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After the sweep...

The last time the Washington Nationals swept a series, George W. Bush was in White House, some artist named Usher was topping the charts and ... well, you get the idea. Hack journalists like me use sentences like that only for the most cherished rarities. This weekend qualifies. The same team that swept that Nats in four games in early July got swept in three this time around, counting this afternoon's 4-2 Washington win.

Among the highlights?

Joel Hanrahan's first career save.

Lasting's Milledge's ninth home run (and second in two days).

Collin Balester's second win.

On and on...

But I think, at least for the time being, it's best to measure Washington's recent turnaround more as a reformation of identity. This team is a last-place squad; it will remain so, almost assuredly, for the rest of the season. The Nats are 10 games out of fourth place. But in a way, they're saddled with the baggage of a team they no longer identify with. A few players said as much, almost verbatim: They felt like they'd signed with a new team since, say, last Wednesday. "Please, print that," one player told me. (OK. Does a blog count?)

That's not to suggest that releasing Paul Lo Duca and Felipe Lopez was some sort of cure-all. "Well, I don't want to chop the fallen tree," is how Manny Acta described it (and quite poetically). "It wasn't those guys' fault the way we were playing."

No. But their replacements sure have helped.

Washington's up-the-middle defense now ranks as one of baseball's best. The Nats escaped the seventh inning today, for instance, with help from both Alberto Gonzalez and Emilio Bonifacio. One made a diving play, ranging to his left, rising to his feet and darting a throw to first. The other charged a slow roller, throwing to first just in time to record the inning's final out. The little things like that add up.

So will this level of play last? Probably not.

But for the time being, the Nats view themselves more as a 3-0 team than a 41-70 team.

Now, it's off to Colorado.

I have such an early flight out to Denver that I probably won't be able to post tomorrow morning pre-flight. But check out the gamer and notes online. I'll catch up with ya'll at the ballpark.

By Chico Harlan  |  August 3, 2008; 7:27 PM ET
 
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Next: An outage (and no, not a joke about Washington's offense)

Comments

All the guys appear to be trying real hard not to trash the guys who are gone, but can't help but acknowledge the new guys' contribution. They are choosing their words carefully when interviewed. But - I am also hear the phrase "playing the game the right way" a lot more. The energy level and hustle are a treat to watch.

Posted by: masnstinks | August 3, 2008 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Substitute Lopez for Bonifacio and we probably get swept. Wanna bet how many veterans on the team viewed him as a cancer? Of course they can't say it.

Posted by: Flashy | August 3, 2008 7:56 PM | Report abuse

A different perspective on Bowden-Major turnabout for minor league clubs in just one year; Signing of Zimmerman; Steals of Flores, Martis, Atilano, Clippard, Gonzalez; Obtaining Dukes and Milledge at relatively little cost; Bonifacio, Mock, Chico, Redding, Hanrahan. Essentially, a lot of potencial for the future.
Most people considered the Kearns deal a steal at the time. Unfortunately, it hasn't turned out well, so far.
More significantly, not all that much has been given up, except some wasted money.
There has been a lot of bad luck re injuries, but the future looks promising.
As a former Expo fan I watched Minaya, in only a few months give away Jason Bay, Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee. Brandon Phillips, and not even getting a draft pick for losing Guerrero. Now, that's major damage.(O.K., total destruction)And don't tell me the team was going to disappear. I'm just a fan and I knew better than that at the time. Disappear from Montreal, yes, baseball, no.
Bowden has made some moves I didn't like, but that's the name of the game and they weren't that serious. He's made many more good ones, or at least, potencially good ones. Hey, and Jordan Zimmermann and Smoker weren't bad returns on Soriano. (although I do think he could have had Erik Aybar)
On an unrelated thought-I was amazed at the negativity re Bergman's bad inning. He's been great most games. It didn't take long for the mean spiritedness to rear it's ugly head as it has so many times of late in this blog.

Posted by: Jeeves | August 3, 2008 8:19 PM | Report abuse

The team has be reborn. The additions have made a major difference. I am waiting to see what happens when Zim and Dukes are back in.

I was wondering how this team would look with a tier 1 FA. I am sure we could have gotten someone for $20mm. Where do you think we we would get the money you ask. Well lets see:

Lopez 4.9
LoDuca 5
Estrada 1.2
Jim M 1.2
Kearns 9

That adds up to $21.3mm. Now I ask would we be a better team with a FA agent at $20mm as opposed to the above. Be honest now. That is what the fans should be asking A-hole (aka Jimmy B), Kasten and Lerner.

Posted by: mjames | August 3, 2008 8:20 PM | Report abuse

I know that Flores seems to come through in the clutch. But looking at his stats and... wow, he DOES come through.

Bases Empty .246/.288/.356/.644
Runners On .320/.376/.553/.929
RISP .388/.436/.687/1.122
RISP w/2 Outs .389/.476/.778/1.254
Bases Loaded .444/.500/.889/1.389

Posted by: Stat of the Day | August 3, 2008 8:26 PM | Report abuse

to be fair, if you cut 5 guys and replace them with 1, you still have to find those other four guys on the roster.

and yes, two of them would have been replaced by flores/nieves, but that presumes you knew nieves would play as well as he had (nobody here was predicting that before the season). we'd have had to find two more OFs and a SS/infielder, at a minimum. so figure at least 4-5M of that 21 you mentioned would have to be earmarked there (if not more).

now, i'm not going to argue that they couldn't have *ADDED* to the payroll, which they could have (and most would argue should have, to some extent). just that your math doesn't quite add up when you don't bother to replace all of the players you subtract.

Posted by: 231 | August 3, 2008 8:29 PM | Report abuse

There is a story here, Chico but it might mean digging, forming educated theories and sharing supported opinions. A great deal of things changed this week. Lopez was a huge part of it but I also think someone empowered Manny over Jimbo and Rizzo over Jimbo.

Nats fans were the winners, Jimbo the big loser. I hope someone writes about it this week.

Posted by: JayB | August 3, 2008 8:34 PM | Report abuse

I agree that this team still isn't very good. But they are much more fun to watch.

Here's to hoping Guzman's injury takes a little while to heal, so we can keep watching Gonzalez play shortstop. I'm salivating at the idea of a Zimmerman-Gonzalez-Bonifacio infield.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2008 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Wins are a terrible way of measuring pitchers' success. Please stop summarizing our pitchers' successes and failures with a stat that mostly measures the effectiveness of other players on the team. I'm not asking you to to go crazy with SNLVAR or FIP, but please at least give us ERA or WHIP or Ks or something that's actually mostly relevant to the pitchers' actual performance. This fixation on pitchers' W-L record is embarrassing.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | August 3, 2008 8:38 PM | Report abuse

SOCH - now I know the world has turned on its axis - I actually agree with you ( about the pitchers at least)

Posted by: masnstinks | August 3, 2008 8:47 PM | Report abuse

Just to add to the:

"I agree that this team still isn't very good. But they are much more fun to watch."

Right now watching the rebroadcast of the game I attended today. I sure wouldn't have done that a couple of weeks ago!

Cheers, and happy baseball!

Posted by: nats del negro | August 3, 2008 9:00 PM | Report abuse

agreed, SoCH. wins are a team measure, not an individual measure. at best, for pitchers, wins are a measure of a pitcher's ability to keep their team in the game. and even then, that's mostly effective on good teams. bad teams, not so much.

jayb, it's possible jimbow enabled manny himself, now that the deadline has passed. since he knew he couldn't trade any of those guys for anything of any value at this point (tho most of us knew it before), he cut them and let manny play the younguns. and to be fair, two of the younguns we're saying nice things about are guys he traded for in the past 10 days.

as far as a power struggle/shift in the FO itself, who knows. i mean, hey, we did switch from trading for reds to trading for current/former D-back prospects.

Posted by: 231 | August 3, 2008 9:03 PM | Report abuse

When the truth comes out you are going to find out that Lopez and Acta hated each other. The plot will be that Lopez resented that Acta, a Spanish speaker like himself, did not favor him over other players. Lopez then tried to lead a revolt among the Spanish speakers against Acta which divided the team.

I don't doubt that Lo Duca talked behind Acta's back but he was a professional in every way and did what he had to do to get onto the field which included playing any position that was asked of him.

Posted by: Jay | August 3, 2008 9:03 PM | Report abuse

"Lopez 4.9
LoDuca 5
Estrada 1.2
Jim M 1.2
Kearns 9

That adds up to $21.3mm. Now I ask would we be a better team with a FA agent at $20mm as opposed to the above. Be honest now. That is what the fans should be asking A-hole (aka Jimmy B), Kasten and Lerner."

