteed, it's going to happen. Few will give up on a 27 Year Old (next spring) Arm whom has experienced success at the highest level of the game. Just look at Troy Percival. That man's been around for years, always injured, always successful.

Dear Jim, I fully understand the business decisions behind your comments. Our Washington Nationals are wary over extending up to nearly $5 Million for a pitcher returning from surgery to his throwing shoulder. That's understandable.

But, you should have kept this information under wraps. You could have handled this matter with far less publicity and without upsetting Our Number 32, needlessly. But more than anything else you should have shown Chad Cordero a little more respect. After all this man has done for Our Washington Nationals, he should not have been thrown under the bus.

A One Time All--Star, still popular, now Roadkill, waiting to be scooped up by the Scavengers. And to think, Sohna and I always believed Chad Cordero was a Core Player--for Our Future.

This post is about how the information was released, not how the news will affect Baseball Operations. As I stated earlier, Baseball Is A Business, but this business should not have been handled so poorly.

Sorry "Chief", Sohna and I feel you deserve to be treated better. Good Luck in your rehab.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Baseball Academy

“Baseball has been lost in the city for far too long," stated Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, Chairperson for The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. " I think that was brought home clearly to us (Owners of Our Washington Nationals) when Emmanuel Burris came here a few weeks ago playing for The San Francisco Giants. To see how long it had been since a DC Public School child had played in The Major Leagues speaks volumes as to the need for this academy."

The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation is in the planning stages of building The Washington Nationals DC Baseball Academy in Ward 7 of The District Of Columbia. Once completed, the 16,000 to 20,000 Square Foot Facility will contain three separate ball fields--not only one of regulation size, but also a Little League baseball diamond and a softball field. The Academy is modeled after a Major League Baseball Sponsored Academy in Compton, California (where The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim provide some support--but did not build the facility) and The RBI Program (Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities) first started in East Harlem, New York. The Washington Nationals DC Baseball Academy will be the first of its kind built and sponsored by a Major League Baseball Team.

”We are going to provide a venue for young people to have a place they can go, play safe, in an academic environment, but one where young people can go and have fun, meet others—do fun things," said Dream Foundation President Alphonso Maldon. "And yet, have the opportunity to learn a lot of baseball skills. There is so much to be learned about baseball. We (The Dream Foundation) believe this Academy will create, for these young people, an understanding and an appreciation of baseball that many do not have right now. Baseball has been gone from DC for a very long period of time, this can only help revive the interest."

To be open year round, the facility will include Clubhouses, Offices, Training Rooms, Classrooms for Education, and will allow for indoor and outdoor baseball practice. There will be a full time staff. Academy Graduates will be eligible for Summer Internships in The Washington, DC Business Community.

Mrs. Tanenbaum believes the education part of the package is most important. “This would not be worth doing if it was ONLY ABOUT BASEBALL. This project is worthwhile because of the complete package being offered. If this was just about baseball, it might be too difficult to pull off. But, to use baseball as the carrot to bring kids in and then offer other opportunities—makes this work. And maybe, some kids might be coming in for the after school work and then get interested in baseball. Who knows, but it could work both ways.”

Currently, The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation is working with The Federal Government and The District of Columbia for use of the projected Academy site--at Ft. Dupont Park in Ward 7. “We don’t have total control over when the land is going to be transferred," Mr. Maldon told me. "We are in the process of getting the land transferred from the Federal Government to The City. We are optimistic this will take place. We are in the middle, right now, of the E.A. (Environmental Assessment) Process. This is going on right now."

Although The Washington Nationals DC Baseball Academy is scheduled to be built in Ward 7, it will be open to all Boys and Girls in the surrounding Wards 6 & 7--and most all children within the city. Eventually, The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation would like to make inroads into the surrounding suburbs of Maryland and Virginia, as well.

Alphonso Maldon: "We also believe the academy will provide a platform to improve health, nutrition and fitness. Some of the things that do not happen enough, from what we see here in the (DC) School System. We hear from people about youngsters not having enough physical fitness programs, having kids involved with physical things. This issue has certainly added to our obesity problem we have around this country. And this Academy will provide after school and summer programs. These programs will be designed to help to prepare these children so they can have a more successful future.”

I would image this will also help fill the void from broken families and mentors needed for youths today? (SBF)

“Absolutely, and not just in children’s lives today, even though children are our focus. This will provide the opportunity for organized baseball and softball programs to develop strong and independent well rounded productive members of the community. And this will give parents the opportunity to get involved with these organized programs right within their community. The Baseball Academy will be a place where parents can build support around. They can go there, get their families out there, involved in the games the children are playing. This is another whole level of support.”

