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The middle infield

Dear, NJers,

Just a few notes here today.

* I'm gonna be away from the ballpark today finishing up a longer Nats-related feature story. (Look for it Tuesday.) Zach Berman will have the byline duties today. I'll be back on regular game coverage starting tomorrow and heading through the next road trip, obviously.

* Todd Webster, MASN's spokesman, says broadcaster Bob Carpenter is coming back for next year. His contract had needed to be renewed by Aug. 1, so this was a big day for him -- and anybody who likes him. Thoughts? (I so rarely watch on TV that I'm curious for your opinions.)

* From talking to Nats brass, I think the aspect that pleased them most in yesterday's win (read more here) was the up-the-middle defense. Sure, Emilio Bonifacio (the new second baseman) and Alberto Gonzalez (the new shortstop) each got one hit and scored one run, but together, their range -- as well as a few nifty plays -- really provided Odalis Perez with a lift. One night earlier, with a different middle infield, the Nats don't turn that seventh inning 6-4-3.

But here's the question.

General Manager Jim Bowden has compared Bonifacio and Gonzalez to two former Pittsburgh players who could scarcely hit but played such fantastic defense that they could still help a team. The comparison? To 2B Jose ("Chico") Lind, a lifetime .254 hitter with nine career home runs, and to shortstop Rafael Belliard, a lifetime .221 hitter who probably would have lost a Home Run Derby even to Lind. (Lifetime: 2,301 ABs, two HRs.)

When Bowden talks about Belliard and Lind on the Pittsburgh teams of the late-80s and early-90s, he makes this point. Those two, in spite of their offense, made the entire pitching staff better. For that reason, Lind and Belliard provided value.

He expects that Gonzalez and Bonifacio will do the same.

Of course, a team can only so have many spots in the lineup that hit .250 or less and lack power. In baseball 20 years ago, middle infielders tended to contribute defense first; power offense was a rare bonus. But we've seen such a seismic shift during the last generation regarding what baseball expects of its middle infielders that Washington probably cannot ever go into a season with Gonzalez AND Bonifacio playing side-by-side. Ideally, Bonifacio becomes that defense-first, base-stealing, run-scoring starter. And Gonzalez is a bench player, backing up a shortstop who swings a more potent bat. (Guzman, in the short term.)

But as long as the two are side by side -- probably just for a few more days, with Cristian Guzman soon to return -- measure their contributions first in defense.

By Chico Harlan  |  August 2, 2008; 7:56 AM ET
 
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Next: Tonight's lineups

Comments

If Manny truly wants to win and put out the best team day in day out then I think he has to sit Kearns, especially when Zimm returns. I think Harris moves to left and Dukes goes to right.

If he continues to play Kearns then I think he is being influenced by that A-hole (aka Bimbo Bowden).

Posted by: mjames | August 2, 2008 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Bob Carpenter to return in 2009
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POSTED August 01 2008 10:57 PM BY Mark Zuckerman

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Nationals television announcer Bob Carpenter was informed tonight that he will return in 2009 for his fourth season with the club.

Carpenter, who has been the lead play-by-play voice on MASN since 2006, had an option in his current contract that needed to be picked up by the team and the network by Aug. 1. Last September, he was told by the Nationals he wouldn't be brought back before the organization switched course and re-signed him during the offseason.

"It's just a relief because I didn't have to go through anything like last year," he said.

Game analyst Don Sutton is already signed for next year. Sideline reporter Debbie Taylor's contract expires after this season; she has not been informed yet about her status.

"The main thing for me is I'm working with Don and Debbie. They're just professionals and really likeable people," Carpenter said. "I think we have as good a broadcast team as any in baseball. It's a privilege for me to be a part of it."

Posted by: flynnie | August 2, 2008 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Chico,

Right question but wrong conclusion, defense from the middle of the field has been vastly underrated by Jimbo. Don't make the same mistake our current GM has made up till now.

Nats would be a far better team with .250 hitters at 2B/SS who are plus defenders. Good pitching and defense up the middle goes a long, long way in winning games. I play Guzman at 1B for the test of the year. I understand Jimbo just signed Guz for 2 years, but if we learned anything from July, it has to be, admit your mistakes early and fix them fast.

Next Spring with a new GM and a new hitting coach, decisions will need to be made about what players give the Nats the best chance to win games. Defense can not be overrated at 2nd/SS nor can hustle and respect for the game.

Play hard and have fun Nats, baseball is a great game.

Posted by: JayB | August 2, 2008 8:20 AM | Report abuse

"Debbie Taylor's contract expires after this season; she has not been informed yet about her status."

He's not as pretty, but Robert Fick would be the most perfect sideline (do we have sidelines in baseball?) reporter ever.

Maybe he could take over for Clint too...

Posted by: estuartj | August 2, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

In the post steroid era I'm not so sure you won't see a return to defense first middle infielders, catchers and center fielders. I remember a quote from a HOF pitcher (whos name I can't recall) that he told his manager he the line-up needed "Four for you (1B,3B,LF&RF) and four for me (CA,SS,2B&CF).

As for my questions from yesterday, I think we see for certain (someone let me know if it has been stated officially) that Casto is our starting 1B since he started their instead of his natural 3B with Zim out and if Mock is coming back to the bullpen (his move makes great sense since he has options and the bullpen is well rested right now) then either Langerhans or Orr are headed to AAA in short order.

BTW removal of either of those to for Mock will significantl widen the margin between us and the rest of the league for the youngest team.

Posted by: MO Nats Fan | August 2, 2008 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Come on, they are getting 9,000 viewers a night and they bring the announcers back? Does that make sense?

Yeah, as much sense as keeping Bowden as GM of this disaster of a team.

