Sunday, December 31, 2006

For The Love Of The Game

On a clear, comfortable night, there is nothing better than sitting in a ballpark and watching a baseball game. Of course, even on a crappy, cold and dreary night, baseball can still provide an excellent evening of entertainment.

The sounds of the game: the "CRACK!" & "WHACK!" of bat hitting ball, the "Smack" and "THUMP" of a hard thrown ball hitting a mitt; The ROAR of the crowd when something exciting is in the making. Those sounds are a joy to hear--soothing to the mind. "Get Your PROOOOGRAM!!", "COLD BEER, HERE!!". Background noise, that brings comfort and familiarity to every single ballpark.

I love the perfect geometry of the field. Whomever came up with 90 feet between the bases was one of the greatest geniuses of all time. Perfect symmetry, on a grass and dirt diamond, that stands out far more, in beauty, than any football field, basketball court or hockey rink--imaginable. And, the fact that baseball has no time limit, like most every other major sport, makes baseball a very special game.

No matter what the score, I will never leave a game until the very last out. Even if my team is down 14-2, in the bottom of the ninth (and Our Washington Nationals did a fine job of attempting this feat, many times, in 2006), you never know what FANTASTIC, never before seen event, you might miss, if you leave early. In most every game, and as you obviously know, I go to each and every Nationals Home Game possible, something happens you may have never seen, or see again in your lifetime. That's the beauty of baseball.

If our Washington Nationals have struggled all night long, but remained within 3 runs, they still have a chance in the bottom of the 9th. And, if the Nationals have a 5 run lead in the 9th, with "The Chief" on the mound, you better remain, with your fanny glued to your seat, as no lead is too safe for Chad Cordero. No game is over, until that final out is recorded. And that, makes baseball so very, very special.

Baseball is a game you can discuss, not only well after the game is over, but during the actual contest you are watching, at that very moment. There is a terrific ebb and flow to the game. Between each and every pitch, there is a pause. During each and every hit or out, there is a pause. This fabulous rhythm allows for audience participation, like no other. Whether you are chatting with friends sitting next to you, or screaming your lungs out at the latest bonehead move by your team, there is time to express yourself.

No game, in American History, has developed so many "EXPERTS" of the game. Baseball is studied by millions, and enjoyed year round. No sport, like baseball, has a "HOT STOVE" League. A Winter Solstice that allows year round yakking, ranting and commenting on, not only your team, but every other MLB TEAM. Baseball is an engrossing topic, and as everyone that reads the Nats Blogs well knows--is followed closely--as tight, and as closely to our chests, as our very own family members health and well being. Baseball is shared and passed on through generation after generations of family. As a youngster, we learn the game from our parents and grandparents. And, as we advance to parenthood, we involve our children the same way our parents did, with us, years earlier. Then, the entire process goes full circle as we reach the GOLDEN YEARS, passing down all that we have learned, throughout a lifetime of games, to our grandchildren. That's the Joy of Baseball--the great equalizer.

Baseball fans, Nationals Fans, and Nats Bloggers all LOVE THE GAME. There is no way we would all be so engulfed in even the most basic of moves and news, if we weren't all totally FANATIC over the sport. Baseball has drawn us all in. We are addicts, and we love it, every single minute of the day.

And, like no other sport, Baseball History and Statistics mean so very much. Only in Baseball can you compare different seasons and generations of the game. Only in Baseball, can you decide whether Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Cal Ripken or Albert Pujols was, or is, the GREATEST PLAYER OF ALL TIME. Only in baseball can average, mediocre players, become ICONS in their community, because of their steadfast enjoyment of the game and their community involvement. Only in baseball, do you and I, as fans, count off the number of Stadiums we have witnessed games. We all want to attend a game at each and every Baseball Stadium. I have 3 more to check off my list, how about you? All this, makes baseball so memorable.

Baseball is the only sport that, to the most minute level, you can compare hitting and pitching stats, and make a reasonable conclusion; Who is the better or worse player? Baseball is the only sport that you can truly get a feeling of what a player is like, in person. Is that guy a Jerk, or not? . There is a tremendous amount of Fan participation with every single player. How many times have you seen a Nationals player signing autographs along the third baseline at RFK Stadium in the first two seasons of Our NATS? Like every single game. This closeness allows for baseball to be VERY PERSONAL.

With 162 games each and every season, all of us have the opportunity to be happy, sad, live or die, throughout a six month season, on a daily basis. In baseball, you can totally suck and be blown away by 10 runs one night, then turn around the very next day and win--and that terrible loss is forgotten--forever. Baseball is very, very addictive-yes, intoxicating..

Whether its Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, or even RFK Stadium, there is nothing like sitting in the stands, looking down on that luscious green grass, in all its geometric beauty--and watching a baseball game.

We all enjoy this ritual each and every year, from April through October. From the very first signs of spring, to the early signs of Winter, baseball brings us all together.

All For The Love Of The Game.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Ins & Outs For The New Year

As we part, yet another year in all our lives (and let me tell you, as you get older, those years seem to pass mighty quickly) and move on to the newness of 2007, its time to look at what's in, and what's out with Our Washington Nationals.

In: The Lerners. Out: MLB, Bud Selig & Greedy Owners.

In: Stan Kasten. Out: Tony Taveres (Did a great job under terrible circumstances).

In: Reeled in Jim Bowden. Out: Jimbo (You can't have every former Reds Player).

In: A Future For The Washington Nationals. Out: Uncertainty.

In: MASN (NATS TV Coverage for all). Out: Comcast Sports Net (Big Losers).

In: Adrian Fenty. Out: Mayor Williams (Give the man credit, he made DC a respected city again, and brought baseball back. Those are HIGH marks, my friend).

In: Building Of The New Stadium. Out: RFK Stadium's Final Year!! (Very Sadly for Me--"The Greatest No Thrills Park In The Game).

In: The Lerners will, again, (My Hope) step to the plate and now add additional monies to the Exterior Look of the Stadium so it can GLEAM!!!
Out: $611 Million, in city dollars, for a mediocre, aesthetically unpleasant ballpark.

In: Good Luck: find your own Parking after this season. Out: Lot 8 Tailgate at RFK Stadium after 2007.

In: $15 Parking at RFK (And that SUCKS!!). Out: $10 and $12 Parking at RFK.

In: Kory Casto, Ryan Church, Chris Snelling. Out: Alfonso Soriano (WHAT A YEAR, both good and bad--he was the talk of the town!!).

In: Nick Johnson returns to healthy form. Out: That collision was nothing short of awful to witness-the saddest point of the 2006 season for Our Washington Nationals.

In: A conscious free Austin Kearns for running into Nick Johnson. Out: The visibly affected and mentally shocked Austin Kearns for colliding with Nick Johnson.

In: (Again) Cristian Guzman. Out: Royce Clayton, Felipe Lopez.

In: The "New GUZ". Out: Whatever that crap was he performed in 2005.

In: Felipe Lopez at 2nd Base. Out: Jose (The Statue) Vidro at 2nd base.

In: Blind Man Moves to Second (FLop). Out: At least Vidro could catch anything hit right at him.

In: Alex Escobar. Out: Alex Escobar (The Man's always OUT with an injury--too bad, because he's actually a FIVE TOOL PLAYER!).

In: Ryan Zimmerman. Out: Hopefully NEVER!!

In: The last 2 months of 2006 Schneiderman. Out: The first 4 months of 2006 Schneiderman.

In: Mrs. Schneiderman (if you know who I am talking about, you would understand the praise), Mrs. Ryan Church, a very close second. Out: Wouldn't want to piss off any other player's wife that sits in Section 320 alongside us.

In: Jesus Flores, a real catching prospect from the Rule 5 Draft. Out: Fan Favorite, but journeyman Minor Leaguer, Brandon Harper.

In: Robert Fick, Bernie Castro & Larry Broadway. Out: Robert Fick--At least for a while. (He really must have wanted to come back).

In: A potentially terrible bench. Out: Daryle Ward (Owner of the FINEST UPPER DECK SHOT at RFK to Section 551 against the Astros last season--I will remember that blast FOREVER!!) , Marlon Anderson (and, of course, I could have played better than MY MAIN MAN, Damian Jackson--just a HORRIBLE PLAYER!!)