Four Leagues are currently planned for The Baseball Academy:

Rookie League, Co-ed tee-ball for ages 7-8
Youth League, Co-ed baseball & softball, ages 9-12
Junior League, Boys baseball & Girls softball teams, ages 13-15
Senior League, Boys baseball & Girls softball teams, ages 16-18

But as Marla Tanenbaum reminded me--this project is not just about the on the field activities. "The need is clearly there for baseball. But, I am excited about all the after school curriculum part of the project. The possibility for doing some baseball related career work, groundskeeping, broadcasting. There will be a lot of people involved with The Nationals who will want to have a little involvement. So, I love that aspect. And I love the fact the players will want to be involved too.”

Not only the kids, but parents, teachers and volunteers will be offered opportunities to be instructors, officials, coaches and administrators of The Baseball Academy. This project is family friendly.

Imagine--Ryan Zimmerman or Chad Cordero from Our Washington Nationals showing up to give youngsters lessons on how to play the game. The many coaches for Our Washington Nationals who give up their Saturday Mornings once per month, during the season, to coach The Smithfield Youth Clinics--will now be making themselves available for The Academy as well. “We see this as an opportunity where our players and coaches can participate, in terms of helping with the clinics and serving as role models," said Mr. Maldon. "We (The Dream Foundation and The Nationals) feel this is a Win-Win opportunity for the community. A win for The Nationals. A win for the entire District of Columbia.”

Coursework will include a whole range of topics: baseball skills, character development, academic enrichment and preparing for the workforce. Mentoring and Student Support Services will also be a big part of The Washington Nationals DC Baseball Academy. A 30 day public comment period on the projected land transfer will take place this August. Once The District of Columbia Government officially receives the property at Ft. Dupont Park--then the final steps can begin to construct the new training facility and classrooms.

As optimistic as Mrs. Tanenbaum and Mr. Maldon are on this project--both believe The Washington Nationals Baseball Academy will not open before late 2009 or early 2010. “If a decision is done and we move forward with the land transfer, then it would be my hope that we could break ground early next year and maybe get done by 2009. That’s all of our hopes," believes Alphonso Maldon.

Currently, The Marketing Department for Our Washington Nationals is approaching individuals and many corporations, both big and small--to find partners, sponsors--to raise funds needed to make The Academy a winning effort. Individual Sponsorships begin at $5,000. Corporate Sponsorship runs as high as $1,000,000. You can check out additional information at The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Website. Or call The Foundation at 202-640-7124, if you are interested in sponsorship.

For The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, moving forward with The Baseball Academy, has been a long time coming. “I am so relieved we have made tangible progress," concluded Marla Lerner Tanenbaum. " It’s great to take that first step. We hope to engage people more than from just behind the scenes—to be a little more public about what we are doing. But, there is a lot of work to do. A lot to figure out, but sometimes you just have to dive in head first and that is exactly what we are doing on this Baseball Academy.”

Defensively Speaking

If Emilio Bonifacio turns out to be the Defensive Gem Our General Manager Jim Bowden and VP President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo claim--The 2009 Version of Our Washington Nationals could potentially be pretty solid--defensively.

Catcher--Jesus Flores. Young, Talented. Pretty much beloved by everyone.

1st Base--Nick Johnson. Injury prone, but is coming back. When Healthy, Our Number 24 one of the best fielders in the game at his position.

2nd Base--Emilio Bonifacio. Fresh addition to be given every chance to succeed.

3rd Base--Ryan Zimmerman. No question, arguably the finest fielding third sacker in the game.

Shortstop--Cristian Guzman. Serviceable, Hustles. Our Number 15 is fine and he never pouted over his poor 2005 Inaugural Season in Washington. Gets huge points for that. Rewarded justly with a two year contract extension yesterday.

Rightfield--Austin Kearns. Outside of Jeff Francouer of The Atlanta Braves--is there a better fielding rightfielder in The National League. Plays his position well, good arm, takes good angles to baseballs.

Leftfield--Lastings Milledge. Needs to work on his defense. Does not appear to have the arm for a centerfielder. A corner outfield spot might suit him best.

Centerfield--Elijah Dukes. Before his unfortunate knee injury was beginning to show the five tool talents some in the game love. No one plays harder on Our Team--No One. Great Arm, Perfect for Centerfield.

4th Outfielder--Ryan Langerhans. Great Glove, Good Speed. And I have not even mentioned Willie Harris--who has been a good versatile performer in 2008.