Posted by: ohplease | August 2, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

What a nice surprise! Bob made watching all those losses palatable, kept a good attitude when he must have felt like reaching for the bottle like Bob Ueker in Major League, and was not afraid to say when the baseball was bad. Just last night he said that the newly-acquired Cincy reliever's strike out on a bunt "was as bad an execution of a bunt as you will ever see in the Major Leagues." Sutton immediately disagreed: "Well, he just got in from the White Sox!" As if that somehow is a well-known destructive force in bunting. Bob never argued, told us that Jim Kaat called the circle change "the old 75" because it went 75 mph, and said, "Pinch me! The Nats are up 5-0 after 2!" These are examples of what I want in a good announcer; the sunniness of a Dick Enberg combined with an ability to help us see through his more knowing eye, and a wicked sense of humor. You really see Bob's gifts on the post-game, when there is no time to prepare. He is fluid, funny and intelligent. I will treasure the moment when Bob was told by Johnny Holiday that he looked like "our Capitol Hill Correspondent." Bob, with the Capitol Dome in the background, began straightening his tie, and when Johnny, referring to Sutton,said, "I don't know about that guy from Alabama next to you," Bob said, "We'll let him do the Farm Report!" Welcome back, Bob! Such good news for a good guy on a Saturday morning, and thanks to Messrs Lerner and Kasten!

Posted by: flynnie | August 2, 2008 8:41 AM | Report abuse

And Chico,
You better bring back something good. How many beat reporters get away with blowing off so many actual games?

Posted by: ohplease | August 2, 2008 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Carpenter and Sutton are terrible, although I blame Sutton largely due to his cliche-driven banter. Hard for any play-by-play guy to look good next to that.

Posted by: ohplease | August 2, 2008 8:45 AM | Report abuse

I'm a fan of Carpenter and Sutton, after watching nearly every game that I don't actually attend.

I don't watch much baseball outside the Nats, so I can't compare meaningfully, but I was sick of the constant turnover during the first few years of the telecasts. Its nice to have the same announcing team in consecutive years, and it appears they actually like each other, which I think is of immeasurable value. This is the same reason I like Slowes and Jaegler when I listen on the radio.

Posted by: Rich | August 2, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

flynnie-

I appreciate the sunny view of life, but I would rather have a better play-by-play guy than Bob Carpenter.

However, much more than that, I would like a better GM than Jim Bowden.

Posted by: Positively Half St. | August 2, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Bob Carpenter Fan Club: Last year, you, Len Shapiro and Marc Fisher spoke out strongly against the firing of Bob Carpenter. I personally love his play-by-play, and his professionalism is breath-taking as he works beside Sutton, who was behind his firing. (Don't know if I could do it.) Do you think the team should keep Bob? Do you think they will? They're supposed to let him know by August 1st.

Tom Boswell: I'm not aware of any Aug 1 deadline. I enjoy Carpenter and Sutton. They're at least MLB quality. Most important, they don't grate on my nerves and damage the game for me. They are certainly not the reason for any lack of viewers. I suggested a new mike check to Sutton recently: "Testing, testing...1, 2, 3...8,999, 9,000...Okay, Bob. We got 'em all."

Posted by: flynnie | August 2, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

So tonight will be 5 games in a row that Chico won't write the game story? A rather odd way for a new beat writer to build rapor and sources with the team being covered.

As for Carpenter, he really is awful and an embarassing embassador of the team. It's not even so much his bad play-by-play calling--like when he anticipates and gets wrong HR and DP calls--as it is the fact that the guy just will not shut up, ever. And the stuff that he says is often just idiotic. He is also careless and uninformed--like wrongly accusing Ruben Rivera of stealing Derek Jeter's glove and then having to apologize to him the next day--and knows little about baseball and its history. Then we've got the inane homerism (yes Bob, we understand that you think Austin Kearns is the greatest player ever), the ridiculous basketball analogies, and the silly speculation about the future--such as when the Nats are down by six, Carpy says something like "you know, if the Nats could just get a 3-run HR here, they would be right back in this ballgame." Or his constant predictions that WMP might "get a hold of one right here." Really awful, just awful. Chico you should tivo a couple games and watch them some time and you'll appreciate what we have to deal with.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | August 2, 2008 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Lopez, LoDuca and Estrada gone. Great - especially the malignant Lopez. Remember last year when he refused to greet the fans at the gate like his teammates? Go underperform somewhere else. The next two moves should be the departure of Debbie Taylor, interviewer sublime. Gems like: "Did you feel proud seeing Colin win his first game?" or, "How important was it for you personally to break that 0 for 21 streak?" Get rid of her and send Clint with her. On second thought, I'll take her back if they will JUST get rid of Clint, the greater of the two evils. Puhleeze!!!

Posted by: Flashy | August 2, 2008 9:03 AM | Report abuse

JayB,

Happily, I find myself more and more in agreement with you. If a good defense can save a run then it is vital in low scoring games. If I were a starting pitcher I would much rather have a lineup that will allow me to pitch to contact and have the balls in play result in outs. I could use fewer pitches per inning, go deeper into each game and have a chance to win some games as a starter. Then pitching is simplified to not giving up walks or home runs and the percentages work in your favor. I hope that the Nats stick with this concept for a while.

Posted by: Dale | August 2, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Carpy's mistake got me confused too--the player he defamed and had to apologize to was Juan Rivera. Ruben actually did steal Jeter's glove.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | August 2, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Happy Saturday Morniing, +Half St. - who would you rather be doing our play-by-play, besides the oft-repeated answer of Vin Scully, who's never leaving LA, or Jon Miller, who was fired by Angelos and is not going to work for him (he owns MASN) again. I honestly don't, while listening to Carpenter, pine for Dan Shulman (nothing against Shulman, who showed class in refusing the Nats' offer to replace Bob after Bob was fired last September), Charlie Steiner, or Joe Buck with his voice of strongest, strongest steel. Bob's been a safe target among the flamers, but I've never got it. He's first class and we're lucky to have him.