The problem with your argument here is that this is $21.3 million for ONE YEAR. You won't get a Tier 1 FA for just one year. Try probably 5 years at $20 million for your FA. That's $100 million. Then you still have to go out and buy the rest of the team to go along with that FA - if you expect to compete, that is.

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 3, 2008 9:13 PM | Report abuse

jay.

Care to divulge your source for the "Lopez and Acta hated each other" statement?

Posted by: Dale | August 3, 2008 9:14 PM | Report abuse

231, it is possible that Jimbo empowered Manny himself but I doubt it. The types of players that are getting a chance are not the type of players Jimbo values. These are Rizzo types and that tells me Jimbo is losing influence.

Jay, like I said....there is a story here and it is not a simple one....The change in Acta and the players is so dramatic. Lopez was a big part of hit I agree.

Posted by: JayB | August 3, 2008 9:14 PM | Report abuse

"Nats fans were the winners, Jimbo the big loser. I hope someone writes about it this week."

I don't agree. It was Bowden, not Manny, who pulled the trigger on the moves that have remade the team. Or are you suggesting that he only did it because Manny put him up to it? Hard to believe that.

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 3, 2008 9:16 PM | Report abuse

No what I think is that Stan and the Lerner's stepped in and confronted Jimbo on the players he was forcing Manny to play and the negative impact it was having on the franchise.

I believe Stan told Jimbo that enough was enough. On one day everyone in the Nats organization started reading from Stan's season ticket letters about "playing the game the right way and playing hard at all times".

Posted by: JayB | August 3, 2008 9:20 PM | Report abuse

I was a little miffed when Balester was removed after only five plus, i wasn't sure of his pitch count,young pitchers need to learn how to pitch, managers need to let them "figure it out" they will never learn by being pulled early, there was a comment made in last weeks blog about not letting former manager Frank Robinson if he came back near young pitchers, young players are pampered way too much, too little is expected of them they make what amounts to a kings ransom in salary and bounus make them earn it!!. Stop worrying about their confidence they don't show a lack of confidence when they sign for millions of dollars.

Posted by: DARGREGMAG@AOL.COM | August 3, 2008 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Jay,
Where are you getting the idea this is all Jimbo's fault? Was he forcing Acta to play anyone?

I mean, you can hate on Jimbo all you want, but I think you're not far from blaming him for high gas prices and global warming.

Posted by: Section 303 | August 3, 2008 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Anybody else at the game today notice how much nicer and more professional the place seemed with LESS CLINT. Chico--any idea if they're actually working to tone down his act.

Posted by: CharlottesvilleNat | August 3, 2008 9:32 PM | Report abuse

DARGREGMAG,
It's all about injuries. If you look at the very long-term numbers, the "tough men" usually had their careers end when the were 25 because "their arm gave out". What that really means is they blew their UCL or rotator cuff from overuse.

just sayin'.

Posted by: Section 303 | August 3, 2008 9:33 PM | Report abuse

you also have to be careful about total innings for a season, dargregmag. there is very good statistical evidence that shows likelihood of injury if you increase a pitchers innings by too much in one season. so they have to make sure they don't overwork him this year as compared to last year. so maybe the choice is more 5-6 inning starts instead of less 7 inning starts. or at least i'm sure that factors into when they decide to pull the kid.

jay, i understand your point and i'll agree it's possible. but i think your strong dislike (i'll leave out the word hatred) for jimbo doesn't allow you to accept the other possibility, even though it's just as likely.

Posted by: 231 | August 3, 2008 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Balester was at 101 pitches when he was taken out. Seemed like a reasonable # to pull him at even though it would have been great to see him try to work out of the jam.

Posted by: CharlottesvilleNat | August 3, 2008 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Although it's nice to see good, clean, crisp, essentially worry-free baseball. Which is more than anyone can say for the first 108 games. Seems like Gonzalez is more advanced in the power department than Bonafacio. But it looks like Bono is supremely motivated by the opportunity to start at 2nd without any interference. He can only get better, imo. Hit the ball where they ain't. Become familiar with the pitchers. He seems like he's pretty keen in the intellect dept., at least so far. Eager to fit in, if nothing else.

Posted by: Brue | August 3, 2008 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Great Post, Jeeves! Always good to hear from a sane, rational Expos fan!
**********************************************
A different perspective on Bowden-Major turnabout for minor league clubs in just one year; Signing of Zimmerman; Steals of Flores, Martis, Atilano, Clippard, Gonzalez; Obtaining Dukes and Milledge at relatively little cost; Bonifacio, Mock, Chico, Redding, Hanrahan. Essentially, a lot of potencial for the future.

Posted by: Jeeves | August 3, 2008 8:19 PM

Posted by: flynnie | August 3, 2008 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Wonder if Guzman would be offered an $8 mil per year contract now with Gonzo in the fold.

I think Rizzo might be the mastermind behind this -- both Gonzo and Bonafacio are his babies from AZ. And they are a lot of fun to watch.

Any word on anyone signing LoDuca or Lopez? Its been awful quiet for them...at least publically. The way LoDuca was lobbying to be traded to a contender, he's probably very disappointed that the Yanks and the Sox aren't in a heated bidding war for his services.

Posted by: Ray | August 3, 2008 9:48 PM | Report abuse

I'd like Felipe Lopez to go to the Orioles.

Just got back from watching the P-Nats lose, 5-0. Ross Detwiler took the loss, striking out 6 in 6 innings, giving up 3 runs. He gave up 2 in the first, and looked like he wouldn't last long. I admit he didn't look great, even after a "quality start".

He's a kid. I noticed that the P-Nats also have Clint Evert, who himself was a 1st round pick for the Expos. You never can tell, and this single year for Detwiler doesn't let us know for sure whether he will pan out. Not all first rounders do, but not all of them follow a straight line path to the majors, either.

Posted by: Positively Half St. | August 3, 2008 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Yeah what's up with Detwiler? Seems like his fastball flattens out, is that true? Is he dropping down to the side? You see what St. Claire did with Balester so far. I think that the sooner Detwiler gets around the Saint, the sooner we see what he really has. Being in the minors with somewhat inferior instruction may be the only hold up.

Posted by: Brue | August 3, 2008 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Detwiler is simply allowing to many hits and giving up too many walks. I'm not saying he might not come around but WE NEED TO SIGN CROW and our other draft picks in the first 5 rounds.... signing only Hood in the second round is not good. Only 12 more days to sign these guys

Posted by: NatsFan | August 3, 2008 10:53 PM | Report abuse

Note to 231 and section 303; I think young pitchers are not conditioned properly specifically their arms, the orioles ruined several young pitchers by not keeping close tabs on their conditioning. Just a note to all the baseball fans longtime Braves radio and tv play by play voice Skip Caray passed away tonite at age sixty eight i still enjoy baseball by radio and he was one of the good ones.

Posted by: DARGREGMAG@AOL.COM | August 3, 2008 11:29 PM | Report abuse

Brue just mentioned getting Detwiler up to St.Clair -- did you see him (coach) in the dugout after Bergman's bad inning? He straightened out the mechanics in very short order. Seems like a very effective teacher.

Posted by: masnstinks | August 3, 2008 11:35 PM | Report abuse

dargregmag, that may be true. but it doesn't mean that they should allow balester to throw significantly more innings this year than last year. that's asking for an arm injury. part of conditioning an arm is building up to 200+ innings and not doing it all at once.

Posted by: 231 | August 3, 2008 11:47 PM | Report abuse

I was also at the PNats game today. Postively is correct in his assessment.

Posted by: Angry in Alexandria | August 4, 2008 1:27 AM | Report abuse

This season, Bonifacio was hitting .302 with 18 doubles, five triples and 17 stolen bases in 85 games with Triple-A Tucson before being recalled by the Diamondbacks in early July. He was a Pacific Coast League All-Star selection, marking his fourth consecutive All-Star season. When he was sent to Columbus, he hit.450(8 games or so) before he came back to the bigs .Manny Acta watched Bonifacio play for Licey last winter and came away impressed with the player-of-the year."He has great character, which we like about him. He not only has a chance to be a good player, but he is a good person. I'm anxious to see him bunt. I wonder if he can drag bunt. He's always hit better from the left side by fifty points or so.

Posted by: David | August 4, 2008 4:17 AM | Report abuse

Talking about the most exciting plays, answers are often hit-and-run, first to third on a single, triple, inside-the-park HR. For me, it'a always been stealing home. Too bad Manny is not much of a risk taker. Bonifacio can steal home. Or maybe beat out a bunt, steal second, steal third, steal home?