You could do a whole lot worse in the field with that lineup. It's not bad. In fact, if Our Washington Nationals break Spring Training with those 11 players on board, we could be one of the better fielding teams in the league.

Defensively Speaking--there are some fine gloves in that lineup for Version 5.0 of Our Washington Nationals. Pretty good in fact.

PS--Of course, the hitting potential for this lineup is a topic for another day, as well as, our ever changing pitching prospects.

But here is a speculative 2009 Batting Order


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Not Exactly What I Was Expecting

My cell phone started to chime, shake, rattle and roll a few minutes after 5PM this afternoon. For the next 25 minutes, I could do nothing else but turn the noise maker off as we were on deadline at work. The lead news story, and I was editing. But I knew right away, some news was breaking somewhere else too--over on South Capitol Street--surrounding Our Washington Nationals.

Someone or Some Bodies had been traded. There was no doubt about that, because all the preset tunes on my cell phone told me exactly who was calling. All Baseball Fans--including The African Queen. We had probably made a trade. And once Our News Story made air--it was time to check messages to discover what all the commotion was about.

Big Jon Rauch had been traded to Arizona. Not surprising. But for whom?

Over the past few weeks, many teams were mentioned as possible suitors for "The Wookie". Easily one of our most prized veterans whose services would be cherished by other Major League Teams. Stepping into the Closer Role with Chad Cordero out this season, Our Number 51 had been good--closing 17 of 22 opportunities while sporting a 2.98 Era. Solid Numbers.

What could Jim Bowden get for him? This question has been constantly asked by fans. After hearing the answer at 5:30PM, I could only think: We could have gotten more.

In return--Our General Manager received a potential leadoff hitter, supposedly good fielding second baseman, slap hitter with good speed. OK, I can go for that. 23 Year Old Emilio Bonifacio was considered the Number 6 Prospect in The Arizona Diamondbacks Farm System heading into 2008. Building for the future--not a bad pickup.

But, what really surprised me was NO ONE ELSE was coming over to Washington to complete this trade.

Rauch for Bonifacio WAS THE TRADE. How is that possible?

Should not Our Washington Nationals have received another player for a veteran reliever, workhorse, who can setup or close, and has proven to be pretty durable over the past four seasons? Honestly, I was expecting a little more. Maybe a lower level pitching prospect? Maybe another youngster to help build Our Farm System?

Don't you think Big Jon Rauch was more valuable in a trade? And if he was Our Top Veteran available for trade--that doesn't bode too well for any return for Ronnie Belliard, Tim Redding or Odalis Perez. Paul LoDuca and Johnny Estrada are certainly not even being considered as possibles.

And with "The Guz" being re-signed today to a two year contract extension by Washington, Cristian Guzman is not going anywhere soon, also. Clearly, Our Number 15 and Bonifacio are Our Double Play Combination for the future--beginning in the year 2009. (By the way--I like the Guzman signing--Our Washington Nationals have zero shortstop prospects near ready for The Majors--"The Guz" coming back is a no brainer--even at $8 Million per season).

No, I not surprised Our Now Former Number 51 is gone either, his trade has been coming for some time. But after all the buzzing and chirping of my cell phone late this afternoon, I sure was expecting more bang out of the news that "The Wookie" is now a Snake. Just hoping Our Assistant General Manager & VP Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo (Former Scouting Director for Arizona) knows what he is doing on this one. This trade has his name written all over it. Rizzo knows Emilio Bonifacio--probably well.

We may not know the final answer for some time, but this trade was not EXACTLY what I was expecting right now. Bonifacio is OK by me, but I really believed Big Jon Rauch would return at least one other quality prospect.

Didn't you?

The PostScript

Who will Close for the rest of the season with Big Jon now gone?

Joel Hanrahan only has two reliable pitches, fastball and changeup, no curve and a limited slider. Our Number 38 is overpowering, but his control and unreliable third pitch has to make him questionable as a closer. Hitters may tee off on his pitches--waiting for his straight stuff.

Luis Ayala closed at times playing in Mexico. When Our Number 56 was at the top of his game a few years ago--Ayala would have been a solid choice as closer. Unfortunately, his 2008 season has been poor. It's going to be interesting for a while at the end of any game Our Washington Nationals have a lead.

And Garrett Mock, called up today to fill a roster spot for Rauch--will most likely be the long man and spot starter.

Finally, today was the start of the long awaited mid-season youth movement--meaning FLop's days as a member of Our Washington Nationals has to be numbered as well.