Posted by: flynnie | August 2, 2008 9:12 AM | Report abuse

New Posted then beaten by JayB and trumpted by Dale.

JayB and Dale, you two sure know your baseball!

We've waited and now we have...

NEXT YEAR!

Or at least the start. Dukes and the Keystone Kids looked great. Harris is a pro. Casto can field a ground ball but, alas his footwork on throws is terrible at 1B.

With just what we have...no imaginative trades or hopeful call ups, we can field a tremendous defensive team with one change in position.

c - Flores
1B - Guzman (Could be another Vic Power here. For those youngsters, VP was a slick fielding 1b for Cleveland who played 1b like a shortstop with outstanding range. Admittedly this is a stretch but the only one.)
2b - Boni
3b - Zim
SS - Gonzalez
LF - Dukes
CF - Harris
RF - Kearns
We're stuck with playing low scoring games for a while but thankfully I believe we have the pitching and now defense to do so.
You don't have to out hit the other guy if you make sure he doesn't outscore you.

This would be a very fast, and sure defensive team. Throw in some steals and first-to-third baserunning and we'd have a chance most nights.

This is fun to think about. Your thoughts?

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | August 2, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

"Rapor" is a very odd way to spell rapport, especially from someone that know so much.

Posted by: elementary school teacher | August 2, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Gee, CIL - Easier to mix up your Riveras than you thought, huh? Carpenter has said on many occasions that this is not a good team, that it has been a hard year, and your criticisms of anticipated calls could be directed to both Charlie and Dave this year - I've heard them. What do you think of Charlie and Dave?

Posted by: flynnie | August 2, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Flynnie, it's not easy to mix them up. I got it right when it happened--check the archives as you are wont to do and you will see that I called Carpy on this terrible gaffe as soon as it happened. And I am not a professional announcer anyway.

As to anticipated calls being wrong, I've noticed that you often defend Carpy by bringing up radio guys--you brought up Sterling the other day, and now mention Charlie and Dave. But radio and tv are simply not comparable. Radio guys need to keep talking to prevent dead air. TV guys, on the other hand, do not--they can often let the picture speak for itself. If Carpy would just shut up sometimes and let the play unfold, he wouldn't blow so many calls. But you can't do that on radio, and so you just can't defend him by saying "radio guys do it too." By the way, I like Charlie and Dave a lot.

But really, the blown calls are a small part of what makes Carpy so awful in my view, as I've said.

Oh and elementary school teacher, thanks for correcting my misspelling of one word while I'm hung over on a Saturday morning. I know my spelling and grammar on this blog are consistently awful--to the extent that matters--and I am eternally grateful to you for pointing out my mistake. Thank you.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | August 2, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

I like Carpenter and am glad to see that he'll be back for 2009.

Posted by: Ashburn | August 2, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

The value of a glove-first MI is elevated when you are breaking in a young rotation. For Balester, Lannan, and later Zimmermann, and god willing Crow and Strasburg, it'd be very valuable for their development--confidence and learning how to pitch--to have a great MI behind them. Then when those guys are settled in and we're ready to leap into contention, you can make a move for a FA or trade if you haven't developed a better SS from within. Regardless, Guzman should be treated as trade bait. His value will never be as high as it was a month ago, and it'll only go down from here. the 2-year deal makes him very tradeable. If we can't get him through waivers then in the offseason.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | August 2, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

I'm not a Bob hater, but I do hate some of the things Bob does. Specifically, calling a play early. It's unacceptable for a TV guy to do that. Bob, keep your mouth closed as the play develops, and finishes. How hard is that? You're not radio, you don't need to walk the viewers through the whole play. And don't call the play before the umpire does, OK? Two plays here that are just butchered by Bob and him calling the play early (I couldn't find any "And how far will THIS one go?" Only to have it caught 20 feet short of the fence.)
Tin Yurls:
http://tinyurl.com/66dcqr
http://tinyurl.com/6mp62t

Posted by: Section 138 | August 2, 2008 9:45 AM | Report abuse

CIL - You have one example of "Carpy's numerous errors." And the example is a mistake that you made yourself. You don't suggest who should be doing the play-by-play. Lots of anger with nowhere to go. I'm glad the team ignored you on this one.

Posted by: flynnie | August 2, 2008 9:47 AM | Report abuse

I am all positive for now.....Love the Lopez move so very much.....thin ice Flynnie....I could care less about TV guys....I just watch the game with sound off mostly but Thin Ice indeed on Bob and his calls. Again though...I do not care about TV guys....just give me the Stats I need and I am happy.

Posted by: JayB | August 2, 2008 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Flynnie, I didn't make the mistake myself. Again, check the archives, I know you know how to do it. I know the guy who plays for the Angels--and who *used to play for the Nats*--is not the guy who stole Jeter's glove. Transposing their names in the abstract is not the same thing. Since the guy used to play for this organization, you'd think that Carpy would know more about him. But then again, Carpy really does not know much about this organization even in his third year, and really doesn't seem to care to learn. He wishes he was in St. Louis.

And what are you referring to with respect to "Carpy's numerous errors"? He makse mistakes a lot, I just want to get some context here before responding, if necessary. But anyway, I thought you and I were done with the Carpenter debate?