In: Any Innings Eating Starting Pitcher, hopefully two. Out: Well, after Livan was traded, we didn't have any anyway.

In: John Patterson, Staff Ace. Out: Ramon Ortiz, Staff Ace?? That's horrible too.

In: Hanrahan, Chico, Fruto, Redding, Van Buren & maybe, Zinacola. Out: Armas, Ortiz, just about every starter from 2006.

In: Potentially GREAT BULLPEN AGAIN. Out: Injury Filled & Inexperienced Relievers.

In: Luis Ayala. Out: Luis Ayala (Boy, could we have ever used him, Mr RUBBERARM, last season).

In: Hopefully not a overused bullpen. Out: A totally wasted bullpen.

In: A talented, hard throwing Jon Rauch. Out: The "I'm Very Comfortable Wookie" who gives up a Home Run in most every mound appearance.

In: Ray King (So Jimbo can trade him in July for two prospects). Out: Mike Stanton (Who Jimbo traded each of the past two seasons in July for prospects--at least the man is consistent).

In: "The Chief", Chad Cordero. Out: He really wasn't out, but "The Chief" needed more opportunities to be scary, like no other heart thumping stopper in the game.

In: Hopefully getting past the 3rd inning without being down 6 runs.
Out: Being down 6 runs in the 3rd inning.

In: Youth. Out: Just about every player above 29 years old.

In: A new Carlos Baerga. Out: Carlos Baerga (Come On, you had to love "Speedy Gonzales" the only player in the history of the game that ran in motion for 5 seconds before he actually started moving--a highlight of the Inaugural Season, remembered fondly by everyone in Section 320)

In: Cheap Payroll. Out: $60 Million Payroll.

In: Baby Nats with Reclamation Projects. Out: Veteran Nats with Reclamation Projects.

In: 70 Wins in 2007 would be a great year!! Out: 71 Wins last season seemed fairly disgusting.

In: Manny "Let's Activate!" Acta. Out: Frank "In Your Face" Robinson ("Come ON!! Frank" my favorite call over the past few years when he pissed me off--I will miss him nonetheless. He really is a great man!).

In: Acta hiring some of his buddies to be coaches, whether they are qualified or not. Out: The Coaches let go were not that good anyway.

In: Three Ryans--Zimmerman, Church & Wagner. Out: Two Joses--Guillen & Vidro.

In: A new Section 320 Song. Out; "Jose, Jose, Jose Jose!!"

In: Section 320. Out: Sitting Anywhere else at RFK.

In: Section 320 returns in tact for its 3rd Season. Out: Only if I can't convince Management to allow us to move as one group, in the same configuration, into the new stadium.

In: A New Favorite Player for The African Queen to get her fanny in the seat, each and every game.
Out: Her Love--Alfonso Soriano.

In: SCREEEEEEEEEEEECH!! Out: Any other Mascot.

In: Gates at RFK opening for Nats Batting Practice on certain dates for Season Ticket Holders. Out: Gates not opening until 90 Minutes before game time on every game day.

In: Grass and Sod that last througout the Baseball Season, green and lush. Out: That brown dead junk that was on the RFK Field each of the past two Septembers.

In: WASHINGTON DC HOSTING THE SEASON OPENER!!! Out: MLB putting the Nations Capitol's team on the road to start the baseball season. THIS IS AMERICA"S GAME THE LAST TIME I CHECKED.

In: Teddy is still a Loser. Out: Teddy is a Loser!! RUN!! TEDDY!! RUN!!

In: Washington Nationals Fans that support the team. Out: Anyone that lives in the DC Area that supports the O's first and foremost.

In: "Pledge Your Allegiance". Out: "Make It Your Pastime"

In: Readers & Commenters who are kind enough to continue reading the Nats320 Blog. Out: Hopefully not anytime soon.

In: Wishing YOU A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!! And, it comes from the bottom of our hearts.

The African Queen and I wish all of you a SAFE & HAPPY NEW YEAR!!


Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Last Time I Checked

I have been away for the holidays, so I apologize for not posting during the past week. When I returned last night, I noticed over at Oleanders & Morning Glories that the author decided to take me to task as his example over someone who supports The Lerners and Stan Kasten's plan to build this weak franchise from the ground up. The author, Harper, does not like the way the new owners are working The Nationals.

That's fine and I appreciated being mentioned, and read. Unfortunately, he also read into my post from last week
that I was giving a "false impression" when it comes to the so called "Pro Plan" and "Anti-Plan" supporters. And, I was stating everyone against my opinion, according to Oleander's, "was anti building the Washington Nationals from the ground up, first with young developing talent. Of course that's insane, but I've read similar things elsewhere." His words, used with mine.

His post went on to comment that, even though The Lerners are pumping, at least, $30 Million, back into the stadium for a better HDTV Scoreboard, Club Suite Amenities and Centerfield Restaurant Upgrades, including outfield seating during games for patrons--this effort is not worthy of any praise, because all this goes directly towards the owners pocket in the long run.

Well--doesn't everything involved with The Nationals go directly toward the owners coffers?

I responded in this manner on the Oleanders Site:

"Glad to see that I just got back in town from The Holiday and got someone fired up!! Thanks for mentioning me."

"Obviously, I am behind "The Plan", but I have also clearly stated that this team needs starting pitching badly, to field a competitive team today--and still build from the ground up. As Brian over a Nationals Farm Authority wrote very nicely a few weeks back, its actually helpful, in building this franchise, to pick up some Type B Free Agent Pitchers, for a short term use, and then reap the benefit of a Draft Choice once those pitchers move on to GREENER Pastures."

"That being said, many, many others I have read on the blogs have blasted this ownership group for months, without giving them a real chance to prove themselves. These same people want instant gratification, now--nothing else will do. I find that unfair, being that The Lerners have only been in charge for 6 months. So many of these folks complained about The Lerners pocketing the extra savings from a reduced 2007 estimated team player payroll. Now, since they are putting $30 Million back into the stadium (and yes, they are for upgrades to areas that will bring them extra dollars down the line--and I almost wrote that in the original post, but left it out figuring someone would mention it) you really do have to give them credit. They did not have to do it."

"Your points are very well stated. But, what do you really want The Lerners and Mr. Kasten to do, right now, if they are willing to spend that $30 Million in payroll savings for Major League Caliber players to help in 2007? I would bet, you, like me, want pitching, mostly. What is it that is going to get you into a seat at RFK in 2007 and feel happy to have The Nationals playing here? What do you want to see on the field this season---that will help the Nationals in being competitive, and build for the future. Specifics?"

"I am 47 years old, OLD SCHOOL in many ways. You obviously have read my Longings for my Long Gone Washington Senators and Frank Howard. I learned alot from those experiences. Patience is a virtue. Many today don't have that same patience, and they are always unsatisfied."

"Mr.Kasten and The Lerners should be judged on the entire picture--that will not be fully realized for a year or two. I am willing to give them a chance."

"Thanks again for mentioning me and getting a good debate moving forward."

End Of My Commments On Oleanders.

The last time I checked, The Lerner Family was a very successful business operation, very respected, by most all accounts everywhere they have done business in the DC area over the past 40 years. Hard nosed, yes, but honest, with everything done by the books. The last time I checked, Mr. Kasten was a very successful Sports Team President from 3 different Atlanta Franchises, for years. Knowledeable, Talented and Respected by everyone in the games. And, in the short time in Washington, has proven to be a single minded caretaker for all things Nationals--including, most importantly, listening to fans. At the same time, Mr. Kasten has reigned in a very, over the top, General Manager, in Jim Bowden, that if left to his own premonitions, Bowden would trade/give away just about every serviceable talent on the roster, for "his boys".

Its great that there is such a avid interest for Washington Nationals Baseball and it shows each and every day in the various blogs out there. But, many want to flex their muscles, deflate all those other various opinions, and assume they know more than The Lerners and Mr. Kasten. I don't claim to be all knowing. I am a baseball fan first and love talking about the game, to no end. I love all the varying opinions that everyone brings to the table, especially the debates over what is healthy or not for Our Washington Nationals. Those differing views I enjoy the most. But, it bothers me when some be-little my comments to make me feel small. I would never do that to anyone, especially you.

