... before we get to St. Louis.
1. Hate to bring it up, but this team is still just two (2) good Jon Rauch innings from having won 12 of its last 14. That's stunning. Rauch, by the way, spent quite a bit of time going over video with pitching coach Randy St. Claire, who has detected what he believes is an obvious mechanical flaw that should straighten Rauch out. Rauch, who comes over the top in his delivery in general, is now too tilted, with his head too far left, for St. Claire's liking. When he gets his lines in order, St. Claire feels he'll be ok.
2. Dmitri Young scalded the ball in Cincinnati. He's hitting .565 in his last eight games. "He's locked in," said Manny Acta, and he's talking about the pitches he's hitting, but also the pitches he's laying off of. Dmitri said he has the achilles problem under control, and said, "I'm seeing the ball well." But he wouldn't jinx himself with more.
3. Mike Bacsik? Are you kidding? (Read the gamer here, in which I tried to highlight not only Bacsik's effort, but Schneider's contributions to keeping the pitching staff together. This is some of the stuff we talked about in the Journal earlier this week. I find it fascinating.)
4. Listen to the podcast for some very honest stuff from Bacsik. This guy's one really good start from being a fascinating story. You know he's a huge, huge, huge Dallas Mavericks fan? I'm going to build a Journal entry around this later on. (Or at least point Steinberg in his direction.)
5. The return to the majors of Gary Majewski. I went over to the Reds clubhouse to talk to the guy the Nats referred to as "Tex," and I had forgotten how much I liked the guy. Totally stand-up. Told me one time that he would never, ever blow off talking to us after a game, even if he gave up the game-winning homer. Was always there, wise-cracking and stuff, but could really put the heat on himself if he needed to.
6. How about the old-school rap the Nationals are playing after wins these days? Worth the podcast just for that stuff. EZ-E, some old-school "Gin and Juice" from Snoop, and even further back than that. Sir Mix-a-lot? Wow.
7. Zimmerman's Virginia Cavs with a 4-1 victory over Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament (which is at Fenway Park next year.)
8. Some interesting updates on the injured pitchers. Jason Bergmann got a cortisone shot on Thursday, and we'll get more info on that on Friday. But it no longer looks to me like Bergmann will come off the DL the day he's eligible, which I believe is May 30 or 31. Better news for Shawn Hill, who will have a bullpen session Saturday, and John Patterson, who will throw one on Sunday. If everything goes well for them -- and that's a big if -- they could return on back-to-back days in mid-June. But there are steps: simulated game, two to three rehab starts, then the return. If there's even the smallest setback, then the timetable changes.
9. The story behind the story: So I mentioned Boz and I measuring the fences at RFK in 2005. There's almost too much to cover here, but you'll remember that the dimensions were an issue that summer. Vinny Castilla and Jose Guillen, in particular, complained that the measurements were inaccurate. They were sure of it. So I wanted to find out. I bought a rolling measuring device from my favorite hardware store, and tried to do it that way. But the wheel kind of skidded on some of the grass, and particularly on the infield dirt. I wasn't confident of the measurement, and I particularly wasn't confident when Ryan Church took the device and measured from third to home and came up with like 85 feet. So that didn't work.
So maybe a week later, I told Boz I was thinking about how to best do this, and he was way, way into it. So I went back to my favorite hardware store, and I bought a 300-foot tape measure. Boz and I agreed to meet early at the park one day, and Boz's instinct -- that this should be a clandestine operation -- was right. He had his red hat, trying to look like a Nationals worker. And since I am a bit younger and a bit more nimble, he figured that I should stand at home plate and he should casually walk out 300 feet. When he got there, he'd stick the end of the tape measure into the ground with a stake, and I'd run past him, and then get to the wall. The reading when I got there: 94 feet, meaning the measurement to the gap was 394 feet.
That was in left-center. We intended to measure all around, but just then, I got a call from Director of Baseball Information John Dever, essentially asking, "What are you doing?" I looked up, and Dever was in the mezzanine. He asked us to stop. There were now some stadium workers on the field. We had no shot -- no shot -- to keep measuring.
But we had some good evidence. But then Dever called again. He asked me to come to Tony Tavares's office. Like going to the principal's office, really. I had a good relationship with Tavares, for the most part, and his point was this: "Why didn't you just ask me to do it?" I don't think he would've let me, but he did agree to bring in a surveying outfit to measure things.
The other aside: The night after we measured it, I was going around to players telling them what we found, and getting quotes and reporting to write the "Errors in the Outfield" story that was linked in the previous entry. So the players started to talk more about it themselves. My second call to the principal's office came from Frank Robinson, who said I had created a "hornet's nest" among the players, who were talking about nothing else. I pointed out to Frank that it was the mis-marked measurements that were to blame, not me. But clearly, the whole dimensions issue was a problem in 2005.
Hope that helps to explain some things, and that you find it even mildly interesting. As I said in the comments section of the last entry, I went to Skyline Chili on Thursday afternoon. Pretty darned good.
Local flavor in St. Louis? Anyone? Anyone? (Sheinin and I saw Drive-By Truckers there after a rainout in the World Series last year. Really fun. But for as much time as I've spent there over the past few years (what with the Cardinals always in the playoffs) I don't have a really good feel for the entire city.)
I'll talk to you when I land in St. Louis. Have a good Friday.
May 25, 2007; 12:57 AM ET
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