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | August 2, 2008 10:00 AM | Report abuse

It wasn't a misspelling, it was using a word that you don't use. Rapor vs. rapport isn't even close.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Oh and elementary school teacher, thanks for correcting my misspelling of one word while I'm hung over on a Saturday morning. I know my spelling and grammar on this blog are consistently awful--to the extent that matters--and I am eternally grateful to you for pointing out my mistake. Thank you.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | August 2, 2008 9:37 AM

Posted by: So sorry, CIL | August 2, 2008 10:01 AM | Report abuse

The correct phrase is "I couldn't care less." Unless, that is, you actually DO care, which is what you're saying.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
I could care less about TV guys
Posted by: JayB | August 2, 2008 9:59 AM

Posted by: Always pick on the negative Nancys | August 2, 2008 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Funny how someone who is apparently a regular poster is so preoccupied with my spelling one word but won't post under their regular name.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | August 2, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

OPS....good catch....all good....Lopez is gone.....

Posted by: JayB | August 2, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

To JayB, Dale & slopitch63 - The concept of Guzman @1B is interesting as a stopgap, but probably not a long-term solution. Doesn't mean I wouldn't like to see Manny try it, once Guzman's thumb is o.k.

Posted by: BIM | August 2, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

UGH!!! Carpenter is back? AHHHH!!!!!!!!! I cannot stand him. Who was it that said "his professionalism is breath taking"??? Are you joking? Carpenter has become such a homer announcer it is disgusting. It's not as gross as say, Ray Knight, who regularly uses "we" "us" and "our" while talking about the team which is the exact opposite of professional, but it's pretty bad. Carpenter always has some BS spin to make the players look better, often calls things incorrectly and fills way too much time talking and talking and talking and talking. And talking. Ugh.

Posted by: Ryan | August 2, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

As for the defense up the middle. My goodness. Did anyone else find themselves gasping at that slow roller double play that Bonifacio turned? Holy lord. At the risk of sounding too much like Bob Carpenter (which from my above post you can see I disdain), I'm not sure there is another second baseman in baseball that can make the turn as quickly he did and still put that strong of a throw on the back end of it to get the runner at 1st. That my friends was a gold glove play.

Also, when you have a lineup with the speed of Gonzalez, Bonifacio, Harris, Milledge and Dukes, is there a faster lineup in baseball?

Posted by: Ryan | August 2, 2008 10:34 AM | Report abuse

I vastly preferred the chemistry between Tom Paciorek and Carpy more than Sutton. Sure, its great(?) to learn so much about hitting mechanics and pitching mechanics from Sutton, but they are not fun to listen to.

Posted by: 419E | August 2, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Oh great, Carpenter gets another excution stay!

Sorry to pour cold water on the BC FAN CLUB, but in all honesty Bob is the classic blow-dried former ESPN phonus-bolonas.

1. Never could get over BC's inablity to drop "ballpark" when ever he refered to RFK as the "ballpark". That stadium was always known as RFK, people went to RFK
to see the Senators, Redskins and then the Nats. Bob was not from here so he didn't understand the history.

2. BC's inability to judge a flyball, how many times have you heard him say, "how far is that ball going" only to see the outfielder catch the ball on the edge of the warning track.

3. BC's total lack of knowledge of DC and the DC metro, bottom line is the guy lives in Oklahoma. When you live here year round you know the likes and dislikes of your audience, its called "local flavor". Sorry but all you have to do is look at the other teams in town, most of the announcers have lived in the area for years and they know the fan base.

4. BC's man-love for WMP, the St Louis Cardinals, his refusal to call a spade a spade (the Nats don't do many things good) and his constant starting of a conversation with an answer and then turning to his girlie-haired partner for a question to substantiate his preconceived answer. BTW Sutton ain't no gem either.

5. Sorry but the Nats could have done a lot better by tapping someone from here and dumping that whole garbage MASN team, with the exception of Johnny Holliday.

Posted by: tippy canoe | August 2, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Generally Carpenter is OK but I have two major complaints.

First, he needs to show more objectivity. He treats every Nats loss like it's a win in disguise. It's not. Sometimes this season we've stunk, without serving any higher purpose. He ought to tell us so. We can take it. I mean, we all saw FLop dog out grounders, and I'd think to myself "why isn't he running that out?" -- but Bob never mentioned it. He's afraid to criticize any aspect of the team in any way, and because of that, even legitimately-earned praise becomes suspect when it comes from him.

Also, please, please, please, you don't need to fill every second of every game. TV announcing requires silence every so often. Constant blabbering destroys any sense of pacing to the game, and it's annoying.

I liked Mel Protcor better. Bring him back . . . and Wimpy too!

Posted by: On Carpy | August 2, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Let's give the new MI a couple of weeks before passing any judgement, but if last night was a taste of what's coming, I want more. SInce we've seemingly turned a page with the current ML roster, Here's what I would like to see the Nationals work on over the next two weeks...
1) Signing 2008 Draft choices
2) Start looking at Arbitration/FA-eligible players on the current staff (not that they haven't already). I personally would like to see Harris & Redding back here next year; Regarding Zimmerman, I'm hoping for a signing outside of the arbitration process (5-yr, $42M range), and would like to see the Chief agree to a 1-yr w/option, but I'm not oppomistic(sic) on that front. I'm on the fence with Ayala, Colome, Orr & Langerhans. As for the rest, meh. Thoughts from the NJ faithful?

Posted by: BIM | August 2, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I like Bob Carpenter, glad he'll be back.

I hope Don Sutton gets canned and takes his short, compact swing with him. (Cue fingernails on chalkboard.)

Posted by: nsfw | August 2, 2008 11:03 AM | Report abuse

berman? does this mean he'll be zack...zack...zack..zack...zack? lol!!

Posted by: natsscribe | August 2, 2008 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Chico:

In discussing the Nat's salary issues and budget I have never seen a mention of how much money they receive from the luxury tax paid by the Yanks/Sox. Does the printed salary you mention include these monies, or is the luxury amount not included.

If the luxury payment is subtracted from the published salary budget what is the net salary and how does this effect the bottom line.