The last time I checked--The Lerners were paying the bills, and as fans, you can decide whether you wish to participate as a fan, or not. I don't agree with everything they are doing,and I have let them know, not only through this forum, but, in face, in person. They have shown, they will listen to me, as a season ticket holder, in a professional manner, and work with me on my points. Management has shown me respect, and I will respect them as they move forward building Our Washington Nationals.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Give 'Em Credit Now

After six months of constant debate about the leadership quality of The Lerners as owners of The Washington Nationals--both in the media and, especially, among Nat Bloggers--The Washington Post Reports today that Management has stepped up BIG TIME to contribute cash improvements to the New Stadium being built on South Capitol Street.

Tom Boswell reports that Managing Principal Owner, Ted Lerner, will authorize "at least $30 Million" in improvements to the currently under construction stadium. And, after the ballpark opens, in 2008--Ted's son, Principal Owner, Mark Lerner, tells Boz that the family expects to spend "millions more each season to develop the park's personality."

Is this not, exactly, what so many have been complaining about the new owners for so many months? That the Lerners were tightwads, cheap and unwilling to spend one extra dollar toward making the city financed park the "Crown Jewel" we all want it to be. You have to, finally, give them credit. Its clear, The Lerners DO HAVE a business plan--just not yours, or mine.

Many complained about "THE PLAN", which essentially has gutted the team of major league caliber players, and focused on building the Washington Nationals from the ground up, first with young developing talent, was a bad idea. Critiques complained that the cost savings for dumping payroll was not being put back into the franchise, but pocketed by ownership. Since day one, I have backed the plan, as this franchise needs a total overhaul, badly.

Then, others bitched, that as a gesture of goodwill, The Lerners should willingly pay for all cost overruns and improvements to the stadium--this all before, they even had the opportunity to, as businessman, look thoroughly at ALL THE PLANS. Building Plans worked out, well before they even knew ownership of The Washington Nationals was coming in their direction. Would you jump in blindly?

Now--six months into their reign, its CRYSTAL CLEAR that Our Washington Nationals are going to be what I have believed for some time--A GLAMOUR FRANCHISE--and The Lerner Group, along with Team President, Stan Kasten are leading the charge. Over the past few weeks, everything seems to be finally coming together, at the Holidays (Oh Yeah, I am still pissed, though, about the $15 Parking Fee at RFK for 2007).

Included in the Stadium upgrades by the Lerners will be an HDTV quality scoreboard, larger restaurant in centerfield with a special LED Sign for Advertising, greater amenities for the Club Level Suites. And, those red seats that I was very interested in that showed up in the latest stadium renditions in left centerfield--THEY WILL BE TABLES that you can buy food from the restaurant, while still watching the game. I love that concept.

The DC Sports and Entertainment Commission estimates these improvement may be greater than $35 million. And, Mark Lerner stated that this will not be all for improvements. Once the stadium opens, Management will constantly look at opportunities to enhance the total baseball experience.

We, as fans, are seeing our child, Our Washington Nationals, slowly grow up. Before you know it, The Nats will be out of adolescents and into adulthood. Believe it or not, you are going to miss some of these growing pains. Its a GREAT TIME to be a Washington Nationals Fan.

The Lerners have, publicly, stepped it up, and hopefully quelled some of the angst that has existed out there for some time. For me, Christmas has come two days earlier this year.

Again--Happy Holidays to ALL OF YOU!!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Season's Greetings To Everyone Of You

Whatever you Celebrate during this time of the year, The African Queen and I would like to to wish you--A Very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, A Blessed Eid or Joyous Kwanzaa to each and everyone--including all the following:

First to Sohna, herself, my wife, who puts up with me and all my "DOING BASEBALL" things as she always says. For 21 years we've been together--its hard to believe that after all that time, she still loves me enough to also attend virtually every single Nats Home Game. Truly unbelievable, and a blessing.

Our Dearest Friends from Section 320--Mary & MickNats (No Nats Home Game is Official until MickNats takes his seat); "The Noise Boys"--NatsDelNegro (Rhythm Man Extraordinare), RallyTimeRichard (No one can Whistle Like This Man--NO ONE), SeyHeyKlib, KentuckyRob & CanadaJim (CanadaJim now living in Scottsdale, Arizona)--Andy, James, Erin & SenatorNat (The King of Wit); Troy (Sohna's Fave from Pittsburgh), MsZimmy (Come OOOOON ZIMMY!!) & JohnnyDamon; Abby, Becky & Mike; Cecilia & Mike with their youngsters, Jake & Zach; Lisa & Jeff; Libby & Steve; Ann & Steve; Karen & Aaron. We have the most fun Section at RFK Stadium--and all of you make it so very special.

Iris & Biff, Colleen & Jeff with "Curly W" their Rally Monkey--As ardent of Nats Fans as anyone else at RFK Stadium.

SCREEEEECH!! After an inauspicious start with Section 320, you are WELCOME ANYTIME! I love screaming out your name, each and everytime you come near us. Screech provides so much enjoyment in our small part of RFK--as well as, Steve (You are TOO KIND), Tom & Kenny from The NATPACK. Great guys--all. Many thanks to all The NatPack for your support and fun.

ChickenMan!!--Always twirling his be-headed rubber chicken behind the Nats 3rd Base Dugout. Its so odd, its Great!! And, I love it, as well as, my friendship with you.

My friend, Janet, who I run into constantly walking from Capitol Hill to the Capitol South Metro Stop during the baseball season. Many times, both of us are heading to RFK for the Nats Game. Early on, we both expressed our love of The Nationals. The look on your face, after telling me you read some of the Nats Blogs, and realized I was "Screech'sBestFriend"--absolutely PRICELESS. One of my favorite and finest moments of 2006.

Bryan--Kind enough to stop by and express his enjoyment of the Nats320 Blog at RFK. You were the very first person to walk up to The African Queen and I at RFK to say something kind about the blog. Sohna and I were quite pleased. We talked about it all night long.

The Racing Presidents: GW, TJ, Abe & Teddy, Especially TEDDY!! If Teddy gets anything for Christmas, it better be a treadmill and shoes. Boy, you need to lose some weight!! RUN, TEDDY, RUN!!

Knoble, Tillman, Richard and Charles--The Four Finest Ushers at RFK--truly TERRIFIC GENTLEMEN, and well liked--by many.

Gloria, from CSC Security--Helpful, Funny and Decent.

Stan Kasten, for always taking the time to stop by Section 320, chat, say hello, answer questions, solve problems from ANYONE that asks. Mr. Kasten, you may have no idea how important your visits have been, and cherished.

Mike, my Nats Ticket Rep. Always helpful, willing to work with me. Thanks for everything.

Farid--The Beltway Boy himself--You and I are kindred spirits, both for our love of Our Washington Nationals, but The Washington Senators Team we both loved to enjoy growing up in Northern Virginia in the late 1960's. We didn't know each other then, but I feel like we've known each other forever--now. And, my offer stands, if you ever make it to DC, you are welcome as our guest, in Section 320--AT ANY NATS HOME GAME.

Brandon from The Curly W Blog--Generous, willing to help a near geezer like me with some of my computer illiteracy. Help I needed to make this Nats320Blog better. I will always appreciate how you and Ben were the very first Nats Blog to recognize Nats320, leave nice comments and stop by during the last game of 2006 to say hello. It was very special.

Chris from Capitol Punishment, Harper from Oleanders & Morning Glories, Miss Chatter from Just A Nats Fan, Basil from Federal Baseball, Brian, Scott & John from The Nationals Farm Authority (your Minor League coverage is nothing short of amazing), The Trio from NatsTriplePlay and Benji from AllAboutTheNationals. I don't always agree with everything that is written, but I love reading all the posts, the commentary follow ups and, ESPECIALLY, the debates. In fact, I look forward to reading the new posts each and every day--knowing that Nats Bloggers will provide far more incite and meaningful conversation about all things Nationals--than anything the Washington Post and Washington Times can provide, just by giving their facts.