Posted by: David | August 4, 2008 4:21 AM | Report abuse

Woke up and looked at box score: Nats' starter with the win, Nats' closer with the save.

Sweet!

Posted by: nsfw | August 4, 2008 6:22 AM | Report abuse

Why is it so hard to swallow that the team might work like it should? Maybe Bowden makes personnel decisions based on the trusted input of his scouts, headed by Rizzo, and then lets Manny (who is not an idiot when it comes to the bigger picture of baseball) make the game decisions. The "new look" is the result of the cuts that take place when you've done everything possible to sell, but can't.

Is it so hard to swallow, because then there wouldn't be any target for the anguish of the beginning of the season? "We're bad because..." is just another way of saying "we'd be good if..."

Here's a good poll, I think. Do you have more or less confidence in Bowden after last week? N.B. NOT do you think Bowden should be GM, just do you have more or less confidence.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | August 4, 2008 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Mornin' 506 - More confidence. Ray Knight said in the post-game that the reason we had no 10 game win streak was, well, "not with that lineup," and that this new lineup could produce 10 out of 12. He also said not to expect a win tonight in Colorado against their All=Star pitcher. So where were you and everybody else who usually hots up this blog on Sunday night? You were watching the Redskins pre-season, game, weren't you, you faithless hussies! I think they should start Colt Brennan.

Posted by: flynnie | August 4, 2008 8:08 AM | Report abuse

good question, 506. More confidence in Bowden here.

Posted by: NatsNut | August 4, 2008 8:11 AM | Report abuse

231,

Problem with your proposition is that it has several illogical conclusions.

First, your view would have us believe that Acta was responsible for playing Pena everyday even when it was clear what the results were going to be day after day after day. That Acta wanted to put Estrada behind the plate instead of Flores after the all star break. That Acta wanted to put Lopez in the line up day after day instead of Orr/Harris/Anyone else really. That Acta thought that Lo Duca was a better option than Casto at 1B.

Second, your preposition does not take into account that the players Bowden traded for are very much out of character for the types he has gone after for his entire GM career. He always looks for power bat first and defense, well not so much at all.

Third, it is clear to me at least in reading between the quotes and watching the mood of the clubhouse that July 31 was more than just two roster moves.

You can believe this was all about Jimbo doing the right thing and it was all his doing if you like, but believe it is so much more than that. Time will tell but I think GM Jimbo is on his last legs and these moves were not his alone. I believe the era of good feelings stems from the relief the team has knowing that someone in the organization, Stan, Mark L, Ted L even, is reacting to the reality of 2008 and holding Jimbo accountable for his actions.

But hey to answer your poll; yes I feel better about GM Jimbo in the past week because of the shift to Defense over Pena, Dunn types, hustle over hanging head types. Lopez is gone, all is good.

Posted by: JayB | August 4, 2008 8:30 AM | Report abuse

231,

Problem with your proposition is that it has several illogical conclusions.

First, your view would have us believe that Acta was responsible for playing Pena everyday even when it was clear what the results were going to be day after day after day. That Acta wanted to put Estrada behind the plate instead of Flores after the all star break. That Acta wanted to put Lopez in the line up day after day instead of Orr/Harris/Anyone else really. That Acta thought that Lo Duca was a better option than Casto at 1B.

Second, your preposition does not take into account that the players Bowden traded for are very much out of character for the types he has gone after for his entire GM career. He always looks for power bat first and defense, well not so much at all.

Third, it is clear to me at least in reading between the quotes and watching the mood of the clubhouse that July 31 was more than just two roster moves.

You can believe this was all about Jimbo doing the right thing and it was all his doing if you like, but believe it is so much more than that. Time will tell but I think GM Jimbo is on his last legs and these moves were not his alone. I believe the era of good feelings stems from the relief the team has knowing that someone in the organization, Stan, Mark L, Ted L even, is reacting to the reality of 2008 and holding Jimbo accountable for his actions.

But hey to answer your poll; yes I feel better about GM Jimbo in the past week because of the shift to Defense over Pena, Dunn types, hustle over hanging head types.

Lopez is gone, all is good.

Posted by: JayB | August 4, 2008 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Ops sorry 231, question was from 506. Trouble with numbers and words...not good.

Posted by: JayB | August 4, 2008 8:37 AM | Report abuse

It will be interesting to see how Gonzo & Boni do after mlb clubs get a look at the game tapes and adjust the pitching accordingly. How they (Boni & Gonzo) re-adjust once this takes place will give us a clue as to there extended potential. Let us not put to much weight on the shoulders of two rooks just yet.

Posted by: SC Nats Fan | August 4, 2008 8:38 AM | Report abuse

I should also add though...the defense is markedly improved up the middle, that is a positive that can stand alone right now. The speed they possess on the basebaths is a plus also, not to be ignored.

Posted by: SC Nats Fan | August 4, 2008 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Last night I caught parts of the game over again on the replay - since I knew the outcome and could breathe easier I watched some different things. The dugout was a different world -- real comraderie. I think that none of us will really ever know the person to person stuff that has gone on in there. It's great for the new guys that they know each other - but they also already seemed in sync with Casto and Ballester. Chemistry is something you just can't define or plan but maybe it's happening. This weekend was the oasis in the desert for me and I really enjoyed it!
Manny smiled!

Posted by: masnstinks | August 4, 2008 8:55 AM | Report abuse

I think they're all very fair points, JayB.

Not knowing Acta well enough, I'm not sure I can say why he played those players, but it's at least plausible that he was hoping they'd come around or at least he could get some better players to work with by raising their trade value. I, again, don't know Acta, so I don't know if he's the kind of manager who blinds himself to the larger workings of the team, or the kind that is fully involved with the team's higher strategy.

There's no doubt that Bowden's acquisitions have changed in caliber, but I don't think that means he's not making the decisions anymore. It would suggest that he's trusting his scouts (headed by Rizzo) more and that they're different scouts than the ones he has relied on in the past. Another possible explanation is that the scouting department spent so much time analyzing amateurs last year that they neglected the professionals, leading Bowden to use his old habits for Lo Duca and Estrada.

I don't know any of this, it's all speculation. I think it's as legitimate speculation as that which says that the Lerners have disempowered Jim Bowden. Some sort of in depth report on the front office sure would make an interesting read....

And, flynnie, I turned it off when they pulled Campbell. The only pre-season question I'm concerned with is whether he can adapt well to the new system or not.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | August 4, 2008 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Fair enough indeed 506 and we can AGREE that some quality reporting on the goings on this past week is needed.

While you and I might not know Manny. I trust we can agree that if he was choosing to play Pena, Estrada, Lo Duca and Lopez he sure was not happy about it. MASNstinks is right, if you go back to Friday Night even before the first pitch, Acta was smiling again.

Posted by: JayB | August 4, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Yes, yes, there's no way Acta was happy prior to the trade deadline. My red-headed Cubs girlfriend is convinced he was nearly suicidal because she could see a feint scowl on his face, which she said, for Manny Acta, was a neon sign.

I like these new kids, but I share concerns with the previous poster about what will happen when teams get a good look at them. I just don't have enough confidence in this team's abilities to make adjustments at the plate. If you think about it, adjustments are something that Lenny Harris wasn't really known for, since he was a pinch hitter.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | August 4, 2008 9:45 AM | Report abuse

"Washington's up-the-middle defense now ranks as one of baseball's best."

OK, I'll bite: whose rankings are you using?

Posted by: CE | August 4, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

How many people are going to Google washingtonpost.com for our disgraced, criminal former attorney general and find the Nationals gamer? Ha! More hits for Chico.

Posted by: NatSafeForWork | August 4, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Lenny Harris is still a big question mark. AK made some adjustments but is veteran enough to have made them on his own. CG was working with the new guys. Chico, Chico - can you dig or will they just stonewall you? I , for one would really like to know more about this coaching position on a team - is it different from team to team or pretty standard? Where do they fit in with the rest of the coaching staff? Do they teach mechanics or are they cheerleader/psychiatrist? moremoremore - please?

Posted by: masnstinks | August 4, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

IMO, AK needs to hit the weight room. Lost bat speed, dropping the head of the bat, etc. He looks sluggish. Hit that weight room and drink a red eye before today's game.

Posted by: 756* | August 4, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

I thought she was no longer your red-headed Cubs girlfriend. Didn't she change to something else??