I believe this is an important question to pose to Stan Kasten; especially when addressing free agents such as Severna Parks Mark Teixeria. The Nat's should recognize that Severna Park is as much a DC market as is Baltimores.

Signing Teixeria to a long time large contract would demonstrate to the fans there is promise and may not cost a dime if funded by the luxury tax.

Posted by: Cappy | August 2, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Obviously Gonzalez is a backup for Guzman, but didn't the entire infield look great last night? And Bonifacio will almost certainly be an offensive upgrade over Lopez, not to mention defensively. But I found this assessment by Christina Kahrl, Baseball Prospectus, to be amusing as well as presenting a contrary view to Bowden's thoughts on the subject:

"Perhaps you can take this as a sign that the Nats are valuing no-hit middle infielders in an entirely different game, one where we don't understand the stakes, or what it takes to win; I half expect Stan Kasten or Jim Bowden to call out "royal fizzbin!" Here in the simpler, more practical world, why you'd want Gonzalez on top of the decision to go get Emilio Bonifacio beggars rational explanation. Slick-fielding middle infielders are neat to watch, but players who will struggle to post .300 OBPs are not, and that's Gonzalez as well as Bonifacio. Ideally, big-league ballclubs should not be run as re-enactment societies--sure, we all want to see what Tinker to Evers to Chance looked like in the flesh, but does it really make sense to acquire the appropriate stand-ins when you play in a league where the games count?"

Posted by: tomterp | August 2, 2008 11:17 AM | Report abuse

[quote]How much has his performance been affected by the scapegoating? A lot, I think...

Sheep or not, Flip was singled out. His grand slams were minimized, his errors magnified unfairly, and it affected him. [/quote]

first, you act as if flopez read this blog and was affected by it. seriously doubt that. and it isn't like the media here drove him into the ground. the media here barely reports on the nats. it's not like he was sucking in NY or philly or boston. can't imagine how he would have reacted to that.

second, his grand slams were minimized? nope. there's a big difference between not letting one hit affect your view of the rest of a player's performance and minimizing that one hit. on the other hand, you can overplay one hit and make it far more important than it was in the overall scheme.

third, you know what his biggest faux pax for the fans was? not hustling. in the long run, you'll always have some fans if you work hard and try your best. but since he didn't do that, you, flynnie, are his only fan left around here. i'm not quite sure why you want to defend his performance, but the reality is many of us wanted to give him another chance this season and he made the least of it by not caring enough about his performance to do his best.

if you aren't willing to hustle, don't blame that on the fans who boo you for not hustling.

Posted by: 231 | August 2, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Chico - quick compliment to you and bosses while I catch up on posts. I actually like the way the post is letting you work on the occasional profile or in depth piece while the team is home and have the back up writers and interns write the game stories. We've wanted more coverage, and by bakcing you up and letting you do some non-day-to-day stuff, it looks like your boss is managing the staff that way. Kudos.

Posted by: PTBNL | August 2, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I agree with PTNL on Chico and "staff writers doing Game stories. Chico recently noted in a chat that it was not appropriate for him to give opinions.......well it would be nice to have somebody give some opinions, lots to evaluate here in that past few days......

Posted by: JayB | August 2, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

BIM,
Agree wtih your necessary actions with the emphasis on signing the draft choices.

And yes the double play turned by Boni was breathtaking.

I don't know that my preference would be for a light hitting, good pitching, good defensive team but we are closer to that than any other legitimate approach right now. We have a number of good arms on the farm that might be ready next year, but I don't see any bats that I would expect to be ready any sooner than two years from now.

Maybe we're closer than I think, if the kids are as good as they showed last night. Who knows, WMP may actually heal and hit...wouldn't that be fun, or since they are so young we might get a general improvement in hitting throughout the lineup.

However it works out, I am confident that we can anticipate seeing some major league baseball played for the rest of the year. Before yesterday I wasn't so sure.
Further I'm excited about the next NEXT YEAR

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | August 2, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I like Carpenter, he is obviously a baseball fan, and not just a "voice." He isn't perfect but I appreciate that has obviously followed the game closely for a very long time.

As far as defense up the middle, it is better to have good d and poor hitting up the middle rathe than the other way around. However, it will also be critical that they do other things, at least make contact to advance runners and not have a high strikeout rate, and steal some bases. If they do all that, the Nats are a much more solid team, the next step is to get real hitters in the corner positions.

Posted by: Cabraman | August 2, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I do not think the team can afford to play Guzman at first and the 2 glove guys up the middle as a regular line up. The runs have to come from somewhere. If the team were going to commit to 2 glove guys at SS and 2B, then the corners need to be above average producers. Guzman would go from an average offensive shortstop (by OPS measures) to a below average 1st baseman.

One thing to remember is that injuries happen, and having Gonzalez as a backup is not such a bad thing. Oh, and while I don't think Guzman was signed to a bad contract relative to the market, it does make me cringe a bit to think we have $9 million in AK and $8 in CG and we are all talking about the Alberto Gonzalez 2.0 starting and finding a way to clear out Austin.

If we are going to engage in fantasies about a good fielding infield, we are better off rooting for Nick to give us a healthy year. With that, you can probably afford Guz's defense at SS and go with:

2 - Flores
3 - Nick
4 - Boni (or AG 2.0)
5 - FoF (Face of Franchise)
6 - Guz!
7 - ED
8 - Blastings
9 - AK

Only 2 below average gloves, and Milledge gives me reasons to believe. And oh how I wish I could bat Dukes twice in the order (leadoff and behind FoF).

Posted by: PTBNL | August 2, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

@SP63: The Nationals will still need to come up with a bona-fide #4 hitter (corner OF or 1B) to be competitive in 2009 & beyond. Let's see how August plays out before we get get too amped about the current team. BTW - Did anyone else catch the radio interview between "the Chief" & Charlie/Dave last night? Boy, did Chad ever say all the right things without becoming too cliche'd. Thoughts?