Eddie Cunningham (Great Commentor and Frequent Section 320 Guest), Phil Dunn, NatsFan7, El Gran Color Naranja (The Best User Name on the Blogs), MarioFan14, Simon Oliver Lockwood, Maestro, many others that I can't recall off the top of my head, along with about 100 others named anonymous. All the Readers and Commentors who have taken their personal time to actually read The Nats320 blog. I had no idea, when this blog started last May, just to keep me from inundating all my Section 320 Friends Email Inboxes, each and every day--that so many more would actually read my stuff, including Nats Management, apparently enjoy the posts and comment back. I can't tell you how appreciative and personally gratifying this blog has become for me. Thanks to all of you for reading.

Finally, RFK Stadium. After 45 Years, 34 without a Baseball Team, you are entering your very last season of Major League Baseball. For 2007, may you continue to provide, one last time, all the thrills of "The Greatest No Frills Park" in the game.

If I have left ANYONE OUT--call it a Near Senior Moment--it was not intentional.

Sohna and I wish all of you, All WASHINGTON NATIONALS FANS, a Safe & Happy Holiday Season!!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

MASN -Rammed Down My Throat

Unlike most everyone else in the Greater Washington, DC area, I have been able to watch every single Washington Nationals Game on television, since the very beginning in 2005, courtesy of DirecTV. But, that doesn't mean I appreciate The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.

Created by Bud Selig and his minions at MLB to appease Baltimore Orioles Owner, Peter Angelos, on moving The Montreal Expos here after the 2004 season--MASN is set up to be a CASH COW for Peter The Great, with the current 20 year franchise agreement only giving Our Washington Nationals a 10% current stake in the profits, reaching a nadir of 33% toward the end of this terrible agreement. And, make no mistake about it, I wanted Comcast to win their lawsuit, if only to get the Nationals TV Rights control, out of Angelos's hands, and back up for grabs to the highest bidder.

I'm not going to re-hash all the truly absurd arraignments with this contract again--we all know about it, basically accept it, and for many--Nationals Baseball Fans--They just want to watch the games--and the vehicle for its viewing--MASN, is just as well as Comcast Sports Net. We want to see Our Nats, that's the bottom line.

Before Comcast began showing MASN last September, MASN basically showed The Nats game and nothing else. That was fine with me--its all I really wanted to see. Since the Nationals 2006 season end, I haven't watched it once. Today, its a supposed 24 Hour Programmed Channel with alot of local College Basketball, Orioles and sometimes Nats Game Replays and a ton of Baltimore Sports Shows. I don't watch it and I haven't cared.

But, yesterday, I came across this article in The Examiner Newspaper, throwing fire, once again, on all my disgust with MASN.

The fact that MASN, erstwhile--Peter Angelos--wants to program Nationals Pre & Post Games around The Baltimore Orioles Games, with all Baltimore Talent,is nothing short of ludicrous.

I don't now who Amber Theoharis or Anita Marks are, or anything about their backgrounds. They may be talented. But, I do know they are BALTIMORE PERSONALITIES. They have NOTHING to do with Washington, DC. As much as I love Rick Dempsey, supposedly the Pre/Post Game Show Analyst--decent player during a fabulous run by The Orioles, and drop dead funny in person--he is closely associated with Baltimore.

Washington needs to find and build its own local talent--not have MASN continually tap their, easily found and used, Baltimore Folks--produced on the cheap.


Still today, I follow The Orioles. The African Queen and I attended 6 games last season at Camden Yards--3, of course with The Nationals. But, when I am at home watching MY Washington Nationals on the road, I want to hear and see knowledgeable input from reliable sources that cover Our NATIONALS--FULL TIME--nothing short of that is acceptable.

Alot about this Examiner article may well have to do with its writer, Jim Williams. I've work in the media, at the top of the playing field for over a quarter of a century, right here in Washington, DC--never in my life, had I ever heard Jim Williams name--not once. Every time I read one of his articles, he's kissing up to whatever media outlet he's preening for. It always gives me a feeling, Williams is looking for someone to hire him as a Media MegaGod for a team. Whether its Peter Angelos, Daniel Snyder, Abe Pollin, Ted Leonsis--never a discouraging word is written.

Alot of the crap that Williams has posted up in the past has been just that--CRAP! None of it true. And, I am hoping that is the case, again, today in this Examiner article.

But, if there is an inkling of truth to it--Mark Lerner and Stan Kasten better be on their Blackerry's setting up the meeting to discuss this outrage right now.

Sohna and I support THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS--Not The Washington Nationals of Baltimore. I am sick of it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Finally, Its Official (& Jimbo Adds Another Pitcher)

For four days now, I have been holding my breath, looking for the OFFICIAL WORD on the Jose Vidro deal to Seattle for Outfielder, Chris Snelling and Right Handed Pitcher, Emiliano Fruto. The Official Word did not come down until late this afternoon---All because Vidro was unable to fly from Puerto Rico to Miami to take his physical last friday. The exam rescheduled for today.

You can read my original post here

During that time period, more than a few, very vocal Seattle Mariner Bloggers and Local Seattle Media panned the expected trade--many hoping the aging Vidro would fail his physical, so Seattle could nullify the trade. Its hard to understand why The Mariners traded away a potential DH with power and a upcoming hard thrower for Vidro, so Jose can be a FULL TIME DH, and backup infielder--with Seattle picking up $12 million of the $16 million owed Vidro. Very Strange.

What a relief!! Thankfully, Jose passed his physical in Miami, finishing off the deal--and allowing me to rest more easily this evening.

Reading up more on the lefty swinging Snelling--many baseball people find him to be a "hitting machine", capable of 20 home runs. Chris can go on a tear, at times, knocking base hit after base hit, but just as quickly lose his stroke at the plate. Also, he's the type of player that gives his all--which certainty accounts for his constant injury problems. Like Cardinals Centerfielder, Jim Edmonds--Snelling, 25 years old, would not think twice about running into a wall, head on, to make a catch. You have to love that attitude, though.

Other media outlets are reporting that the 22 year old Fruto may be converted to a Starting Role with The Nationals, due to his command of 3 different pitches--Fastball, Curveball and, his bread & butter pitch--Change Up. Either way, he's a decent pickup for a franchise looking for pitching talent and depth.

Its very early, but I am just happy that Washington was able to unload an aging, not in the plans, middle infielder, for 2 promising, the Number 4 (Snelling) & Number 8 (Fruto), yet, far from perfect, young prospects from the Mariners.

Today is a very good day.

No word on which current Washington National loses his spot on the 40 Man Roster to add these two players.

PS--By the way, I paid for my 2007 Full Season Tickets today, in full. I am not expecting anything decent from the FREE MP3 Player given as an incentive for paying by tomorrow, December 19th--The African Queen and I already have Video IPods, but I will take it anyway.

UPDATE: Later this afternoon, the Nationals announced the signing of Lefthanded Reliever, Ray King, to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. The 31 Year old career setup/situational man has bounced around during his 8 year Major League Career. Has only recorded 2 saves in 514 career appearances, but a very respectible 3.28 ERA. Just goes to show you that, as long as you are lefthanded, you can pitch for a LONG TIME in the Major Leagues.

You watch, Ray King will make the team, be successful, and Jimbo will trade him off for a prospect or two, next July--you can bet on it.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Process Has Begun

Our Washington Nationals sent out the opening salvo, to all Season Ticket Holders, their initial comments on how the re-location process will work for The New Stadium on South Capitol Street.

And, as I commented the other day in "The Pecking Order" (or just scroll down 2 stories), those ticket holders who have been with the team, since the very beginning, whether Full or Partial Season Ticket Holder, and maintained their seats since 2005--will get the first shot to pick their seats in the New Stadium.

In the letter from Team President, Stan Kasten, and an accompanying Glossy Flyer, those Inaugural Season Plan Holders that still have their seats today, will choose in the following order.

Seating Category is at the Top of the List and this Pecking Order:

1. Diamond Club
2. Field MVP
3. Field Box/Loge MVP
4. Terrace MVP (SECTION 320)
5. Terrace Box/Loge Box
6. Terrace/Lower View MVP/Loge Outfield
7. Lower View Box/Upper View MVP
8. Lower View Outfield/Upper View Box/Upper View Outfield

Going hand in hand with Seating Category: Plan Size is an important factor--Full Season Ticket Plans, 40 Game Plans, 20 Game Plans-in that order. Nothing is mentioned about whether, if you have 1 seat in your plan, or 20 seats, will that get you any more favor--just to make it clear.