My red-headed Cubs girlfriend is convinced he was nearly suicidal because she could see a feint scowl on his face, which she said, for Manny Acta, was a neon sign.
Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | August 4, 2008 9:45 AM

Posted by: Section 138 | August 4, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Nah, the "Cubs-fan" part just isn't really true anymore.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | August 4, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps the change comes from a combination of factors. Team management working together.

When Jimbo does what he's best at, he is often successful. The same is true for Manny. In July, neither the management nor the team were in sync. We saw the results. Sloppy, weak, bloody laziness. Nobody was stepping up, people were grasping straws and things were totally adrift.

Though I like the angle posted earlier about the Lopez-Acta "problem", I think there were probably high level meetings and decisions were made --- cut bait and go with the youth. Weights were lifted, everyone was relieved. This filtered down to the players.

In any case, I'm more confident in Jimbo, and, no, I don't think he's responsible for global warming or the economic slowdown.

Posted by: Natty Dread | August 4, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Prior to the moves, the team, mgmt, etc. all seemed hypocritical. They kept talking about the Pl-n and the youth movement while fitting Felipe, Lo Duca, and Estrada into the lineup. Obviously, they were just trying to drum up some trade interest.

Ultimately, having and playing guys who WANT to be here will raise spirits on the field and in the stands. But I'm still not drinking the Cool-Aid.

Posted by: 756* | August 4, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

If Bowden was forcing Acta to play players, it was most certainly to drum up some kind of trade value. What is the loss with a last place team? Maybe Lo Duca gets hot at the plate and someone takes a flyer on him for depth down the stretch. It doesn't hurt your last place record, and maybe you can get something. When it became clear that there was no market for either of these players, there was no reason to play them anymore. I am having a hard time believing theories about a Bowden/Acta power struggle.

Posted by: Ben | August 4, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

The Nats have established that they can beat teams in free-fall. e.g. Seattle; Atlanta; Cincinnati. Now how will they do against the Rockies and Brewers in the next 7 games? Will scoring in the 1st and 2d innings be enough?

On another note, I mourn the passing of Skip Caray. He gave me such happiness.

ATLANTA -- The Braves family lost one of its most beloved members on Sunday, when Skip Caray passed away at his Atlanta-area home.
Caray, who would have celebrated his 69th birthday on Aug. 12, went to take a nap Sunday afternoon and didn't awaken. He is survived by his wife, Paula, two sons, Chip and Josh, two daughters, Shayelyn and Cindy, and seven grandchildren.

"Our baseball community has lost a legend today," said Braves president John Schuerholz. "The Braves family and Braves fans everywhere will sadly miss him. Our thoughts are with his wife Paula and his children."

The two sons will carry on the family's rich broadcasting tradition, which began with Skip's father, Harry Caray, a Hall of Fame announcer who remains one of the most popular figures in baseball history.

Josh currently calls games for the Braves' Class A affiliate in Rome, Ga., and Chip serves as both a Braves announcer and the play-by-play announcer for TBS' Major League Baseball coverage. Chip was broadcasting Sunday's game between the Angels and Yankees at Yankee Stadium when he heard the startling news about his father.

"I'm just in shock," Chip said. "I know he wasn't feeling good, but this was unexpected. He hung the moon for me. I got to talk to him [on Saturday], and the last thing I got to say to him was, 'I love you.'"

Caray, who began broadcasting Braves games in 1976, battled multiple ailments over the past year that he linked to diabetes. When he wasn't available to broadcast this past weekend's series against the Brewers, it was revealed that he was suffering from bronchitis.

Although he was visibly weaker, Caray still brought his smile and humor to the ballpark on a consistent basis this season. Since the final month of last season, he had been limited to broadcasting only home games.

Caray was hospitalized during the latter portion of last season and faced even greater complications once the season concluded. In October 2007, doctors were concerned enough about Caray's health that they asked for all of his family members to come to the hospital to possibly pay their last respects. His liver was failing and the doctors in the intensive care unit felt they had done all that they could do.

Caray battled back and spent most of this past winter continuing to fight ailments that were affecting his liver, kidneys and heart. He said some of his prescribed medications worked in a counteractive manner and made it difficult for him to sleep.

When Caray returned to broadcast games at the beginning of this season, he talked about his near-death experience and said that he was happy to at least have an opportunity to return to the baseball world that had provided so much to himself and his family.

"I'm 68," Caray said on April 2. "If I go tonight, I've had a hell of a life."

While his presence may be gone, Caray's voice will continue forever live with the history of the Braves. His most memorable call arguably came when he exclaimed, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" after Braves center fielder Marquis Grissom caught the final out of the 1995 World Series.

The son of a Hall of Fame broadcaster, Skip devoted much of his life to the broadcasting world. He began his broadcasting career at KMOX Radio in St. Louis as host of a 15-minute high school sports show and later had an opportunity to broadcast University of Missouri football games with his father.

While he was most recognizable as a baseball announcer, Caray's versatile broadcasting skills allowed him to serve as an announcer for NBA games, NFL games, and other ventures like the Goodwill Games. He was named Georgia Sportscaster of the Year six times.

Caray's baseball broadcasting career began in 1963 with the Tulsa Oilers. He joined the NBA's St. Louis Hawks' broadcasting team in 1967 and relocated with them to Atlanta the following year.

Caray's arrival in Atlanta allowed him the opportunity to develop a friendship and working relationship with Ted Turner, whose innovative media initiatives allowed Caray and his close friend, Pete Van Wieren, to broadcast Braves games to a national audience on a superstation that would become TBS.

Caray and Van Wieren began broadcasting Braves games together in 1976 and were still serving as broadcast partners during radio broadcasts this season. Both of them were inducted in the Braves Hall of Fame in 2004.

Last year, when TBS ended its 30-year affiliation with the Braves, Caray was saddened to know he was saying goodbye to a number of people that had been so good to him. He was always extremely grateful for the outpouring of sympathy he received after his father died in 1998.

"In essence, you're saying goodbye to people who you've been part of their life for a long time," Caray said last August. "My access to them will now be denied."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Posted by: flynnie | August 4, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

As we await Chico's wheels to hit the ground out in Denver, I thought I'd use this space to float my idea for a Fan Appreciation Month (or two months).

Notwithstanding the great new park and this weekend's turnaround, season ticket holders have endured a terrible year of baseball here in DC. I think the Lerners should thank us for our loyalty by offering each season ticket holder an upgrade to one of the remaining 24 home games to the President's or Diamond Club, including all amenities except for parking. The upgrades would have to be done in advance so the Nationals can sell the original seats, and make sure that the clubs aren't totally overloaded for the Mets and Phillies series.

Doing this would help with retention (which could be in trouble it seems to me), and might even encourage few fence sitters to upgrade their packages for next year. Most of all it would be a way of recognizing that those of us who paid thousands of dollars for seats this year really didn't get our money's worth.

What do you think? Anyone have a suggestion for the best way to get this idea to Stan? Maybe I'll try SBF.

Posted by: Section 222 | August 4, 2008 11:48 AM | Report abuse

stan.kasten@nationals.com

Posted by: Anonymous | August 4, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

A sweep at home over a struggling third tier team is rebirth? This past weekend was the proverbial corner the team needed to turn? Not so fast. I love the energy, and it is nice to win a few in a row for the first time in seemingly forever, but this is nothing to get very excited about yet. Wille Harris has been our big hreo over the past several days, guys. Willie Harris. Long road for this club to hoe without the infusion of a stud slugger (Teixiera anyone?) and a legit Ace (Sabathia would be a perfect fit for DC) -- will management be agressive and go get those guys?? Hope and pray! -- otherwise, its another battle for 4th, if we are lucky, next year.

Posted by: dh | August 4, 2008 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Just wait - Lenny Harris hasn't had a chance to screw these kids up yet. A couple of weeks and they should be well on their way to hitting .220.

Posted by: Section 408 | August 4, 2008 12:08 PM | Report abuse

506- I'm not sure what to think, but I could only say I have a little more confidence in Bowden. However, the Gonzalez and Bonifacio moves smell like the work of Mike Rizzo, and it takes more guts on the Lerners' part than Bowden's to dump those salaries.

Still, he didn't do anything crazy. I hope that Guzman does not end up to be another Dmitri type signing, which now seems a big bust. I had hoped they would trade Guzman, but apparently the 2-year deal is what makes it make sense.

My confidence comes from Bowden not being too stubborn. He dumped people he signed, and he flipped a minor leaguer he got for a journeyman major leaguer for a younger player who at worst is a defensive backup, at best a possible starter.