Posted by: BIM | August 2, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Are Boni and AG showing us the Princeton Offense as applied to baseball? (Hat tip to "Baseball Prospectus 2008"'s discussion of the forlorn Giants.)

If so, it'll more than do for now.

Posted by: Hendo | August 2, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

"And Chico,
You better bring back something good. How many beat reporters get away with blowing off so many actual games?"

What?!? He's missing the games to write a FEATURE ON THE NATIONALS. ANd another writer is COVERING THE GAMES. Isn't this *exactly* what y'all have been clamoring for? MOre coverage? A gamer everyday + a couple weekly features and columns?

"So tonight will be 5 games in a row that Chico won't write the game story? A rather odd way for a new beat writer to build rapor and sources with the team being covered."

It might just be me, but I would think that the beat writer who's spent the whole season w/ the team, in the clubhouse, is in a much better position, vis-a-vis sources and players "opening up", to write a feature than anyone else on the post staff. But then, I'm not an editor so what do I know....

Posted by: mrm0to | August 2, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

flynnie-

I don't know who I would like to replace Carpenter, honestly. I am sure there are potentially up-and-comers, or other play-by-play guys I haven't heard on other teams (I don't see the other teams on their home broadcasts).

My disappointment is that Carpenter is back, and I would trade him for whoever they would hire next. This is disappointment, not rage or hatred. I think Carpenter is bland, and I second the comments on how he calls plays too quickly, and tries to build drama when it is miles away. I like a little homerism, myself, and he is not nearly as mind-blowing in that department as Ray Knight is when he substitutes for Sutton.

This is not the end of the world, by any means, and I am glad this satisfies some of you. I just feel the team (and evil MASN) could do better.

Keep working to keep our spirits up,though, flynnie- I honestly do appreciate it.


Posted by: Positively Half St. | August 2, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

@PTBNL: As I stated earlier, Guzman at 1B would be an interesting short-term experiment, but not a long-term solution. Hoping for Slick @1B in 2009 is only going to be good for between 60-100 games max; he's too injury prone.

Posted by: BIM | August 2, 2008 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Carpenter's a pro and we're lucky to have him. Shame on those who would blame the announcer because the team stinks. As for defense, Guzman's certainly adequate at SS and more than adequate at the plate, so I'm not worried there. Gonzalez is more likely to be a backup. And .250 would be a 20-pt improvement over FLop at second. I'd like to see Belliard keep getting some playing time, too, but I'm sure Manny will get him some ABs.

Posted by: Natsfan24 | August 2, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

As far as Carpenter is concerned bring back Mel Proctor and Tom Paciorek I thought Tom was a great anaylst kept it simple the problem with Sutton is he wants you to think he's the smartest guy in the room,Tom kept it simple and entertaining with a dash of keen knowledge and humor. In actuallity Carpenter ain't bad just needs a new sidekick. Now about the middle defense,love Flores,I want my ss to hit .270 to .280 2ndB close or the same thing with good to great defense want my CF to handle all chances flawlessly and hit close to .300 yeah I know i"m dreaming but i can dream can't i.

Posted by: DARGREGMAG@AOL.COM | August 2, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I like Bob Carpenter, it's Sutton I have a problem with. He is way too impressed with himself and always tries to one-up Bob. Plus with Sutton you only get the one-sided pitcher's view. I really prefer it when Carpenter & Ray Knight are the booth announcers. Ray Knight has so much more knowledge of the game from a player's & coach's perspective. I really love it when the 2 are together. And, if Sutton was behind Bob's demise last year then that really stinks!

Posted by: cadeck | August 2, 2008 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Carpenter's terrible. If he hadn't been a big league announcer for 20 years, he wouldn't be now. He merely has a positive attitude and some name recognition. He's technically inadequate, and to be honest he's not perceptive at all.

Posted by: Henry Mateo Fan Club | August 2, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Carpenter's a long-time pro as a play-by-play guy. I'm OK (not estatic, just ok) with that on a year-to-year basis. He could stand to better his calls by being a "just the facts" announcer on the game call, then unleash the "homer" in the post-game analysis/comments. The "Color" man in the booth needs to have a little better interplay with the lead; that's where I think Sutton falls short. He's great on pitching insights, but doesn't have a feel for the overall game play, or the "insider" view from an offensive players' perspective. Just my two cents worth.

Posted by: BIM | August 2, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

BIM, PTBNL,
I agree that more power is needed but for now - no trades, no miracle recoveries (NJ), and no hopeful call ups I'll go with the lineup I proposed and let it run for a month to see how it works. Then with the Sep call ups we can explore some different options.
Regardless, I'm excited again...aren't you?

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | August 2, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

"Just got home and I tell ya, there was a buzz tonight at the ballpark. It was like Nats Park had been fumigated..."

leetee1955, that's not just your imagination -- they always have to fumigate after the Filly fans clear out.

Posted by: joebleux | August 2, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Carp and Sutton are fine as the announcers, but for the love of god get rid of Debbi Taylor. I also like the "tell it how it is approach" of Ray Knight on NatsXtra and his occasional fill-ins.

Posted by: Nats703 | August 2, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

No opinion on Carpenter, as I don't get cable, but the hating is starting to get on my nerves. Panglossian boosterism doesn't inform or educate, but it's harmless. Relentless negativity just eats away at everything. Yeah, I can ignore that, too, but it's elevator music vs. fingers on a chalkboard -- gotta go with the muzak there.

Interesting idea to move Guzzie to first. I agree, with a defensive MI I'd like more power from a corner infielder, and he's no Bingo Banks, but interesting.
Probably not necessary, though, since they obviously need several infielders to get through a season. There's a whole DL roster to stock, too, yanno.

