Monday, July 16, 2007

Oleanders and Morning Glories

Another Outfielder! Great!

Alex Escobar is pencilled in as the Nats new Left Fielder!   As the Nats 1,000,000th outfielder used since moving to DC, he’ll win a washer/dryer, a home version of the Nats, and….a BRAND NEW CAR!   (god I miss you already Bob).   Actually that’s a bit of an overstatement.  The number for 2007 is at 9.  If you think that’s a lot the Nats used 13 guys in the OF in 2005, and 17 in 2006, so I guess they are making progress.   

Just for fun the complete list of all 30 guys to patrol the OF in the past 2 1/2 years:  Anderson, Blanco, Byrd, Casto, Castro, Cepicky, Chavez, Church, Davis, Escobar, Fick,Guillen, Hammonds, Jackson, Kearns, Kelly, Langerhans, Logan,  Lombard, Mateo, Matos, Restovich, Sledge, Snelling, Soriano, Vento, Ward, Watson, Wilkerson, Wilson,

The good news is Ryan Church is moving to center, ending the Langerhans/Logan “experiment” (It was as much an “experiment” as testing if dynamite is a good way to remove plaque from your teeth.)  The bad news is IT’S ANOTHER FREAKIN’ OUTFIELDER.   

You guys know how I feel abut the Nats rotating outfield.  Escobar has the benefit of being the guy a lot of fans have waited for, thanks to a quasi-impressive outing last year.   But he’s also a 28 yr old who makes Nick Johnson look like a Robot Cal Ripken and given any extended time has not shown hismelf to be anything better than average in the major leagues.  Is he better than using Logan/Langerhans? Probably so. Is he going to get more than 10-15 games to prove it?   Probably not.      

So the real question remains who is the next OF to get a starting shot and when?   I’m saying Brandon Watson on July 31st.   (Note: I wish Escobar all the luck in the world and I hope he gets regular playing time until the end of August to show what he has.  However, I consider this such an unlikely scenario given that in the history of the Nationals no OF has gotten more than 14 pitches before a decision is made on his usability or not.  Thus my defeatist attitude)

The Nats begin the second half with a 3 game swing at Florida, followed up with 3 at home versus Houston, and 4 more versus Colorado.   Expectations:   The Florida series is probably the “biggest” one.   If the Nats want to stay out of the NL East basement this year, they need to win the series, but I just don’t see it happening. The Nats can’t expect to win a series on the road to a decent team and Florida is just barely that so 1-2 is a good bet.  Houston has been horrible but a sweep is always a lot to ask for so 2-1 there.   The Rockies are decent this year but at home the Nats shouldn’t lose the series 2-2.   Another 5-5 goal I see.  Anything from 4-6 to 6-4 should be in range with the Nats current talent.  

Might I add, No Fat Firstbasemen

Tomorrow begins the nominal second half of the season and there is one question on every Nats fans mind.   When the hell are they going to trade Dmitri Young?  

This is something gone over by wits far more rapierier than my own, but the growing “Keep Dmitri!” push is a bit crazy.    (Of course if you are talking crazy. that must mean you are talking Tom Boswell.)  The underlying belief with keeping Dmitri is that if (or more likely ‘when’) Dmitri leaves at the end of the year, the Nats will still get draft picks and draft picks are as good as minor leaguers.   HA!   Poppycock, I say! 

It’s a simple formula really.   Once you get past the first round of draft picks (and one could really argue once you get past the first HANDFUL of draft picks):

Good Draft Picks < Good Minor Leaguers < Good Major Leaguers.

Now, by this I only mean that the percent of uncertainty in performance goes down the closer the last league the player proved himself is to the major leagues.  A guy who did well in the major leagues is (duh) likely to do well in the major leagues the following year.   A guy who played at the same relative level in the minors has less of a chance to perform that well in the majors.  And a guy who played at that level in college or high school…well it’s a crapshoot really. 

For example it’s 2004

Greg Golson (first OF chosen in draft) < Matt Murton (hyped Cub farmhand) < Raul lbanez

This is real general so plenty of coutnerexamples exist I’m sure, but the idea is sound.  A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush leagues so to speak.

Of course since this is just dealing with the next few years of play on the field (all you can reasonably extrapolate to) there are plenty of other things that come into play looking beyond that .   Contract costs, when you want to compete, whether you need to restock the minors or the majors…  For the Nats specifically, grabbing a major leaguer doesn’t make much sense unless he’s pretty young, because the Nats aren’t aiming to compete in 2008 (or probably ‘09 either) , so despite the major leaguer being the better bet at performing well, you’d rather they go after the minor leaguer.