The third category is "Initial Date of Purchase" When MLB was taking orders and assigning seats back in late 2004--a "TIME STAMP" was placed on each and every account that was created, and then paid. That "Time Stamp" has carried on through the first few seasons on The Nationals.

That "Time Stamp" will be "THE TIEBREAKER" in deciding the "FINAL PECKING ORDER" of the entire process.

Fans that began buying into the team with 2006 Season Ticket Plans (All of them), whether you bought a Full Season Plan or a Partial Game Plan, are behind the 2005 Inaugural Season Purchasers. So--even if someone bought Full Season Box Seats for 2006--they will not jump in front of a 40 or 20 Game Plan Ticket Holder in the Box Seats from 2005. As long as that 2005 Plan Holder maintained his account and tickets through this coming 2007 season.

Those that purchase plans starting in 2007--will choose last.


For the Re-Location, every plan holder that qualifies under the above stated rules, will be granted THE SAME NUMBER OF SEATS in the new park. If you wish to purchase additional seats, you may do so--but those new purchased seats move to the end of the line and do not have priority. Meaning, there is a possibility that your added on seats may not be alongside your current ones.

This January, Inaugural Season Ticket Holders will be the first folks contacted to gauge their interest in purchasing a Premium Suite. Then, in April--The Comprehensive Relocation Package will be sent to all Ticket Holders, including pricing, seating availability, and how to make your choice.
In May--"Premium Seating", what in entails and costs will be offered to existing season ticket holders. June & July is when we all will make our final seating choices. And, if all goes well--October will be decision time on your final location.

The updated Artist Renditions of the New Stadium are from of which were included in the Relocation Letter sent to me. I found the pictures very interesting.

Some of my initial thoughts on the drawings: If the park is completed with all the Glass as originally envisioned, it would gleam at night!!. No doubt it would look fantastic. Fairly symmetrical park--335 down the lines, 404 to center, 377 power alleys. Not alot of shade in the lower bowl to hide from during the blazing hot summers of DC. The Cherry Blossoms over the Left Field Bleachers are nothing short of Terrific. Not sure if they will ever be in bloom during the season though. Those Red Seats in Left Center look very interesting!! There must be a reason for them being a different color. The Home Run Bleachers above the IN PLAY SCOREBOARD in right center, very nice. I like the Curly W on the Grassy Knoll in Right Center. The Right Field Bullpen is going to ROAST!!! The sun will set over the 3rd baseline in the new stadium. I am very interested in knowing how many rows are there on the lower level between first and third base. In Section 320, we are 25 rows from the field, under the OVERHANG--the shade is a godsend on Hot Days and well appreciated when it rains. We would like to stay below the overhang, if possible--without moving back farther. The Two Tier Diamond Club behind HOME PLATE is going to be PRICEY!! On the rendition looking in from Center Field--I count 6 LEVELS. Those upper deck seats are WAY UP THERE!!! The two tier Club and Suite Levels puts the Upper Deck on the nose bleed/oxygen deprivation plane. How's a handicapped person getting up there? That's Steep.

Its really happening. The Washington Nationals are moving forward. Are you in for THE RIDE!!??

Friday, December 15, 2006

Is The Gouge On?

For the second time in 10 Days, The Lerner's have surprised me with little moves, never announced, that, in the long run--not only take extra cash out of my pocket, but yours as well.

Last week, I commented that when I checked online at and My Account, it came to my attention that The Washington Nationals are forcing ALL FULL SEASON TICKET HOLDERS to buy the upcoming March 31st Exhibition Game against the Baltimore Orioles at RFK Stadium. Yes, its a Charity Game, and I have gone in the past, but I should not be TOLD to buy that game, or anyone else for that matter, when its a game that does not count in the standings--its meaningless. So, why take a chance of pissing off your MOST LOYAL CUSTOMERS. 40 Game and 20 Game Plans were not told to buy this game. Quite a few fans read that post and some made comments.

Yesterday, I received my 2007 Season Ticket Renewal Package in the mail, with complete details. During the Inaugural Season of 2005, Parking for both Season Ticket Holders and Drive Up Daily Game Parking was $10 for everyone--no difference. Which for Season Ticket Holders, was a total waste of time purchasing the Parking Plan in advance. If you missed a game, The Nationals will not let you use a parking pass for any other game. They are game specific.

So--to help alleviate this problem in 2006, and put a few extra dollars in MLB's hands and the New Owners, after the sale of the team--Parking for Season Ticket Holders remained at $10 per game--Drive Up Daily Game Parking went up $2 to $12. Fine. It wasn't much of a difference. An odd price though, but I lived with it. The African Queen and I tend to take Metro mostly on the Workdays and Drive In from Alexandria for all other games.

Last fall, I asked Management whether it would be possible to buy a Partial Parking Plan, good for "X" number of games, not DATE EXCLUSIVE, that Sohna and I could use on any game where we may want to drive to RFK. Or, if we so desired, gave Multiple Parking Passes to friends attending any one game. We were told that the team would look into a "Partial Plan" but the Date Exclusivity must remain in place, because there is only so many parking spots at RFK (8,000 the last time I checked). The Nationals fearing that more folks might drive in on a certain date, with the generic parking passes, and overload the lots--thus turning people away from the gates.

Although I find that reasoning a little short sighted, I appreciated the fact that The Nationals would consider a "Partial Parking Plan" for Season Ticket Holders. Never in 2 seasons have I seen the entire parking lots at RFK SOLD OUT. Not once.

My Season Ticket Information Packet stated that for 2007, Season Ticket Parking will now be $12 per game, but no mention what the Daily Drive Up Cost might be. Or, whether there will be a Partial Plan. MickNats and I exchanged Phone Messages and Emails over this--wanting to know all the costs.

So-I emailed my ticket rep and asked what the daily rate would be, and what happened to the possible partial plans. This was the reply:

"We did raise the parking to $12 per game for season ticket holders. The game day price will be $15 per game. Unfortunately we will not have partial parking plans available."

$15!!! $15!!! I actually had to read that twice, then get the African Queen to read it again, for clarification. I was stunned!! All at a time, I thought the parking cost would just remain the same, just like most other ticket costs. I thought the Lerners were trying to attract fans, build a fan base--not make it more costly to attend. And, once again, Season Ticket Holders, those that are the most faithful and attend the most reguarly, are being singled out to PAY MORE--no matter whether you take The Season Parking Plan or do it Ad Hoc.

If Our Washington Nationals can't offer a Partial Plan, fine--but $15 to park at RFK is getting a little greedy. At a time when the team is dumping salary to rebuild for the future, lowering ticket prices to all but the most expensive seats, and flat out stating we will not compete, in all likelihood in 2007--The Nationals raise Parking at RFK to count up some additional cash. I would have to be completely shortsighted if I didn't expect some drastic price changes beginning in 2008 on South Capitol Street, not only for parking, but ticket prices as well. But, really, is this necessary, right now?

DC UNITED, still today, charges just $10 for the very same lots. Since its obvious The Washington Nationals will not control virtually any of the Parking Lots on South Capitol Street--is this a last stab to get as much as possible? What about the floated rumor that Fans can park at RFK in 2008 and take a free shuttle bus to the New Stadium? Does anyone think this will endear them to the idea? Not me. Its a very troubling sign.

Shades of Danny Boy in Landover.

Is The Gouge On??

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Cincinnati Connection

Many are well aware of The Cincinnati Reds, General Manager, Wayne Krivsky, pushing ahead with a potential lawsuit against the Washington Nationals over last summer's Big Trade between the two teams. And, I am not going to rehash it here, again, other than to say Krivsky believes former National, Gary Majewski, was damaged goods, and, as such, Washington needs to send the Reds one additional player.

Surrounding all this controversy, two of Cincinnati's longest serving Front Office officials have resigned, abruptly. Both of whom worked diligently for Current Washington Nationals GM--Jim Bowden.