Now, $20M+ for Texiera could be interesting, but that might also put a whole lot of pressure on him to produce--is he the kind of guy who, like Soriano, would thrive in that? I dunno. Would that piss off the FOTF 3b? Might very well. They'd have to do right by Zimmerman if they did sign a big-contract FA.

Posted by: CE | August 2, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Bob Carpenter is by far the worst pbp man in all of sports. He constantly harps on the little things, has his favorites and speaks his mind too much to be considered a play-by-play man. He thinks everything he says is funny, he always brings up the obvious and just doesn't ever shut up. I like Sutton and as annoying of a voice and as public assess cable reporter that she is, debbi taylor is still better than carpenter.

we need a new hitting coach, new GM and new play by play man.

Posted by: dagger | August 2, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't expect to see any more opinions about the Nats in the pages of the Post until the beginning of September at the earliest. Boz, the only columnist who pays attention to the Nats at all, is either already in Beijing or he'll be there soon after making a pit-stop in Canton. Plus he basically said in his last chat that the Nats are bad and not worth writing columns about this season.

So is the Post part of the rabid DC media horde that made Felipe despondent and rode him out of town? Please.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | August 2, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Look, our lineup isn't going to strike fear into the opposition with the guys now on the squad or anyone in the near-term pipeline.

So let's play with what we have. Focus on fundamentals, strong defense, patience at the plate, smart base running, singles rather than homers. Small ball.

That means Kearns won't fit as he can't get on base dependably. Find someone who can. The new guys need to get on base by any means necessary -- bunt-for-hits if you have to. And we need a healthy NJ in the line-up next year too.

Might not win a pennant like that, but we sure won't lose 100+ next year too.

Posted by: Play like it's RFK! | August 2, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Carpenter and Sutton seem fine to me. They get the job done. Perhaps if Carpenter knows he's coming back he will get to know DC better. My concern is over whether the Lerners will sign any FA's in the offseason. The Lerners may be too shocked by the money they spent and lost on Lo Duca, Lopez, Estrada and Mackowiak to want to spend money. The team we are seeing now may be the team in April of 2009 with another retread pitcher thrown in.

Posted by: Count Demoney | August 2, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

CIL - Have you seen the air in Beijing? How do you put elite athletes in that Dickensian smog? You can't see the stars from the Forbidden City at 5 am. Everyone I know comes back from there needing Cipro for the "black cough" and other things. I hope Boz is chewing two Pepto Bismol tablets before eating or drinking anything. I'd rather play golf being stalked by a black bear in Col. Springs than go to Beijing. Barry will long for NatsPark, and so will Boz.

Posted by: flynnie | August 2, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I hear you, flynnie. Unfortunately, I think that this Olympics might be the disaster of an event that they somehow amazingly avoided in Athens. It sure would be nice to see Barry come back to Nats Park some time and team up with Chico a little bit for some really good coverage...maybe next year.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | August 2, 2008 1:51 PM | Report abuse

My middle daughter is about to go to France for a year on a Fulbright. She also was awarded a Chateuabriand Fellowship by the French Government. She leaves in two weeks, and we're going to the game tonight. One of her students in anthropology at Rutgers (as Vin Scully said of Jason Bergmann: "a Red Knight of the Raritan") wrote this in his evaluation, which expresses my sentiments to you: "She is a good teacher. Sometimes I am a jackass but it is just who I am and I got the feeling she takes things to heart too much. She taught me how to write a good paper."

Posted by: flynnie | August 2, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Hear, hear, CIL - I could care less about this showcase of, to quote Meg Greenfield, "an arrogant and driven regime" in the smog, just because they crossed the IOC's palm with gold they got from being Our Nation's Creditor. Even The Economist says these Olympics are a bad idea becasue they are firing up Chinese nationalism. Speaking of Athens, though, I was in Brest, France visiting my oldest daughter and the grandkids. I saw this gal riding a bike through a driving rainstorm off the Bay of Biscay, and said, "Who is that?" "Oh, that's my friend Faustina from the wind-surfing club. She's always going to windsurf in weather like this. Faustina Maret. She won the gold medal in Athens."

Posted by: flynnie | August 2, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

sounds like she's your daughter, alright, flynnie... ;)

Posted by: 231 | August 2, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Obviously Gonzalez is a backup for Guzman, but didn't the entire infield look great last night? And Bonifacio will almost certainly be an offensive upgrade over Lopez, not to mention defensively. But I found this assessment by Christina Kahrl, Baseball Prospectus, to be amusing as well as presenting a contrary view to Bowden's thoughts on the subject:

"Perhaps you can take this as a sign that the Nats are valuing no-hit middle infielders in an entirely different game, one where we don't understand the stakes, or what it takes to win; I half expect Stan Kasten or Jim Bowden to call out "royal fizzbin!" Here in the simpler, more practical world, why you'd want Gonzalez on top of the decision to go get Emilio Bonifacio beggars rational explanation. Slick-fielding middle infielders are neat to watch, but players who will struggle to post .300 OBPs are not, and that's Gonzalez as well as Bonifacio. Ideally, big-league ballclubs should not be run as re-enactment societies--sure, we all want to see what Tinker to Evers to Chance looked like in the flesh, but does it really make sense to acquire the appropriate stand-ins when you play in a league where the games count?"

Posted by: tomterp | August 2, 2008 11:17 AM

I found the quote by Christina Kahrl to be illogical, shallow and unstubstantiated. First of all, Bonificio will get on base at least as much as Lopez and when he does get on he will steal at a much higher percentage than Lopez's 5 for 9. Gonzales' stats are basically unknown at the major league level but Guzmans' OBP is .333 so the bar is not set that high. Second, didn't Tinker/Evers/Chance anchor about 4 World Series Chicago teams? I guess those games did not count, Miss Kahrl. But like all of us she too is welcome to her opinion, but unfortunately I guess she gets paid for her's.

