Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Nats fans dressed as empty seats

The paid attendance last night for the Nationals' not-so-marquee matchup with the Cincinnati Reds was just 19,264, the lowest at RFK Stadium since the team moved from Montreal.

The Washington Post made small mention of the attendance (although it was highly placed in both the article and the article summary), and I saw it and scurried over to my blog, fully prepared to write a scathing article about how I knew this would happen and how Washingtonians don't support any team not named "Redskins" unless the owner is personally offering every ticket purchaser a money back guarantee that the team will at least make a championship appearance that year.

But then I paused, thought about it, and came up with a few reasons why that would make me a raging hypocrite.

First, I would have to excuse the Orioles for their attendance woes. Birds fans must have missed the memo about the season starting, because they've fallen below 20,000 several times, including breaking a record for lowest attendance at Camden Yards with a paltry 13,000+ in the third game of the year. (Granted, that was against the Devil Rays in a cripple-fight of perennial AL East cellar dwellers.)

Now, I could have said, "Look, the O's have been mismanaged and fans have every right to be angry and not buy tickets." But no one can claim mismanagement like the Nats. NO ONE. Major League Baseball is absolutely running that team into the ground, and Jim Bowden is drinking-and-driving them straight into last place. (Come on. You didn't think I was going to let THAT get away, did you?)

If anyone has a right to stay away in protest of their situation, it's the Nationals fans. Sure, O's fans can piss and moan about Peter Angelos, but Nats fans DON'T EVEN HAVE AN OWNER TO BE MAD AT! (Parentheses!)


So here's some excuses as to why you aren't going to any Nationals games:
  • Futility. The Natspos have made ONE playoff appearance in their 37 years in existence.

  • More futility. The Curly W's have won only one of their six home games to this point in 2006. Do the math. If you go tonight, there's only a 16.66666667 percent chance you're going to see a win.

  • Location. Have you been to RFK Stadium? Neither have I. I keep getting mugged or assaulted between the Metro stop and the entrance. I hear it's a complete dump, though.

  • Protest. Every time you buy a ticket or a hot dog or a foam finger, you're giving money to every other owner in Major League Baseball. Steinbrenner, Angelos, Selig... Inexcusable.

  • Fear. It's annoying having to rush to the exit before last call for alcohol at the end of the seventh inning, but if you don't, you run the risk of navigating through the parking lot with a crazy drunken Jim Bowden weaving about. And even if you get out before he gets to his car, there's no guarantee his wife won't be hiding behind a light post ready to pounce and claw your face.

So why would you go at all? Well, you certainly aren't getting any games on TV because Comcast and Peter Angelos are screwing you simultaneously. And what else are you going to do? Listen to the games on the radio? This isn't 1940. Get serious.

Look at it on the bright side. The Nats are coming from Montreal, where they would have KILLED for 19,264 fans in the seats.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

ESPN.com's Page 2 gets it wrong

I don't usually like to do posts on "Johnny Columnist is a big mean dummy" or "Tommy Editor needs to get his head out of his ass," because those kind of posts aren't usually very funny, but this big mean dummy on ESPN.com who needs to get his head out of his ass really riled me yesterday.

With the lowly Los Angeles Clippers making the NBA Playoffs and the devil waxing his curling stones, ESPN.com's Page 2 decided that it was time for the Clippahs to pass down the crown for "The Worst Franchise in Sports."

Their nominees seem pretty reasonable. The Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Lions, Golden Sate Warriors, Kansas City Royals, New York Knicks, Pittsburgh Pirates and Portland Trail Blazers all have pretty strong arguments for the title. But one of our local teams undeservingly made the list: The Baltimore Orioles.

I already did some griping about this over at Camden Chat, and the O's faithful there make some good points.

If you're going to pick a local team to mention with the likes of the above list, you'd have to go with the maligned hockey franchise. The Caps' finest moment was making the Cup finals in 1998, and their low moments have been too many to count. I love the Caps, but they've had a rough run since forming as an expansion Franchise in 1974. In their first season they set the NHL record for futility, going 8-67-5. The Caps didn't make the playoffs until 1983. They then went on a 14-season run of playoff appearances (and playoff chokes), but since making the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998 they've only made the playoffs three times, losing in the first round each time. But I'm tired of crapping on the Caps. I love the Caps and there's reason for optimism with Ovechkin, Kolzig and a bunch of young talent.