After 38 years with the Cincinnati club, Special Assistant to the GM, Larry Barton, Jr. retired after the conclusion of the 2006 season. Barton claiming that Krivsky never listened to ANYTHING he was ever told. Barton was vehemently against the Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez, Ryan Wagner swap to Washington for Majewski, Bill Bray, Royce Clayton, Brendan Harris and Bill Thompson.

Now, with 17 years of service to the Reds, Player Development Director, Johnny Almaraz, got up and quit today. Also, stating Wayne Krivsky makes him totally unimportant, an ignored person in the player process.

All this from a GM--Wayne Krivsky, that says Our Washington Nationals cheated him, never spoke to him honestly, and now, wants retribution. Maybe Krivsky should have listened to the more experience men that have toiled painfully for that franchise on the Ohio River. Maybe then, all of them might not be involved in a frivolous lawsuit.

To me, its all very interesting.

Does this mean that both Barton and Almaraz are heading to Washington to work with JIMBO!!??. I respect their knowledge and work, but I hope not--I've had enough of the Cincinnati Connection. Bowden can talk with them, all he wants, to get the lowdown on Krivsky's problem though.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

No More Jose's To Sing For

Of all the people I figured were untradeable for Our Washington Nationals, it seemed to be Jose Vidro. The Washington Post reports that Jimbo has found not only a taker in the Seattle Mariners, but also one that will absorb a majority of his remaining contract, and Washington has received two players in return.

Emiliano Fruto, a 22 year old right handed reliever comes over along with, one time top prospect, Outfielder Chris Snelling. According to Barry Svrluga of the Post, Fruto has an exceptional change up and may well make the Nats young team this season. In 23 trips to the mound for the Mariners in 2006, Emiliano finished with a 2-2 record and 5.50 ERA. The often injured Snelling, split time between Seattle and their top farm club in Tacoma. And, has never fulfilled his promise.

Tonight's trade solves, at least temporarily, the logjam in the middle infield with Felipe Lopez, Cristian Guzman, Vidro and Bernie Castro. Lopez will now move to second. Guzman, if healthy, will start at short. Castro the sub. Vidro's leaving also opens up Larry Broadway making the team as fill in, replacement for Nick Johnson. This team is getting young, by years, very quickly.

The lefthanded hitting Snelling, almost a Brad Wilkerson Look A Like, will be given every chance to earn a corner outfield spot. You can bet that chance may well come at Ryan Church's expense. Not sure if Snelling has any ability to play center, but he's a decent fielder. Not too tall at 5'11 and sort of stocky at 205 LBS.- has some POWER POTENTIAL.

Fruto is HUGE at 6'3" and 235 LBS. His success with his Change Up comes due to his use of his fastball. Emiliano has real potential. Looks alot like Amando Benitez. Hopefully has a better head on his shoulders than Armando.

This is not a bad trade, at all. It continues to rebuild Our Washington Nationals with youth, and at the same time, returns usable talent. On the surface, I have to actually give Jim Bowden credit-getting a pitcher and an injury prone, yet promising hitter for an aging, statue in the field, in Jose Vidro.

It will also be interesting to see who is dropped from the Nats 40 Man Roster. Tony Blanco may well lose his spot. Or, is another trade in the works. Washington now has a glut of Right Handed Relievers. Çould one or two be put together for some innings eating starter?

Of course, with Jose Guillen also off to Seattle, Section 320 is now completely out of folks to serenade the "JOSE" Song for. NatsDelNegro and I are going to have to brainstorm some new tunes with the continuing overhaul of our lineup. Maybe the folks at SafeCo Field, in Seattle, can invite us out for a tutorial sometime early next season on how to bellow it out. Knowing how much both enjoyed the song, each and every time they came to the plate, I am sure both Jose's would feel more comfortable, then--feel alot more at home.

Vidro for Fruto and Snelling--and Seattle pays 75% of the freight. Considering that so many just wanted The Nationals to eat his contract and just let him go--you can't complain about this one. Very Nice!!

I am actually giving Jimbo Credit!! What is the world coming to!!

The Pecking Order

Being a Full Time Season Ticket Holder, I get asked, alot--What's the deal with the seating arraignment for the Nats New Stadium in 2008? Who gets priority? What's The Pecking Order?

An anonymous commenter today asked: "If I go ahead and get one 20-game plan for $100 in 2007, could I move up to two, higher-quality seats in a full game plan in 2008 easily? Or would I effectively be at the back of the line?"

Since less folks might see my reply in the comment area, I am blogging about it. Here's how we understand everything will work out for Tickets and Seats on South Capitol Street. The African Queen and I sat down with 10 other Season Ticket Holders this past September, along with Stan Kasten, and his entire entourage of assistants. The Fan Forum covered alot of issues--but the overriding focus was just this question. Ticket Seat Locations in the new park--will I, or will I not, get screwed?

According to Mr. Kasten, If you are a FULL SEASON TICKET HOLDER, from the very beginning in 2005 and maintained your status--you will get to sit approximately where you do now at RFK. These are the folks who get NUMBER 1 Choice--no one is ahead of them. They are PRIORITY ONE!!

Once they are satisfied--

40 Game and 20 Game Partial Ticket Plans from 2005 that maintained their status, get to choose to stay basically where they are. But, NO ONE can upgrade to better seats until the PECKING ORDER is run through one time.

That Order will follow with 2006 Season Ticket Plans, Partial Plans, then followed by Season Ticket 2007 Plans, and partial plans. You have to remember, that, for the most part--as long as you are a Season Ticket Holder of ANY PLAN--you are going to be sitting in pretty much the exact same place on South Capitol Street as at RFK, most likely better, if you sit along the sides or way up high--more seats will be available in the lower bowl in 2008. There is currently more than enough seats for EVERYBODY--without much change.

Another very important point to consider--RFK really has NO LUXURY BOXES. None!! Many of the High & Mighty from Political Washington will not be sitting in the majority of the primo seats down low between the dugouts, anymore. They will be in the CORPORATE SUITES and THE CLUB LEVEL. That alone may open up a thousand or more seats, down low, that would, otherwise, not be available at RFK. These folks want their privacy--they are going to have it--with their private parking too--and the fans are going to benefit by sitting closer to the field--although many of these, non connected, fans will have to park much farther away--as we all know.

But, to answer the commenter's direct question about the 20 game plan--You will not be able to upgrade right away to a FULL SEASON PLAN in 2008, and jump ahead of others, just because you want a Full Season Plan and better seats. Especially if you are adding seats. At least, not until everyone from previous seasons, in the same order, as described, decide whether they want to upgrade, move or change plans.

This coming March, The Nationals are scheduling to send out a very detailed brochure with the seating arraignments for the new park--including your seats in the new park, compared to your RFK Seats. At the same time, EVERYONE will have online access to a 3D Computer Simulation, 360 Degree Views, of your seats and sightlines throughout the ballpark. Everyone will be asked what their preference is, and whether you want to stay in your current seats in relation to the new ballpark, or upgrade, depending upon availability and THE PECKING ORDER.

I know it may sound confusing, but, it does seem fair. Those fans that have been supportive since the very beginning, and hung in there, under MLB Ownership, will be rewarded. Justly so. Then everyone else comes behind.

This is how Sohna and I understand everything will work.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

So-What Do We Actually Have? Part 2

As bad as Our Washington Nationals starting pitching may be--the everyday lineup is not awful--mediocre at best. But, once you get past those starters, the bench is very thin and relatively inexperienced.

Brian Schneider is a decent catcher, that for the first 4 months of 2006 was terrible. Another of the Nats World Baseball Classic participants, that never really had spring training--and suffered badly for it. Couldn't hit, anything, and his defense, especially when it came to throwing out would-be baserunners was way off. Then, around mid-August, his timing seemed to click, his confidence rose and he finished the season strong. In fact, Brian knocked in a career high 55 run, and hit his career average of .256. 33 more baserunners advanced on steals of Schneider, far more than any previous seasons. Signed to a 3 year, reasonable contract, Brian will be around, until Washington finds another quality backstop--because right now, we don't have another.