Posted by: Positively Half St | August 4, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

"Doing this would help with retention (which could be in trouble it seems to me), and might even encourage few fence sitters to upgrade their packages for next year. Most of all it would be a way of recognizing that those of us who paid thousands of dollars for seats this year really didn't get our money's worth.

What do you think? Anyone have a suggestion for the best way to get this idea to Stan? Maybe I'll try SBF. "

There are only 25 home dates left this season. Assuming a conservative estimate of 18,000 seats now filled by season ticket holders, you'd need 720 vacant and available Presidential/Diamond club seats for each of the remaining 25 games in order to implement your plan. Even with all the empty seats we see there night after night, I doubt there are 720 seats available to be given away. So I'd say your idea is a non-starter. Or are you proposing that the free seat only be given to the season ticket holder of record? If they did that, it would be a rehash of the whole Opening Day ticket allocation gripefest.

Maybe you should scale back your request for freebies from Stan to something more reasonable. Like last year, when they gave each season ticket holder of record a voucher for four free tickets to an upcoming game in either the Terrace or Lower View MVP sections of RFK. At Nationals Park, the equivalent underpopulated sections would probably be those ones in the RF mezzanine where you can't see the scoreboard. But they may not even have enough of those seats left to give away to every season ticket holder either.

You'd be hard pressed as well to make the case that any season ticket holder didn't get their money's worth this year. There are no guarantees of team quality when you buy tickets for any sports team. As long as they presented 81 games this year and there was a seat for you at each one, you got what you paid for.

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 4, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

It is an interesting question, 506 but one wrought with the same flaw that necessarily infects the calls for Bowden's firing - namely, we just don't know how the organization is run on a daily basis. Perhaps it was Kasten dictating that LoDuca, Lopez, and Pena play, perhaps not.

So, in short, I don't know if I have more confidence in Bowden after the past week.

Now, if you ask, do I have more confidence in the organization (and the Plan) - my answer is an unequivocal yes. And not simply because Gonzo and Bono had a good weekend, but because the organization was willing to acknowledge some failure and take the extreme step necessary to attempt to remedy it. (I think that there are a few major leagues teams out there that would still have Lopez and Lo Duca on their roster.)

Posted by: lowcountry | August 4, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

When the season started with three wins in a row, I had visions of a 162-0 season. Obviously, that did not happen. Following this 3-0 series against the Reds, I am not nearly as despondent, but not overly optimistic either. It would be great to see them just split the series on the road and do a little better than .500 at home. But mostly I would be happy with no numbskull errors, no lackidaisical play, and no injuries in the next two months of baseball. And I'd love to see Dmitri come back for the last few weeks 20 lbs lighter, with better flexibility and no blood sugar level problems.

Posted by: 419E | August 4, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

RKGF -- Thanks for the reaction, and the calculations. (And for the best moniker ever.) I admit my proposal is radical. It would involve Stan and the Lerners deciding to treat STH's as an asset to be cultivated rather than a cash cow that will keep on giving no matter what.

The freebies so far have been underwhelming. Has anyone else seen that "Yearbook" they gave out? A fat glossy magazine filled with ads. Ugh.

I appreciate your alternative suggestion, but as a STH, I already have tickets. I don't need free additional tickets that I'd have trouble giving away. I'd just like the chance to sit in a better place for one game before the end of the year. There do seem to be alot of empty seats in both clubs. They're giving away Diamond Club seats (with no amenities) the last game of the season if you purchase 5 weekend tickets, so there are obviously seats to be had. And they can always put a "based on availability" limitation on the offer, as they have done for the weekender promotion.

Definitely one upgrade per seat. That's the only fair way to do it. The opening day ticket availability was a fiasco I agree. But if the upgrades were limited to full and 41 game plans, that would reduce the number of upgrades needed. And don't forget, by doing this as an upgrade rather than offering free tickets, they will free up an equal number of tickets in the IF Gallery and other upper deck spots, and even the S&S club seats, which they can likely resell. During the Phillies series, the upper deck, believe it or not, was completely sold out by game time.

Finally, I beg to differ about this season being worth the money for STHs just because they put nine guys on the field every night. The team is the worst or close to the worst in baseball. The seats are quite expensive by most MLB standards. You can buy a ticket for half price from scalpers at most games. That doesn't mean I don't still enjoy going out there, but we have a right to expect more out of this franchise if we're plunking down thousands of dollars a year. Let's see how many STH's renew before concluding that as long as they turned the lights on and opened the gates every night, we got what we paid for.

Thanks also to the anonymous commenter for Stan's email address. I'll send along to whoever actually reads those emails this and my other idea for STH relations -- don't raise prices next year. Anyone want to lay odds on that??

Posted by: Section 222 | August 4, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

"Long road for this club to hoe"

Even a short road can be tough to hoe. Having a long row to hoe is pretty bad, too.

Posted by: Remember, people: there's no DL for copyeditors | August 4, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Odds for ticket prices going up: high for cheap seats, low for expensive seats

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | August 4, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

If God did not want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep.

Posted by: Calvera | August 4, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

re: dh- I think everyone is realistic in their expectations for this team for the rest of the year. There's nothing wrong with getting a little excited after a series sweep, no matter who the opponent is. Remember: the Washington Nationals are the worst team in baseball this season. Sweeping anyone is a coup.

Posted by: Offense/offensive | August 4, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

"I'll send along to whoever actually reads those emails this and my other idea for STH relations -- don't raise prices next year. Anyone want to lay odds on that??"

They won't raise prices across the board, but it's a lock that there will be adjustment of prices on a section-by-section basis. I fully expect prices to go down in unpopular, mostly vacant sections (such as those always-empty sections in the OF) and up in some of the more popular sections (such as Infield Gallery) to compensate. I doubt that there will be a price decrease in the Presidential and Diamond Club seats, because season ticket purchasers of thse seats were required to buy multi-year contracts for them (with built-in price increases each year, actually). Maybe they'll eliminate the multi-year requirement for new sales, or rescind the built-in price increase for returnees, or offer a no-amenities option or whatever just to get more butts in those seats, but I doubt that they'll come out and admit that they were wrong and priced them too high to start with.

As for getting value for what you paid for, if you buy a season subscription to the theater or the symphony or the opera and a few of the plays or concerts end up sucking, you aren't getting any refund or additional amenities there, are you? You knew what the price was for your season tickets when you bought them, and you should have realized then that there was no guarantee that the team would be any good. If you were worried about that, you should have considered it when you bought the tickets. I suspect that there will be people - maybe even many people - who won't renew their season tickets based on this year's performance. But they won't know until this time next year whether it was the right move or not. That's the way it goes in sports!

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 4, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

But isn't that the "right" you have: to not renew if you don't think you got your money's worth?

OTOH, Guzman reportedly took a less-than-market offer from the Nationals as a sort of "refund" on the last few years, so maybe they do owe STHs an iPod or something.

I don't think free tickets are the answer, though. Aside from the obvious logistical problems RKGF pointed out, "we're sorry this team is unwatchable, so here's free tickets to come watch them some more" doesn't seem to have much appeal, somehow.

Yesterday morning, 8am rec league baseball game, a guy on the other team was trying to give away (as in, gratis, no charge, free, if you can haul 'em you can have 'em)
two tickets to the Nats game, behind home plate.

Not even a nibble, and these are people PLAYING the game, obviously fans of the sport.

This team has fan base problems much deeper than a couple of freebies can begin to address.

That said, remember the Tampa Bay [renounced the devil] Rays? That could be us next year.

Oh, yes, it could.

Could too.
*************
You can buy a ticket for half price from scalpers at most games. That doesn't mean I don't still enjoy going out there, but we have a right to expect more out of this franchise if we're plunking down thousands of dollars a year. Let's see how many STH's renew before concluding that as long as they turned the lights on and opened the gates every night, we got what we paid for.

Posted by: Section 222 | August 4, 2008 1:05 PM

Posted by: CE | August 4, 2008 1:35 PM | Report abuse

*ponders who our carl crawford, bj upton, evan longoria, carlos pena, akinora, shields, kazmir, garza, etc are...

;)

Posted by: 231 | August 4, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Who were these guys, last year?


********
*ponders who our carl crawford, bj upton, evan longoria, carlos pena, akinora, shields, kazmir, garza, etc are...

Posted by: 231 | August 4, 2008 1:47 PM

Posted by: Anonymous | August 4, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

"You can buy a ticket for half price from scalpers at most games."