Posted by: Dale | August 2, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Hi, Dale -

Let's not forget Willie Harris. He made a spectacular play at 3rd, and then followed it with a spectacular Harris to Gonzalez to Bonifacio double play. MASN swung right to Zimmerman in the dugout. I have never seen him looking so miserable.

Posted by: flynnie | August 2, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

My baby daughter just came back from assisting at a childbirth and saw that spectacular stop at 3rd. "Daddy, I didn't know Willie Harris played third!"
"Neither did I, darlin', neither did I!"

Posted by: flynnie | August 2, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

SP63, BIM, CE - I can see your point for this year, but frankly, I'd want to see what Casto and Belliard can do over at 1st. If Casto can hit major league pitching, he becomes a valuable, major league minimum bench guy. Belliard's contract is not unreasonable, so there might be a chance you can move him in August or the off-season. But I sort of agree with you that the offense you pick up playing Casto or Belli over AG 2.0 or Boni is probably going to gain you fewer runs than the defensive set up you suggest will save.

Flynnie - when you said her friend Faustina, I'm glad she was on a windsurfer and not a bike (as is all of France).

Posted by: PTBNL | August 2, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Yep, Willie made playing third look kind of easy last night.

I was pleasantly surprised that we got through the trading deadline without losing Harris, Hanrahan, Lannan, Bergmann or Redding, all of whom will have important roles next year.

Posted by: Dale | August 2, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

@SP63: The FO might throw a 5-yr, $90M+ offer at Texiera(sp?)in the off-season, just to say they had their hat in the ring, but unless Stan targets him, that isn't going to happen. I (much like you) would like to see RZim get a decent market contract (5-yr, $42M?) to lock him up & clear arbritration. I still think I'd rather see LMillz in CF, and keep "Wonder Willie" as the UTIL for 2009.

Posted by: BIM | August 2, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

New post, line-ups very early today...

Posted by: estuartj | August 2, 2008 3:17 PM | Report abuse

BIM - Willie's hit 8 home runs this year coming off the bench when coming into this year he had a total of 7 in his entire career. He is one of those players who Bill James says are the exception to the rule. They "get it" at age 30. He deserves to play regularly and see where that .250 batting would do.

Posted by: flynnie | August 2, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

A comment or two from wherever even though I bailed on this blog weeks ago.

1. The Post (print edition) is losing millions, according to its own story today. Circulation is dropping like the sunglasses you accidentally dropped overboard in the Potomac. So whatever criticism there is of the Post's Nats coverage may well be justified in terms of not pleasing metro area residents. The circulation drop also helps to explain the daily over-the-top Redskins coverage--sort of a Hail Mary pass by management in an attempt--apparently unsuccessful--to stop the circulation hemorrhage. Now they are betting massive Beijing coverage will help, not recognizing many people see the Olympics as an over-hyped relic out of the 50s, i.e., another loser.

2. I watch the Nats games a lot, but I always turn down the audio and listen to Slowes and Jaegeler (sp?). Carpenter's sing-song delivery reminds me of nothing less than an incompetent Junior High School biology teacher I once had. I cannot comment on the content. As to Sutton, he's a pal of Kasten's. Enough said. Hey if your viewership is 9,000 and holding, what's to worry?

3. The two young infielders certainly added energy and competence on the field and on the bases last night. Gonzalez' arm is awesome. The Nats still are a AAA team at best, but now they can be interesting to watch. How does Harris do it, playing positions all over the field and playing well? I've never seen anything like it. I'm not optimistic about Zimmerman getting right (next year?) or about the Nats having a realistic chance to find a reliable first baseman.

4. Anyone driven by the new Chinese embassy? Talk about living large . . .

Posted by: JohnR(VA) | August 2, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

If you can stand one more opinion on the announcers. Sutton is pretty arrogant and full of himself. He also loves all things Braves and drools all over himself when we are playing them. Carpy is a good enough guy - I think some of us are starting to find his early calls and please-don't-say- that, you'll-jinx- it , moments endearing. BUT -- the thing they both need to fix immediately is that when they are talking about something or doing an interview in the booth and they don't STOP when a good play starts to unfold. They just TALK RIGHT THROUGH IT - does this make anyone else nuts????

Posted by: viewer#5,238 | August 2, 2008 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Bob Carpenter speaks as if he is talking to an audience of 7-year olds. I cannot believe he is being brought back. Not a game has gone by this year where I didn't lament the loss of Mel Proctor and his intelligent and thoughtful comments and analysis. I find myself less inclined to watch these Nats when I must listen to Carpenter's childish announcing. Ray Knight, though a homer, tells it like it is with great flare & humor.

Posted by: Columbia Guy | August 2, 2008 6:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm and old Senators II fan. My big brother is an old Senators I and II fan. We now both enjoy the Nats. We just went to the beach for 2 weeks and luckily had MASN in North Carolina. We talked about Carpenter and Sutton and how a large portion of Nats Nation do not care for Carpenter. With no dog in this fight, we came to the conclusion that Carpenter is quite capable of play by play for TV and his knowledge of the game is as good as anyone else. He's not Jon Miller, but he does OK. As for Sutton, we thought he was a little disconnected from team. He does a fine job, but it would be nice to have a DC guy in there. Just my opinion for what it's worth. We were thinking that the perfect duo could be Carpy and Killer Killebrew.

Posted by: 6th and D | August 2, 2008 6:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm pleased Carpenter was renewed. He and Sutton do it well. Nobody would miss Debbie and her inane interviews.

Posted by: Sandhills Native | August 2, 2008 7:16 PM | Report abuse

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