Of course, last week's Rule 5 draft provided the Nats with what many are considering the steal of the minor league picks. From The New York Mets, Jimbo took the unprotected Jesus Flores from New York's Single A team. Flores hits with some power, and is considered a fine young backstop. The fact that Washington must keep Flores on the Major League Roster all of 2007, whether he's ready or not--tells the dire situation this franchise is in, right now, to compete.

Which leaves last year's late callup--Brandon Harper wondering whether he will make the club in 2007. The 30 year old career minor leaguer, made his Major League debut last August 9th and was respectable with the bat, fairly competent behind the plate, although he failed to throw out a single base runner in nine attempts.

Schneider is obviously the starter, Flores makes the club, whether he stinks or not--early on. Harper may not have a future, depending on the rest of the bench makeup. So, once again, we, as fans, will have to find another Rick Short to cheer for this season.

Most everybody's favorite to watch play, Nick Johnson is penciled in as the starting First Basemen. But, as most everyone realizes, Nick is fighting back from a brutal broken leg accident last September at Shea Stadium. No one is really going to know his real playing condition until Spring Training. I would not be surprised to see him struggle out of the gate. And, that's too bad--as Nick is quite the team player, hustler-setting a good example for every other player on the team.

Which may give the 25 years old Larry Broadway his chance to make the Big Club. Broadway, also recovering from a separated shoulder--is a lefthanded swinger with power. Nats Manager, Manny Acta, has publicly praised him. This coming spring training may be his shot with Washington. If not, he may well become trade bait.

And, then Jose Vidro would become the 3rd choice to play first base. Vidro--on the downside of a decent career, is locked into 2 more additional seasons with Washington for $8 Million per--his range in the field was down noticeably last season. And, Bowden has been unable to trade Jose, for just about anything--Vidro's salary scaring many teams off.

Jose needs some place to play, as the better he does performe, the chances for moving him on to a contender will increase in 2007, thus returning something much more promising.

Its unlikely, Vidro will be the everyday second basemen, as the logjam of contracts fills the middle infield of this team. The much maligned Cristian Guzman will return from his injury aborted 2006 season. If healthy, The Guz will be the starting shortstop--no doubt (If he sucks early, I just can't imagine the near riotous noise level at RFK that will follow him). And, FLop, Felipe Lopez, will move over the second base (hopefully--lessening his very erratic fielding problems) and bat leadoff.

Ryan Zimmerman will be the 3rd Baseman. Nothing more do I have to say about this WONDERFUL YOUNG PLAYER!! Hopefully Ryan will play a long time, in Washington--and develop into a Hall of Fame Player. Z is very special.

Back up infielders include the very speedy Bernie Castro, Minor League signee, Jose Wilson and journeyman utility man, Jose Macias (who played last season in Japan). Castro provides decent defense, base runner agility--but he, along with the other 2 choices are not promising. It all brings to mind the weak bench of 2005. Which, for Our Nats, was terrible.

As long as Austin Kearns has recovered mentally from his accident with Nick Johnson--"Bluegrass" is the starting right fielder. Above average outfielder with a decent arm--as I always say-"Austin attended the Marlon Byrd School of Hitting" Austin has a brutal upper cut swing--that seems to get him in trouble more than not. Before he came to Washington in the big trade, I liked him. As I have watched him closely over the last half season of 2006--less so.

The rest of the outfield is hurting badly. For me, and alot of fans out there--Ryan Church should just be given the starting Left Fielder's job. Throw him out there, give him 500 At-Bats--See what the man can actually do. Instead of continually trashing him, to the media--especially to Ladson at

Kory Casto is a fine young talent--but, he doesn't need to be rushed. If Jimbo is serious about dumping Church--you might as well see him play well for them, and get something better back in return--like the starter Bowden is obviously asking for. Casto does not hit lefties well--the sign of a platoon player. Let him learn, before wasting him.

Alex Escobar should be the everyday centerfielder. A 5 tool player (although shaky at chasing hard hit flys) with the capability of being the most exciting talent on the team. Yet, just can't stay healthy. Has probably pulled his hamstring muscle, at one time, just getting out of bed. I love this guy--Escobar provided more excitement than any other player not named Soriano and Zimmerman in 2006. Yet, Alex only played 33 games.

If Escobar goes down again--Nook Logan will get his final chance to make a Big League Team as an everyday player. Tremendous Speed, fine outfielder instincts--just can't hit a lick from the left side. His speed will get him on base with a bunt here and there, but Logan can't expect to be successful doing that, each and every time he walks to the plate. Nook would be a very decent 4th outfielder.

And, if both of the above fail, or Church is traded--the career journey powerhitting Mike Restovich will provide the muscle off the bench. A right handed version of Daryle Ward. Restovich can pound the ball--yet not consistently. At one time, a rising star in the Twins Organization-never a starter. Now in his 5th organization is 4 seasons. Not a good sign.

If Manny Acta could send out his everyday starting lineup for all 162 games--Our Nationals might be competitive and score some runs. There is some power, speed and bat contact hitters. But, with injuries, slumps and just bad play--that's not going to happen. There are so many holes on the bench and uncertainty in the field--that the team Washington puts on the field on a daily basis in 2006--may just be, (and I hate saying this)--terrible.

OK--so I said. Maybe some luck will come our way--and hopeful signs of improvement will follow. Not expecting a miracle though.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

So-What Do We Actually Have?

Instead of rehashing and continuing the ongoing commentary throughout the Nats Blogsphere on whether Our Washington Nationals have competent Ownership and Management, I thought I'd give my thoughts on what we "Do Have" at each and every position on the Major League Roster. Starting Today, with Pitching.

I not into reading tea leaves by perusing all the various stats available for consumption. Its just not my thing. My comments are based on my personal knowledge of each, and by watching virtually every single game in Washington Nationals history, in person at RFK, and on the tube.

No doubt, this team is hurting badly with Starting Pitching on the mound. No proven hurler you can say, right now--"I trust that guy, just give him the ball".

John Patterson is the best bet to give Washington something special. Number 22 has good stuff, great demeanor on the mound--just can't stay healthy. Patterson needs to be strong, all season long, so Manny Acta can give the ball confidently to at least one pitcher, every 5 days. I like Patterson, really has all the tools to be special--needs to step it up in 2007--Big Time.

Crippling, is the only way to describe the remainder of the choices to take the mound. The top choices, as of today, are Shawn Hill, Mike O'Connor, Tim Redding, Beltran Perez and Matt Chico--maybe Joel Hanrahan. In his few starts last season, Shawn Hill was impressive--pitched 7 strong shutout innings against the Phillies last June 11. Just about the only Nats pitcher that can actually bunt the ball--helping himself. Very composed on the mound. Will get a long look in camp this spring. Maybe his last look. At one time a TOP EXPOS PROSPECT. Have always thought, Shawn could be special.

Alot of folks out there like Mike O'Connor alot-he hangs in there, despite on every single pitch, appearing to be just pushing the ball to the plate. The sign of a struggling team--Mike was rushed to the Big Club last season to fill the injury void. Competent, but over the long term, I just can't see O'Connor making it. Doesn't have enough good stuff to consistently be effective. If Mike was not a lefthander, he would already be gone. Sorry, I know alot of folks disagree with me on this one.

Redding is a journeyman pitcher, one that, despite all the early career press clippings, never has been able to find his way on the Major League Level. Can be an innings eater, something this team needs badly. Unless Tim is absolutely terrible, you can pencil him in as one of the 5 starters at the beginning of the upcoming season. May well win 10 games for Washington this coming season. No doubt, Redding will be given every chance to succeed.

Beltran Perez was impressive in 8 games with Washington last September. Went 6 strong innings in two late starts against Atlanta and The Mets, before New York hammered him during his last start of the season--September 30. Jumped all the way from AA ball, his composure was beyond his 24 years on the mound. Young and a hot arm are on his side. Will he be able to adjust to major league hitters, consistently--or digress? If he struggles early, he will be sent down, fast.

Then there's Matt Chico--left hander acquired in the Livan Hernandez deal last August. At one time a top 40 prospect in the game, before struggling at AA ball the first time around. Seemed to have found himself his second season at AA, last year, before his trade to Washington--but, did not pitch overly well for AA Harrisburg. Still only 22 years old, will be given every opportunity to make the Big Club at Viera this spring. Just hoping Jimbo doesn't ruin him by rushing him up. Chico will be Randy St.Claire's number one priority in spring training.