Don't count on this being the case next season. If the predicted season ticket holder exodus occurs after this season, the charge will be led by the many professional scalpers who currently hold season seats. My feeling is that the 5,000 seat drop in season ticket sales from 2005 to 2006 was almost entirely due to the dropping out of speculators who had bought up season tickets thinking there'd be a hefty resale market allowing them to make money. When that market didn't materialize, they bailed. The same thing will happen again with the new ballpark speculators. Perhaps this is what Tom Boswell meant when he wrote about returning the best seats to their rightful owners. Fans, not speculators.

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 4, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Good point, RKGF.
If I were a speculator, I would at least hold off until I see a genuine interest developing over the winter, and then get in IFF (if and only if) that happens.

Which would mean, if that's right, that Boswell can't be. If speculators don't buy up the good seats, it means fans are not interested, either, and the seats go empty (or to Philly). No?

Posted by: C E | August 4, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Thank you. That's EXACTLY what I've been thinking.
______________________

Just wait - Lenny Harris hasn't had a chance to screw these kids up yet. A couple of weeks and they should be well on their way to hitting .220.

Posted by: Section 408 | August 4, 2008 12:08 PM

Posted by: NatsNut | August 4, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

well, anonymous, they were all the same people on the same team last year, with the exceptions of longoria (callup from minors) and garza (acquired from twins for delmon young).

but...

only one of them was truly an established star last year (something we don't really have even one of now, since zimmerman seems to have regressed a little offensively). but they're all a year older and the rays did some position shifting that put players in better defensive spots and significantly upgraded their defense. akinora moved to 2b from 3b, and longoria, who's a whiz at 3b, was called up. upton moved from the infield, where he wasn't quite as good defensively as flopez, to the OF where he's become a good defender.

and garza has been very good this year.

Posted by: 231 | August 4, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

And CE, this is the line of the day. I'm cracking up!

"we're sorry this team is unwatchable, so here's free tickets to come watch them some more" doesn't seem to have much appeal, somehow."

Posted by: NatsNut | August 4, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

So the speculators lost money, as they often do, and the real test, as Barry said long ago, is the 2009 season.

They need a big-name draw here, now. Not for W/L, for the non-fans, the "outdoor bar with entertainment" crowd (the Clint fans?), to watch. Winning will help, but the non-fans aren't coming for the baseball, so better baseball won't reach them.

Posted by: CE | August 4, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

"Which would mean, if that's right, that Boswell can't be. If speculators don't buy up the good seats, it means fans are not interested, either, and the seats go empty (or to Philly). No?"

If speculators or fans don't buy up the best seats as season tickets, they'll still be available for single game sales. Or, if the team continues its current practice, for partial season ticket sales clear through next season. (Did you know that even now you can buy a pro-rated 2008 full season plan?) So if next year's team turns out to be surprisingly good, fans can get back in at any time. Resellers could too, of course, but would probably lag behind a bit, I'd think.

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 4, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

@231 (that unclaimed post was me, of course) -- My point exactly.
Now give that team natsluck, and they are still the eternally-lousy Rays, to the world.

The Nats have the makings of a good rotation, half a bullpen, and some pieces (Flores, Zimmerman, Guzman; maybe Dukes and Milledge). IFF they stay within reasonable norms of healthy, AND if Bonifacio pans out, they'll be mediocre. Pick up two big bats (and a hitting coach), and stay lucky, and they could surprise.

Posted by: CE | August 4, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Promo idea - Give eveyone a free rain check to one of the club seats - Diamond, Stars and Stripes, any of 'em. I turned in my one historic June 4th rain check (the only one the team has had since coming to D.C.!) ticket to get into the park on Saturday night and it was lots of fun.

And while there, from my excellent seats, my middle daughter, son-in-law and I saw the Cincy 3rd baseman kick Bonifacio in the head to keep him from an inside-the-park home run. The ump's eye was on the off-line throw, but Emilio's helemet was kicked off and he got up looking concussed. If Tolman had sent him, I don't know if he'd have noticed - he had that "Why do birds suddenly appear?" look on his face.

Posted by: flynnie | August 4, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

"They need a big-name draw here, now. Not for W/L, for the non-fans, the "outdoor bar with entertainment" crowd (the Clint fans?), to watch. Winning will help, but the non-fans aren't coming for the baseball, so better baseball won't reach them."

Your logic here escapes me. The only "big name draws" with names big enough to draw the non-fans you speak of would probably be ARod, Jeter, Manny Being Manny, etc - most if not all of whom are not available anyway. As a point of reference, last offseason Torii Hunter was cited by many here as the big name FA the team should have gone after. Well, as it happens, at one game of the Angels series here this year I sat in the Batter's Eye Box, which is right in front of the Red Loft Bar. Not only did fans in the Red Loft not have a clue who Torii Hunter is, they didn't know who we were playing, what inning the seventh-inning stretch would take place, or that the game is not over when it's tied 4-4 at the end of eight innings. (Seriously, I was asked all of those questions - and a couple of the askers weren't even drunk at the time.) Clearly none of those "non-fans" had come to the park that night to see "big name draw" Torii Hunter.

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 4, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

figured it might have been you, CE.

i don't necessarily agree that there's much parallel with the rays. a good chunk of those names were likely top 10 picks in the draft, a couple of overall #1s (or, in garza's case, traded for a top prospect who was a top 10, if not #1, pick). we need a few more years of sucking to develop like that. and we need at least one "kazmir for (the other) zambrano" trade as well.

getting younger has meant getting better for us. but we need some "star-quality" talent infusion to get to where the rays are. they legitimately have several of the more exciting position players in baseball right now (crawford, longoria, upton) and a guy with legit ace talent (kazmir) and a few very good guys behind him (shields, garza, jackson).

i hope we get there and that some of the guys we've drafted in the past couple of years develop like the rays prospects have (a la crawford, longoria, upton, young).

Posted by: 231 | August 4, 2008 2:33 PM | Report abuse

I hope you realize that when you make up facts and present them as fair and balanced analysis, that it actually weakens the case against Bowden by cast doubt on even salient points regarding his performance.

I think it is fairly well documented from multiple sources that the Rauch for Bonifacio trade was first extended by Bowden over a year ago. It was not accepted until the Diamondbacks were under duress caused by bad relief pitching. The trade of Nunez for Gonzalez -- while it looks inspired now -- is hardly a sea change in approach. Fruto for Carter for Pena was a deal of that nature last year.

As for the Rizzo/Diamondbacks influence and connection, lets not get too egocentric. When it comes to trading with the Diamondbacks, everybody gets a turn. They are being criticized for trading away too many of their prospects. That the Nationals got into the action is not an indication of Rizzo's influence. The A's, Padres, Brewers, Yankees, Tigers, (almost Braves), Red Sox, and others have gathered Diamondbacks prospects as well (so come to think about it, Rizzo's influence is really remarkable).

This wishful thinking about Bowden's demize is really sad. Against insurmountable odds he took the job to repair the damage done to the Expos and he has failed to surmount them in a timely manner. Is that a failing? Could anyone else have done significantly better? Does he set hsi own budget? Could he have gotten better players for the same free agent dollars? I think the answers to all those questions are no.

He is not the best GM in baseball, but he is by no means the worst either. He is in fact probably average to slightly above average. Who is better? Cashman with a $250 million budget? Epstien with $200 Million? Beane, Dombrowski, MacPhail? None of those GM's - none of them - are in first place.

Posted by: NatBisquit | August 4, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Good one, 1:12 (although perhaps using a backhoe rather than a garden hoe would help).

------

Even a short road can be tough to hoe. Having a long row to hoe is pretty bad, too.

Posted by: natsfan1a | August 4, 2008 2:43 PM | Report abuse

... and another thing. Every team in baseball has dead dollars on their roster. THe Dodgers at one point had over $120 Million in dead money devoted to bad free agents and disabled list players this year.

Posted by: NatBisquit | August 4, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

The Dodgers probably have $120 million in dead money devoted to bad free agents and disabled list players this year.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | August 4, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Don't know about the others, flynnie, but I was away at a family reunion. Just my luck to miss all the excitement of seeing the new guys in action! I did tape Friday's game, so I'll watch that at some point and see some of the fun. Uh, does this mean that I have to leave town for the next home stand as well?

------

So where were you and everybody else who usually hots up this blog on Sunday night? You were watching the Redskins pre-season, game, weren't you, you faithless hussies! I think they should start Colt Brennan.