Actually, I wouldn't have been nearly as up-in-arms about putting the Nationals on that list instead of the Orioles, but more on that later...

The Orioles have won three World Series titles and six American League Pennants, and even in the eight years since they last made the playoffs the Devil Rays have finished lower in the AL East standings EVERY YEAR. The O's aren't even the most-deserving AL East team to be on the list.

I wouldn't have so much of a problem with the inclusion of the Orioles, but Graham Hays' piece on the topic stretches it a little too far for my liking, and some of the statements are just completely blind to the entirety of the situations. (Read: Hey Graham, get your head out of your ass... dummy.)

So let's break it down, shall we?

"Until and unless recent first-round picks Adam Loewen and Nick Markakis pan out, the best the Orioles have done in the opening round of the draft during Angelos' tenure is Jayson Werth -- who never played a game for Baltimore before being traded to Toronto for forgettable pitcher John Bale."

Well, first of all, Jayson Werth kinda sucked when he was in the O's system, and he still isn't so good. And that's the nature of the draft. First rounders don't always pan out, and using that as the barometer for the entire farm system is ridiculous. The Orioles have developed some good talent in Erik Bedard, Brian Roberts, Daniel Cabrera and Chris Ray.

Moving along:
"The Orioles paid:
Scott Erickson more than $7 million to sit out the 2003 season (after posting a 5.55 ERA for a paltry $5.1 million the previous season)."

This is a half-true. He got $7 million when he was hurt the whole season, but it's not like he had that awful 2002 and then the Orioles said, "Hey Scotty, we still have faith in you. Here's $7 million. And duck this time when your girlfriend picks up that lamp." 2003 was the fifth year of a five-year deal, and it was the kind of backloaded contract that every team gives talented players. If the player gets hurt, you end up paying them to sit. It happens all the time.

"Sammy Sosa $17 million to hit 14 home runs in 2005 and apparently speak far less English than he did during his days as a media darling with the Cubs in 1998."

That's just not true. The Cubs took on about half of that contract, and at the time that deal was widely viewed as a steal.

"And we haven't even gotten to the Faustian bargain that was Rafael Palmeiro at just $3 million for the 2005 season."

Faustian, eh? If you're going to use overdone allusions, at least use them correctly. The O's had no way of knowing he was using the 'roids when they signed him, and I'm pretty sure in the story Faust knew he was making a deal with the devil. That was kind of the whole point.

"The Orioles make the Nationals, a team still under the control of MLB, look like a model of efficiency and optimism. And if you can make Bud Selig look good, you must be doing something wrong."

Whoa whoa whoa... I know there's a lot of optimism because the Nats are the new team in town, but let's not get carried away. The Nats are run like the department store bargain basement for Major League Baseball. Until they get a new owner, they'll just be a way for the rest of the league's owners to squeeze out whatever cash they can get for the leftovers. What have the Expos/Nats done in their entire existence as a franchise? In 37 seasons they've made ONE playoff appearance. Sure, they went .500 last year. Congrats... Good enough for last place.

The Nats should avoid the list simply because they're at the mercy of Major League Baseball, who is running the team into the ground. The Orioles, on the other hand, should avoid the list because they've won in the past.

There's a difference between a traditionally good franchise in a down spell and a truly terrible franchise that's not going anywhere.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Official scorer to Brower: "You are what the Spaniards would call 'el terriblé'"

Orioles reliever Jim Brower has no business on a Major League roster, and last night he was essentially told as much by the Tampa Bay official scorer.

In last night's as-thrilling-as-a-mid-April-game-can-be comeback win over the Devil Rays, Orioles reliever Jim Brower came on with two outs in the eighth inning with Jorge Cantu on second and the O's trailing 4-3, and he promptly gave up a run-scoring single to Jonny Gomes. Then the single best catcher in the history of the game (we don't do hyperbole here), Ramon Hernandez, gunned down Gomes trying to steal second to end the inning.

The run was charged to Chen, so Brower's line read 0.1 innings, 1 hit, 0 earned runs. (Sadly, this dropped his ERA from 11.81 to 11.12.) And he was the pitcher of record when Melvin Mora crushed all the Devil Rays' hopes and dreams with a two-out two-run homer in the top of the ninth to give the O's a 6-5 lead. So he should get the win, right?


And why not? Because he sucked.

Seriously. That's the rule. He sucked, so he didn't get the win. Maybe that's not how it's written in the rule book, but that's the abridged version for sure.