Finally, Joel Hanrahan, a minor league free agent--comes over from the Dodger Organization where he never flourished after being a Top 70 Prospect in 2000. The 25 year old right hander wants to start. Will get the opportunity to show his best--but, you mostly don't bounce around the minors these days, especially in the pitching department--it there is not something wrong with your game. Nothing to lose on him. He's at tossup. No one really knows whether he will come up heads or tails.

That's incredibly thin starting pitching. Starting Pitching killed Washington Last season, and with a lesser talented everyday lineup, most likely, in 2007--this team may well struggle out of the gate, as so many pitchers--looking to make the big consistent step forward to The Majors, find out whether they really do have the right stuff. These hurlers, and others, that take the mound to start each of the 162 games this season--will be the defining story of Our Washington Nationals.

2006's starting pitching was so bad, with very few players lasting through 6 innings--the Nationals relievers were chewed up and thrown a dry bone--wearing out the relief corps. And, with Luis Ayala gone for the season, 2005 stalwart, Gary Majewski pitching poorly out the gate, and eventually traded--Frank Robinson was left with a very inexperienced staff to depend on to douse the flames of the bad starters. More times than not, it appeared Washington was already down 4 or more runs by the 3rd inning. With Frank Robinson consistently calling the bullpen by the 4th--the relievers arms tired early and The Called Up New Orleans Zephyrs Bullpen was terrible, early on, for Washington.

But, as the season progressed though, some bright spots began to emerge. 2007 may well be as positive out of the bullpen for Our Nationals as the entire inaugural Season of 2005--maybe the strength of the team.

Saul Rivera was consistently strong down the stretch. Coming on in the 7th inning as a set up man--shutting down team after team--giving up just 1 earned run over his last 15 mound appearance. Frank trusted him and Saul gave new life to his middling career in 2006. Never overpowering, but, for the first time in his professional career, trusted himself--and it showed late.

Career Journeyman--Lefthander Micah Bowie, was called up in July, 2006 to fill the void of Bill Bray being traded in the Felipe Lopez/Austin Kearns/Ryan Wagner deal. Only still in the game at 32 years old, because he IS A LEFTHANDER, Micah was flat out lights out in 15 appearances on the mound for The Nationals--until pulling a muscle in his lower lumbar on August 9th against the Marlins at RFK. Whether a healthy Bowie will be able to revive his magic in 2007--is mighty important to this teams health. Micah Bowie is a situational lefty. Perhaps the only one of the team--or ready from the minors. Sometime the light comes on late in certain players, and they finally understand the game. Bowie may well one of those late bloomers. Or, he may well just return to his mediocre self of years past.

Jon Rauch--revived his struggling career in 2006. The Tallest Person to Ever Play The Game, was the set up man all season long for The Chief, Chad Cordero. Rauch gave up far too many home runs, 13 in 91 innings, but, when Frank wasn't overusing him and wasting him by throwing Jon game after game--Rauch was quite effective. With his tremendous height, 6'11"--"The Wookie" is mighty frightening, throwing straight down, over the top. For any batter, the ball must appear like its coming down from the sky above. Many seem to want to see Jon as a starter. He never seemed to be able to get past 2 innings, at any time last season. Rauch was so effective as a set up man last season, I just can't image Manny Acta moving him to the starting blocks.

Ryan Wagner came over in the Big Reds Trade. A one time number 1 pick by, who else, Jimbo, for the Reds--Wagner was rushed to the Majors by Bowden. Then, lost his confidence as the Reds Organization completely overhauled his pitching motion. Randy St.Claire's work in progress revived some of his old style late in 2006. Throwing an effective slider, once again--regaining his lost composure. Despite looking like he will throw out his right elbow on each and every pitch (Wagner slings the ball like not other), I found Ryan to actually be the most impressive of the 3 players coming over from Cincinnati in the Big Trade from last summer. Many don't agree with me on this one, also. Only 23 years old. I really like him-alot.

At times, late in the season, Chris Schroeder was over powering. Against the Phillies, in September, he struck out all six batters he faced, including NL MVP Ryan Howard and the heart of the Philadelphia order. At other times, quite ordinary, and nothing special. Hard to figure him out. Then, comes Washington's latest pickup, from the Rule 5 Draft--Levale Speigner. Drafted from the Minnesota Twins, Levale has respectable numbers from AAA Rochester. But, I have never heard of him, and can't really make a comment either way.

Which brings us to Luis Ayala. Mr. Rubber Arm for both the Expos and The Nationals in their inaugural season. Set Up man extraordinaire for The Chief. Hurt his elbow from Frank's overuse in 2005--had surgery, then stupidly, upon the urging of former teammate, Esteban Loaiza--came back too soon to pitch for his Native Mexico last spring in the First World Baseball Classic. Destroyed his elbow---missed the entire season--pissing off alot of his teammates with Washington--especially Brian Schneider. The loss of number 56 hurt badly--completely changed the bullpen roles for many. His health and arm strength an important factor to watch in 2007. If he returns to form--Washington, once again has the makings of a first class bullpen--one of the best in the game. But, elbow surgery is not an easy operation to come back from. If healthy, Luis is a major addition back in the bullpen.

Finally, there's The Chief, Chad Cordero. Outside of Ryan Zimmerman, the most interesting personality remaining on Our Washington Nationals. Never afraid to face a challenge. Has a terrific image with the straight billed cap brimming down just above his eyes. Pudgy and not that terrific a looking athlete--Cordero has saved 76 games for The Nationals in the past two seasons--yet almost never without making the game interesting. No lead is ever safe with Chad on the mound--yet far more times than not--has closed the door. Was flatout terrible in the beginning of 2006, but recovered nicely over the final 4 months of the seasons. I just love the guy, and was extremely perturbed to hear the rumors about Cordero being traded to Boston for Wily Mo Pena. Despite The Chief's problems on the mound, he's worth a quality starter in return, in any trade, and most likely another prospect. Very fond of him--not sure if Jimbo's going to keep him, though.

If there is a strong point for the Washington 2007 contingent, its got to be the bullpen. There are some quality arms out there. Not enough lefties, unfortunately, just one--but The Nats did fine in a similar set up in 2005. But, like last year, there is no guarantee the starters will be able to make it late into games this coming year--thus starting the overuse that existed throughout the just completed season.

As I have said before, with just about every single Nats follower--"We need some quality starting pitching--BADLY!!"

Next up--The Everyday Players and Bench.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Being Told To Buy Something You May Not Want

Like most every Washington Nationals Season Ticket Holder, I received the email from the team concerning payment on my account for the upcoming 2007 season. I've been expecting it, and like last year, if you pay the full amount by December 19th--the Nats will give everyone that does, a token prize. This year, a "Nationals" MP3 Player.

But, unlike last year, you may pay off your amount over 3 equal payments, depending on your seating preference. Its all one in the same to me, I will make the full--one time payment by the 19th. Its not a big deal to me.

There is, though, one interesting caveat. Each of the past two seasons, at RFK, began with an Exhibition Game--a few days before the beginning of the regular season. The game is billed as a CHARITY EVENT for The Washington Nationals Foundation. Under MLB control, this game was "OPTIONAL", and as a FULL SEASON TICKET HOLDER, I did not have to purchase that game.

Apparently, that's not the case for 2007. All Full Season Ticket Holders received an invoice for "82", not "81" Home Games. So, I emailed my ticket rep to ask if I may "opt out". I was informed that ALL FULL SEASON TICKET HOLDERS MUST BUY THIS GAME. Its all or nothing. Supposedly, an effort on part of The Nationals to get the season off to a swinging start, was the reply. Similar to the Washington Redskins now, making it mandatory for ticket holders to also take their two exhibition games.

As much as I love Our Washington Nationals, I don't like being "FORCED" to buy something that is basically a Meaningless Exhibition Game. The cost for those 2 seats pays for the "GIFT" of a MP3 Player, that you presume is free. And, of course donates a ton more cash to The Foundation--at the expense of Season Ticket Holders--the most faithful of fans.

It could be handled better. We are not Daniel Snyder and The Redskins.