Posted by: natsfan1a | August 4, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Where the heck is the online edition of MLB Sunday? Washington Post has been late with this too many times so far... I'd like to read it, hello, on SUNDAY. If not that at least by Monday I'd hope it would be up, but I suppose thats asking too much...

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | August 4, 2008 3:07 PM | Report abuse

"Where the heck is the online edition of MLB Sunday? Washington Post has been late with this too many times so far... I'd like to read it, hello, on SUNDAY. If not that at least by Monday I'd hope it would be up, but I suppose thats asking too much..."

Just a word of advance warning: Don't go looking for MLB Sunday the next couple of weeks. Sheinin announced in yesterday's edition that it's going on hiatus while the staff (presumably that means Sheinin) is at the Olympics.

I guess you'll have to console yourself with the Post's AP coverage of the Orioles. Apparently Carig is going to China too.

Yes, when you think baseball, what else comes to mind but the Washington Post? I wonder if they'll give me a refund on my season ticket...er, subscription payment since they're delivering a substandard product now?

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 4, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

What do you think? Anyone have a suggestion for the best way to get this idea to Stan? Maybe I'll try SBF.
______________________________________

Idea: Free hotdogs and soda before a game.

Lerner: "How much does a hotdog cost?"

Reality: As much as I get pissed thinking of how low the payroll is (and will be)...and aside from the unsightly on-the-field product...they have been very fan friendly as best they know how. From Friday fireworks, to movie nights, letting kids run around the field after sunday games, to free team guides and replica stadiums, they've been ok. Some sort of fan appreciation would be nice. $5-10 off at the team store would help us (and them)... or a fan appreciation in Farragut Park (like the O's used to do).

They were kind of stingy with the replica stadiums (one per account, not one per seat).

Posted by: 756* | August 4, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse

"$5-10 off at the team store would help us (and them)..."

Did you not get the coupon with your season ticket package for 15% off at the team store? (When I used mine, they even gave it back to me so I can use it again. That may have been a sales clerk error, though.) Are you not aware that you get 10% off automatically at the team store just by showing your season ticket account card? Or do you want another $5-10 off on top of that?

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 4, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Used it. The % is fine, whatever. Just brainstorming here. Fan appreciation isn't just for STHs.

Posted by: 756* | August 4, 2008 3:50 PM | Report abuse

RKGF, you're not a marketing guy, are you? Many pro sports teams have recognized that while their season ticket holders are not *entitled to* "additional amenities" as you say, it is simply good business to treat season ticket holders well and to give them perks that make them feel special. An article in the Wall Street Journal a year or two ago detailed how many pro sports teams are putting a heavy emphasis on keeping their season ticket holders happy, including some hiring away concierges from top hotels, to be responsible for taking care of their season ticket holders and keeping them happy with perks.

The Nats, by contrast, choose not to throw many perks the way of season ticket holders. Maybe that's good business, maybe it's bad business, time will tell. But I don't see why you have to be so strident in stating that STHs are not "entitled" to anything more than their tickets and should otherwise shut up. Entitlement really isn't the issue. If season ticket holders feel that the Nats take them for granted--warranted or not--then that is an issue, for the Nats. Other teams have recognized this and done things to address it, as I mentioned above.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | August 4, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

"CF: That said, remember the Tampa Bay [renounced the devil] Rays? That could be us next year.

Oh, yes, it could.

Could too."

CF may be Collin Balester, who in a post-game interview said both that this team could contend for the division and that he could play until he was 50! Gotta love the enthusiasm though.

They have been soooo not-fun to watch this year, and for the weekend, at least, that changed. Collin's view notwithstanding, they have not been transformed into contenders. But they are fun to watch again, at least for now. And I don't have to look at a lazy 2b anymore, either. Viva new guys!

Posted by: NatsFly | August 4, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

hey, we can always hope for the nats to be the team, once again this season, who spoils someone's postseason dreams in the last week or two of the season. it would be enjoyable to kick the mets, marlins, and phillies tails and put a crimp in at least a couple of their playoff hopes. in september, we play 6 against all three teams (with 1 series each against ATL and SD thrown in).

Posted by: 231 | August 4, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I believe fan appreciation day is the final game when they have huge discounts on merchandise.

Anyone know where they advertise which movies they're playing on Saturday night?

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | August 4, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I was wondering how this team would look with a tier 1 FA. I am sure we could have gotten someone for $20mm. Where do you think we we would get the money you ask. Well lets see:

Lopez 4.9
LoDuca 5
Estrada 1.2
Jim M 1.2
Kearns 9

That adds up to $21.3mm. Now I ask would we be a better team with a FA agent at $20mm as opposed to the above. Be honest now. That is what the fans should be asking A-hole (aka Jimmy B), Kasten and Lerner.

Posted by: mjames | August 3, 2008 8:20 PM

Yes, mjames, you could have given ME that chunk of change.

Posted by: Andruw Jones | August 4, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

How many people are going to Google washingtonpost.com for our disgraced, criminal former attorney general and find the Nationals gamer? Ha! More hits for Chico.

Posted by: NatSafeForWork | August 4, 2008 9:56 AM

What do I have to do with the Nationals?

Posted by: Janet Reno | August 4, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

yeah, and the merch at the end of the season is truly a collectors paradise. i picked up a sweet terrmel sledge jersey last year, in addition to my vinny castilla jersey i purchased at the last game of '06. awesome fan appreciation day.

Posted by: theraph | August 4, 2008 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I'll take that $20+ mil plus the 20% payroll increase for '08, plus the 20% increase for '09 all at once, thank you.

Buy a couple FAs.

Posted by: 756* | August 4, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

ESPN is reporting less than 1/2 a dozen teams shall be implicated in the Dominican bonus skimming scandal. Yanks, Red Sox, White Sox & Nats have specifically been named so far.

Posted by: Los Doce Ocho | August 4, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

"Jim M 1.2"

Who is Jim M.? Rob "My hitting skills are" Mackowiak?

Posted by: 756* | August 4, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

on the DR skimming - the internal "punishment" would be an automatic firing right? what would happen if any of the coaching staff was involved in this? it is never just one or two people...

Posted by: theraph | August 4, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

More on LDO's tip:

Four MLB investigators returned to the United States from the Dominican last week and are preparing a report for the commissioner's office. While clubs have fired several officials already implicated in the scandal, MLB has worked closely with the FBI, which is conducting its own investigation into the alleged skimming of bonuses.

One source briefed on MLB investigators' findings said he believed "less than a half-dozen" teams would be implicated, including the Yankees, Red Sox, Nationals and White Sox.

The 20 or so employees, based in both the United States and the Dominican Republic, either received money or were aware of others who did, the source said.

Sources said FBI agents have not traveled to the Dominican, and contrary to media reports, have limited their probe thus far to allegations surrounding fired White Sox official David Wilder, Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden and Nationals special assistant Jose Rijo.

Wilder has not commented and did not return several phone calls. Bowden previously confirmed to ESPN that he had spoken with federal authorities but insisted he has done nothing wrong, and that FBI agents had asked him nothing about his own activities. Officials with Major League Baseball, the Yankees and Red Sox on Monday did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3519111

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | August 4, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm all for fan appreciation. That should be the name of the game for owners of baseball team. It's good business, as CiL has said. It's amazing how people will moan about the Lerners not spending enough on free agents, or to sign prospects, but then react with horror at the suggestion maybe the people who provide the revenue (us) deserve a little extra love from their very full pockets. RKGF, your analogy is hilarious. If the Washington Opera or the Shakespeare Theater put on an amateur quality production, you can be sure that refunds would be demanded.

Merchandise discounts are great as far as they go. Maybe, to start, the Nats can make sure the STH discount can be used at any team store in the stadium. Right now, it can't.

I agree that extra free tickets aren't the answer. That's why I suggested an upgrade to one of the clubs. If there were tons of empty seats in the Stars & Stripes level, that would be fine too, but there aren't. Just give us one memorable evening for our troubles this year is all I'm suggesting.

One final note for Flynnie -- there was actually a rainout on Sept. 1, 2006. The best thing about those rainchecks was that they were good for the whole 2007 season. Now that was an example of good fan relations by the Nats.

Posted by: Section 222 | August 4, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

@506,
I think you can find the movie listings on the promotion schedule. There are 3 more home Saturday games, and the movies that are to be shown are:
8/16 A League of Their Own
8/30 The Natural
9/20 Field of Dreams

Posted by: Traveler | August 4, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

HatBisquit: Thank you for your sane and level-headed analysis.

Some tidbits, which most of you all probably already know. Perhaps some will enjoy them.