The official scorer enacted Rule 10.19c(4), which states: "Do not credit a victory to a relief pitcher who is ineffective in a brief appearance."

So the win goes to Chris Ray because he came in and pitched a three-up, three-down ninth inning, for which he normally would have been awarded a save.

What does that say about Brower? B.J. Ryan got a win in 2003 without ever throwing a pitch! He came in with two outs, picked off a runner, and the O's got the game winning run the next inning. Brower at least threw pitches. The difference is that B.J. was nails, and Brower sucks donkeys. His best outing of the season was one in which he didn't do anything to get the one out he got and the run he gave up was tacked onto someone else's ERA. THAT's how bad he sucks.

The real victim here isn't Brower, though, it's the charity that gets $1,000 every time an Orioles pitcher records a save. No save for Ray, no charity moneys. That Tampa scorer is a heartless bastard, I tell ya.

But it is nice to know that baseball has a very official rule for "you suck."

  • Big ups to Alex Ovechkin for netting his 50th goal with a one-time slapshot in the first period last night against Atlanta. He's only the second rookie to score 50 goals and 100 points in the same season. And he's the first hockey player ever to be given "big ups" for an accomplishment.

  • George Mason (yeah I said I wouldn't talk about them anymore) big man Jai Lewis is looking at the NFL as "plan A." Apparently teams are interested. Someone please explain to me how performing well in the NCAA basketball tournament translated to NFL interest.

*"El terriblé" quote stolen from Family Guy. But you knew that.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A message to Terps fans, courtesy of the Little Red Hen

Congratulations are definitely in order to coach Brenda Frese and the Maryland women's basketball team for winning the Terps' first ever Women's NCAA Championship. What makes it especially sweet was that they handed Duke a soul-crushing overtime loss after the Blue Devils led by 13 in the second half.

After the win, the students took to the streets of College Park as they so love to do, but haven't had anything worth celebrating in the past couple years (sorry ... the soccer championshp doesn't count). Some in the media chastised Maryland students for once again showing how much they love to run around and break things. Others scoffed at the fact that the students would riot for women's basketball. What has me befuddled is this:

Where were these rioters in 2004 when the team went 10-18 in Brenda Frese's first season as the Terps coach?

Not at Comcast Center watching games, that's for sure. The athletic department actually started holding drawings at the games, giving away X-Boxes and (get this) men's basketball tickets to persuade people to come. It was very strange. There's something unsettling about going to a game one week and being one of six students in the crowd, then coming back a week later and sitting in a group with a few hundred kids just there for a shot at a free X-Box.

As for the rioting, I generally don't have a problem with the students running around Route 1 in an intoxicated stupor to celebrate big victories, but I don't think you should be allowed to suddenly declare your fanhood the day of the championship just so you can have an excuse to drink heavily and wreak havok on the College Park storefronts.

What should make a celebration like that so sweet isn't just a recognition of the victory, it's also a ceremonial erasing of the memories of past suffering. But I'd be willing to guarantee that most of the students who crowded the streets Tuesday night have no such memories of women's basketball to erase. How many of those students actually know that Duke was 8-0 against Maryland under Brenda Frese before the Terps knocked the Blue Devils out of the ACC Tournament this year?

What really made students erupt with emotion after the 2002 men's basketball championship was that everyone remembered how crappy they felt the previous year after the Final Four game when the Terps led Duke by 22 in the first half only to lose by 11.

You should be celebrating in recognition of the hard work over the years that led up to the championship, not the afternoon you spent drinking leading up to tip-off.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Time for the annual tradition: Missing Opening Day because you're stuck at work

That's right. Everyone talks about the tradition of skipping work to go to the ballpark for Opening Day, or even skipping work just to watch opening day on TV.

Sorry, that's not reality.

America, the land where baseball is the national pastime, where people grow up knowing there's nothing quite like a hot dog and a pretzel at the ballpark, and where people love nothing better than to shirk away the work day... is also the land of the stickler boss who won't let you dip out early, and the land of being anal retentive about every last minute of available leave, clutching it until the death throes of your career have you being pushed out the door to retirement.

Besides, I'm guessing a lot more people now skip work to watch the first Thursday and Friday of the NCAA Tournament than to watch Opening Day. Hmm... skip work to see the first in a long and seemingly never-breaking string of 162 nine-inning games, or skip work to see a highly-seeded college -- potentially a highly-seeded college that you hate -- get beat at the buzzer by Podunk Athletic Association champion Western Ozark Hicktown State?