This is all just a rambling way of saying that the Nats are better off trading Dmitri for minor leaguers with some sort of track record than relying on draft picks.   Three months more of Dmitri is either assuring you of (1) resigning a guy who is playing over his head, is older and not in great shape.  (2) A draft pick which would almost certainly have less a chance at succeeding than a solid minor leauger.  We don’t know if any solid minor leaguers are being offered, but you have to assume something is.  Plus the picks from Dmitri are going to be at best in between the first and the second round, since he’s going to be no better than a Type B free agent.   These aren’t like the first round+ picks the Nats got for Soriano. 

Trade Dmitri.  Do it.  Don’t fall in love with the idea of draft picks saving this franchise all by themselves.  Don’t let this be the first time you try to please the fans in regards to the 2007 season.  

Two outs, Bottom of the Ninth…

Yes, for all you early sleepers, you missed out on your chance to see Da Meat Hook in action.   Pinch-hitting with two outs in the bottom of the ninth Dmitri Young absolutely smoked a single to right that started a rally propelling the NL to its first victory in years!   Celebrate!   Holiday!   Woo…. wait what?

Oh yeah, that’s not really what happened (as you probably know, unless you happen to use OMG as your sole source of sports information, which is of course exactly what you should do).   Dmitri did get up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, rewarding us that don’t sleep.  But he didn’t smoke anything, he hit a multi-hopper ball into the first base hole that Brian Roberts couldn’t handle.   In a normal game, Roberts still might have recovered and thrown Dmitri out, but Roberts gave up on the ball with a smile, and Dmitri was slightly generously awarded a base hit.  The next batter, the Nats ol’ friend Alfonso Soriano, promptly homered to right and put the NL within one, and then the NL loaded the bases with walks against JJ Putz and K-Rod (I warned my friends that the AL shouldn’t trust “Flavor of the Month” closers regardless of how awesome they have been. ).  They still came up short though, Aaron Rowand (another “First-Half All-Star”, ie a guy playing beyond his expectations), flew out to end the game .  Another year another loss.  I guess the NL just doesn’t care like the AL does.

Overall I’ll probably repeat what you heard elsewhere.  (1) Game started way too late.  (8:54 by my counts)  (2) The game itself moved along nicely (3) Ichiro and Jose Reyes were the stars.  (4) This was a good game for cliche users.   Why point #4?   Because “That’s the way the ball bounces” has hardly been more appropriate.  Several funny bounces or misplayed balls led to hits.   That Jose “Dominican Fats” Reyes double was the coolest, while obviously the inside the parker on poor Ken Griffey Jr was the most important. 

A fun game to watch, but it would have been better if they got it started 45 minutes earlier. I’m not one of these “Who cares about the West Coast!  Won’t somebody please think of the children (and old people) and start these games at 7:00!” fanatics.  I’m fine with 8:00 games.  But that’s 8:00, not 9:00.   This game could have gone on well past midnight.   They got luicky this year.  Eventually they won’t.

The Nats actually have an extra-day off,  so It’ll be Friday before games start for the DC squad.  Seems like forever doesn’t it? 

Goodbye, whats your name.

Since I got nothing else on my mind right now, what the hell does this title mean? (If it’s no longer there in the morning, it says “It’s a Ruby Tuesday for rejuvinated Young”) The article itself is the fluffiest of fluff pieces, ranking somewhere between freshly purchased towels but below a bathtub full of baby chicks, but whatever. It’s not MLB’s job to talk about the players problems (God, was anyone else wishing that Jim Gray would run out, knock over Peter Gammons, and scream at Barry “Admit! Dammit, Admit! America’s watching!” something to shake things up) The title though, it doesn’t make any sense. I understand the complicated thought process to put something like that together.

“It’s a Tuesday”
“Rubies are nice”
“I’ve heard the phrase Ruby Tuesday”

But the song wasn’t referencing a day was it? Was it even a happy song? I tried to see if Ruby Tuesday was slang for something but trust me do not go looking it up in the urban dicitionary. (Ok fine but I warned you - sure apply it to the title and it’s funny in a sick way but still you are better off not looking it up).

It’s kind of like how they cut off “Fortunate Son” in that jeans commercial after Some people are born, made to raise the flag, oooh the Red White and Blue “Hmmm, yes some people are made to raise the flag. Like me in these jeans! USA! USA!” Or using Lust for Life in the Carnival cruise line commercials. “I have a Lust for Life, just like in the song! Let’s go to the buffet then play shuffleboard!” I know everything is open to interpretation but still.

What does this have to do with baseball? I’m not sure, but I think it’s more than watching Jimmy Kimmel play softball.

On the sunny side: Enjoy the game tonight, everyone. I really do like the All-Star game. It may be long and commercialized just like the HR Derby but it’s baseball with the best players in the game giving it 90%. All in their different uniforms. It’s fun. I love the one player per team rule, and I’ll be patiently waiting to see Dmitri pinch hit some time in the 8th inning. Hopefully he’ll stroke a HR so Bowden can start asking for Hanley Ramirez straight up in a deal.

Go AL! (That’s right AL!)


Jean-Pierre Allard

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Anthony Amobi

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Harper Gordek

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July 2007
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