1. D-Backs long have had that rep. Once Boni was in, Agon was a natural.
2. When they won their South Bend title, it was a romp, not close.
3. Interviewed after Licey championship was won, Boni (who played outfield for the Series with Ronnie Belliard and Erick Aybar in the way) made sure that the interviewer knew that it was the SECOND title for him. Still proud of his class A Silver Hawks championship, tho it seems far removed from his current situation. http://tinyurl.com/5u4gkf or http://preview.tinyurl.com/5u4gkf if you are apprehensive.
4. I don't have the words to describe what I am feeling right now," Bonifacio said. "The Aguilas are a good team and to do what we did to them is not easy. That team is full of stars. I think you can see that we have a few stars on our team, too."
5. Manny knows them both well. He managed Licey to '04 title, and he watched Boni win Dominican POY at .300. "It's a must-see for every baseball fan," Nationals manager Manny Acta, a former manager of Licey, said about the rivalry. "You can't see a game in the Dominican Republic and not see Licey-Aguilas. It's what it is all about."
6. In any other situation, Guz would be good trade bait for a bat or two and let AGon play. But Guz gave up money and will teach them both at this level, so he can't be traded. They will listen to him and Harris too, but both will favor Guz's advice. He needs to be at 1B, on the field with both. Of course, he is not a power hitter at 1B, but finish the season with him there at least.
7. The Ichiro-serve into left does not support the following comment, but Boni is learning and learning. "His swing isn't conducive to the small-ball game he needs to play." Boni struck out a LOT in the past. How much? Starting in Rookie League and ending in AA, his strikeouts/ABs were the following perecentages: 24, 29, 30, 17, 19, 19. Then, in AAA 8 PERCENT! So he's coachable. Let Guz do it. Once his bunting is involved, look for .280 minimum, .295 possible. He walks 7-8% of the time. Improve that and get OBP of .330-.360? Compare Weeks, Ugglia, Matsui; also Cano and Roberts.
8. My boy Rizzo: "Hitting ability, he's a work in progress in the leadoff aspect. I got a call from [former Giants and Dodgers outfielder] Brett Butler, who was a terrific leadoff hitter in his day. I hired Brett with the Diamondbacks. He said, 'You took my boy.' He said, 'This was a guy we were grooming to be me for the Diamondbacks.' With that praise, it kind of says it all for me."
9. I know that AGon ripped some hits for us, but look for him to hit .255 at best. Manny has him hitting 8th because Manny knows this. But with his gun, that is OK. Compare to Renteria, Cabrera, Lugo, all AL of course. In our league, he stands out as low-hit. Still, with his D, it's OK.
10. "Playing now in place of the injured Derek Jeter, Gonzalez appears a completely different player. His at-bats are fine and his defense has a special hue. He is smooth moving to the ball with quick-burst abilities off the bat, and his arm is strong and true."
11. The Attorney General is not fast. He isn't a SB threat.
12. So how do we get to Cook tonight? He's peaking right now, not only this season, but also in his career. Prior to his 14-6 season, he was 36-35 career. He's going 7 tonight, so without 4-5 runs, we have no chance. We need 8 hits in his time out there, 3 walks, some steals, a 3-run dinger. Who will step up?


estoy firmado! Segue to Segway! Go away FBI!I appreciate all of the comments from this Blog.

YMOS JGB III

Posted by: Jim B. | August 4, 2008 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I was just about to post the same section from that article on the skimming scandal in the Dominican. If nothing else gets Bowden fired this off-season, being implicated in that report would likely be the final nail in the coffin.

Posted by: Offense/offensive | August 4, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

i just don't get this fascination with the concept of guzman at 1B. especially with the caveat that he can teach the other infielders while playing 20-50 feet away from them.

Posted by: 231 | August 4, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't play hopscotch on a freshly paved road with either Bowden or Rizzo, so maybe all y'all ought to tone down the rhetoric a bit. "Feelings often get run over when emotion takes its toll." Tolstoy.

Posted by: honda lover | August 4, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

"I wouldn't play hopscotch on a freshly paved road with either Bowden or Rizzo"

Is this the secret password? Do I need to buy some crackerjacks and use the decoder ring to deciper this message?

Please explain.

Posted by: Los Doce Ocho | August 4, 2008 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Play it backwards, LDO.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | August 4, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse

"RKGF, your analogy is hilarious. If the Washington Opera or the Shakespeare Theater put on an amateur quality production, you can be sure that refunds would be demanded."

Demanded, maybe. Given? No. You go buy a season subscription to the Washington Opera and ask for a refund because the soprano misses the high note in the third act of the fifth opera of the season and see who's the one getting laughed at. Baseball is the same way. They win some, they lose some. Some of the losses are damn ugly. But you pay to see the games, not to see wins or perfect play.

And hey, did the Redskins refund their season ticket holders in the 1980s when they fielded replacement players during the strike year? Just asking, because I really don't know. But I bet they didn't. (They didn't give back the Super Bowl trophy won in part by those replacement players either.)

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 4, 2008 5:17 PM | Report abuse

FWIW, I wouldn't play hopscotch with anyone, anywhere at any time.

Posted by: Offense/offensive | August 4, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

231:

Guz can't teach either of them much about fielding. But it keeps all three in the lineup. Hitting he can help with, esp. when he is in the starting lineup AND the AG is as well. When, if the AG improves, couple of years, trade Guz to a contender to thank him for his hitting and salary help.

Posted by: JGB III | August 4, 2008 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Hopscotch is fun, but as far as the comment in question, I have no idea. Also, new post up.

Posted by: natsfan1a | August 4, 2008 5:24 PM | Report abuse

OK - glad to see you guys picked up on the article from ESPN about the bonus-skimming.

Chico - can you please get some more info on this??? It's been sort of a "back-burner" story for a few months and it looks like it is about to come to the front. My "Yankee-fan" husband was giving me crap about it, and now it looks like his beloved team is potentially involved too.

You Bowden-haters may get your wish.

Posted by: Patty | August 4, 2008 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Good post by Jim B. I mentally lolled this description around regrding Gonzales--"his defense has a special hue".

I just wonder how seriously the Nats would consider Guzman at first the rest of this season.

Posted by: Dale | August 4, 2008 5:26 PM | Report abuse

don't get carried away with guzman's offense. he's not that special. even belliard has outproduced him when you look at something beyond batting average. he has a higher OBP, SLG, and OPS than guzman. extrapolate out the number of ABs and he would have as many runs and more RBIs. and he'd have a stranglehold on his HR lead on the rest of the team. yes, ronnie belliard is the team leader in HRs. i'd rather see him at 1B than guzman.

Posted by: 231 | August 4, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse

@1A - It depends on where you're going out of town in the next homestand. I would like to see you in The Dominican or at Aaron Crowe's house signing prospects.

@Traveler - Why aren't they showing "For Love of the Game"? It has the most realistic baseball sequences! Really! that's why I like it! Honest!

@JGB III - That was one fabulous post!

@222 - Thanks for letting me know that I did not have the ONLY raincheck ever issued - still, it's a good promo, isn't it, especially if it rewarded sth's with a club seat, or an ugrade to the seat you're in.

Discounts at team store - Discounts are available at TJ Maxx - 75% discounts on MLB stuff. Evidently, the populace is not clamoring to be associated with the Nats!

Posted by: flynnie | August 4, 2008 5:35 PM | Report abuse

You're funny, flynnie!

Posted by: natsfan1a | August 4, 2008 5:56 PM | Report abuse

RKGF: " Demanded, maybe. Given? No. You go buy a season subscription to the Washington Opera and ask for a refund because the soprano misses the high note in the third act of the fifth opera of the season and see who's the one getting laughed at. Baseball is the same way."

Well, first of all, I'm not suggesting a refund, though I'd be happy to have my money back if Stan offered it. Just an upgrade at one game of the remaining 25, after having suffered through the first 56. So my proposal is more like offering STH's at the opera a free glass of wine at intermission because the international superstar soprano had to cancel for a performance. I'll bet that or something like that has been done. Having had opera tickets and dropped them, I know the lengths they go to to try to get me back. Including super cut rate tickets to shows that aren't drawing so well (kind of like the Diamond Club).

And second, the Nats performance this year is hardly analagous to an opera singer missing one high note. Please. We're talking historically bad. Maybe the WNO sending a lead singer onstage with larangytis? Wouldn't you ask for something if that happened?

Posted by: Last word (222) | August 4, 2008 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Chico, You are not a hack. Never call yourself that.

Posted by: Nats24 | August 5, 2008 2:55 AM | Report abuse

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