But don't get me wrong, I looove baseball, and I'm completely bitter about the fact that I'll be sitting in my office staring at my computer screen while the Orioles and Nationals bring baseball back to the area for the first time in five months. So just when you thought this post was going to be funny, here's a quick Orioles and Nationals season preview!

The Nationals open year two of the "forgetting Montreal" process today at 1:10 p.m. at Shea Stadium in Queens, where they will face the New York Mets.

The lineup:

1. Brandon Watson, CF
2. Jose Vidro, 2B
3. Nick Johnson, 1B
4. Jose Guillen, RF
5. Alfonso Soriano, LF
6. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
7. Royce Clayton, SS
8. Brian Schneider, C
9. Livan Hernandez, P

(Cristian Guzman should replace Royce Clayton once he gets healthy.)

The rotation looks like this:

Livan Hernandez, RHP
John Patterson, RHP
Ramon Ortiz, RHP
Tony Armas Jr., RHP
Pedro Astacio, RHP

The real problem with the Nationals is that, beyond several pretty good players in both the lineup and the rotation, both are pretty average compared to other teams. The good news is that they have a good core with Hernandez and Patterson in the rotation, Johnson, Guillen, Soriano and Zimmerman in the batting order and Chad Cordero closing games. If they ever get an owner and a real general manager (sorry, Jim Bowden does NOT count), they may actually get to keep some of these good players and build around them. So the playoffs aren't likely this year (although the NL East seems pretty wide open), but the future does look bright if Major League Baseball can get their act together.

ESPN's Nationals Preview.

The O's get started at 3:05 this afternoon at Camden Yards, where they will take on their AL East cellar-rivals, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The lineup will be:
1. Brian Roberts, 2B
2. Luis Matos, CF
3. Melvin Mora, 3B
4. Miguel Tejada, SS
5. Jay Gibbons, RF
6. Kevin Millar, 1B
7. Jeff Conine, LF
8. Javy Lopez, DH
9. Ramon Hernandez, C
SP: Rodrigo Lopez

(But I don't really think this is representative of what we'll see all year because Nick Markakis is probably going to get most of the at-bats in left field and Matos and Corey Patterson should do a lot of switching off in center.)

The rotation will go:
Rodrigo Lopez, RHP
Erik Bedard, LHP
Kris Benson, RHP
Daniel Cabrera, RHP
Bruce Chen, LHP

I'm a ridiculous homer optimist loser when it comes to the Orioles, and when they go into a season where there's so many questions it's hard for me not to just say, "All these things are going to go right and the Orioles will win 95 games!" But I try not to be too crazy in my dreams of Orioles success, mainly because they haven't had any in eight years. But the big reason for some optimism is the big addition in the off-season, pitching coach Leo Mazzone. We have absolutely no idea what to expect of this staff, A) because the most talented pair, Bedard and Cabrera, are so young, and B) because Leo Mazzone has such a great history of getting the most out of older pitchers who haven't been so great in the past. Do the O's have any 20-game winners? Not this year, barring something spectacular, and the playoffs are just a dream because we're still playing in a division with the Yankees, but I don't think .500 is too unrealistic a goal.

ESPN's Orioles Preview.

So enjoy Opening Day and enjoy the season! I'll be trying to make do today with ESPN GameCast...

Hate to say I told you so

Wait, no I don't. What I hate to say is that I didn't actually put any money on the game. That's right. Here I am acting like I know the key to getting free money and yet I don't even take my own advice. Gambling is risky, people. (Read: I didn't have the sack to bet any real money on something I was pretty sure was going to happen.)

So the amazing George Mason story ends in disappointment, and now we probably won't hear a word about Mason athletics for the next 15 years other than some random tournament-time chatter at the water cooler.

"Hey, remember that team a couple years back that made it to the Final Four as an 11 seed?"

"Ohhh yeah. Dude, that was amazing. What team was that again? They had that guy that hit some other guy in the noots... George... Washington?"

"NO man. It was Madison. James Madison."

"Oh, that's right."

And if you're looking for betting advice on tonight's championship game, here's some: DON'T DO IT.

Tonight's game is way too difficult to pick. Don't throw money away on a coin-flip.

I should be on one of those NBC public service announcements.