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mmm new seat, new stadium November 16, 2007

Section 308, Row D, Seat 13, Infield Gallery

No mail, no phone July 11, 2007

Yesterday, 3 days before the relocation deadline, I received the following email message:

Dear Nationals Season Ticket Holder,

The 2008 Relocation Package that we mailed to you has been returned to the Washington Nationals. We have attempted to reach you via phone to get a corrected address and have been unsuccessful. Please reply to STComments@nationals.com and include your correct mailing address so that we are able to send you the Relocation Guide. Please note that the deadline to submit your relocation questionnaire and deposit is this Friday, July 13. At this time, we highly recommend that you submit your information online by going to www.nationals.com/relocation and follow the steps outlined for you. If you have any questions, please contact a member of our Service Department by calling 202-675-6287, Option 1.

Thank you for supporting the Nationals as a season ticket holder and we look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,
Washington Nationals Ticket Sales and Service Department

This, of course, sent me into a rage. My mailing address has not changed and I have received many things from the Nationals in the mail over the last 2 years. Their statement about trying to reach me via phone seemed false to me too. After looking over the caller id logs for all my phones, nothing unexpected was found.

I fired back a response:

Sorry if this comes off as unduly harsh, but I find the excuses below unconvincing. My mailing address has not changed from the one that the Nationals used to send me all correspondence last season and this season. Further, I reviewed the logs on all my phones and there has been no attempts to call me.

This morning I received a phone call from the Nationals, from Andy B. He apologized for any mix-up. For all the hassle, this is a step forward from seasons past. Mistakes are made but they now reach out personally to try to resolve them.

Luckily, I already completed the online registration–the third person to do so. Andy confirmed that they have my registration which saved me a phone call I was planning to make anyway. Andy even offered to mail me my relocation package, as a keepsake, if I wanted but I declined.

Capitol Punishment: Zoning In On The Problem–A Washington Nationals Blog June 26, 2007

Capitol Punishment: Zoning In On The Problem–A Washington Nationals Blog

The best Nats blog, Capitol Punishment, gives a rundown of the Nats defense based upon stats from Hardball Times.

Indians, Sunday June 24th June 25, 2007

updated: added scorecard

A minor rant to start. The concessions at RFK still suck, at least the ones that I use in the 500’s. Understanding that I am usually through the gates at or shortly after they open, the vendors should be ready to take my money and give me food. Friday night, I had to wait until the food was cooked–a process started when I ordered. Sunday, plenty of food ready, none of the cash registers ready to go. I had to wait over 5 minutes while my cashier unsealed a plastic bag and counted out her til. There was no sauce for the chicken tenders either, I was directed to the condiment stations because “there is ketchup and mustard there.” Finally, the topper, when handing back my change, she asked “would you like to help contribute to our tips?” I need to write to someone about this.

Like Doctor Frankenstein, I am slowly building my TV monster bit-by-bit. Sunday, my left side of my body.
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Wonderful low humidity weather for a wonderful game. Dmitri Young continues to do his job, which is to show off until he can be traded. The same goes for Ronnie Belliard, who was 3-3 starting at 2nd. Jesus Flores, our catcher for the future, batted in 2 runs. Brandon Watson, or as he is now known as–”The Streak”–, hit hard even if he only reached base once.

Another great play in the infield. Okay, it was great only because it teetered on the edge of disaster. Guzman fielded a grounder that hopped over the 2nd base bag. His momentum forced him to turn his body away from the infield, toward right field. In a moment of insanity, maybe brilliant but still insane, he flipped the ball from his glove, behind his back to Ronnie Belliard in attempt to get the force out at 2nd. The flip went wild to the right of Belliard, who reached up with his bare hand to catch it, pulling his feet off the bag. In a final desperate move, ball in his bare hand, Ronnie kicked his feet backwards. He fell to the ground like a diver executing a great belly flop, his feet barely grazing the bag to get the out. This play was the #1 Web Gem on Baseball Tonight but they credited it to Guzman. Ronnie was the real hero; he kept Guzman’s wild throw from getting away and he had the field presence to blindly know where the bag was behind him and to give up his body to tag the base.

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The Presidents’ Race had a little bit of extra fun in it too. Thomas Jefferson came out with a sling for his arm and a bandage on his nose. Before the race, the stadium screen showed the previous night’s race where the runner in the TJ costume had trouble staying upright. He (or she) took a header into the dirt in front of the visitor’s dugout, then tried to get up only to face plant hard again. I am sorry I missed that one but it was nice to see it on replay.

I love sunny day games (my seats are always in the shade). I don’t have to force the camera to downgrade its quality to improve shutter speed, so the pictures are always the sharpest and cleanest I can get with this camera:

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Tigers 6-22-07 June 23, 2007

updated: added scorecard

Many years from now, 2007 might be remembered as year one of building the Nationals dynasty that brought many titles to the DC area. What is assured, however, are two plays will be a part of most highlight reels or blooper packages. First, Matt Chico throwing a pitch over the first base dugout against the Marlins back in April. Second, from last night’s game, a grounder finding its way into Ryan Zimmerman’s shirt followed by Ryan’s bewildered “Where did it go, George” look and finally a magician’s ta-da moment as Zimmerman pulled it out of his shirt.

Zimmerman loses ball in shirt.

I also found myself on camera, well actually my ear and camera. About an inning before the shot below, the cameraman set up in front of me but I guess the guys in the control booth agrees with me–my mug isn’t for the viewing public. Thankfully, they didn’t catch two stellar moments in the 8th inning. Two foul balls hit a couple seats down from me, in my row. The first one, I leaned as far as I could to give it a shot, but it was just outside of my reach while seated. I could have had it if I would have gotten up but what would have been the use. I would have just given it away. The second one, I didn’t even try for.

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The game itself was a confidence builder. Maybe Micah Bowie could have given us another inning (he went 4-1/3) but he did what we couldn’t do against the Tigers earlier this week–kept the bats silent. His pitch count in such a short stint was over 100 pitches and that led to stringing together 6 relievers to close out the game.

One of those relievers, the first brought in, was Luis Ayala. Back finally on the Nationals mound after missing 2006 season with an injury. He wasn’t the overpowering Ayala from 2005, even if the scorebook shows 9 pitches for 2 outs.

Outside of Guzman’s homerun and Brandon Watson’s double, we scored our 4 runs with 10 singles and a couple of walks. Brandon was 2 for 4 with a single, double and 2 RBI.

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Cristian Attonment June 21, 2007

In the bottom of the 6th inning, with Jesus Colome warming up–facing a mess created by Saul Rivera–three of the National infielders gathered on the grass behind the mound. Ryan Zimmerman, Felipe Lopez and Dmitri Young stood in a semi-circle chatting seemingly about everything but the bases loaded with Tigers. Back next to the 2nd base bag stood Cristian Guzman, alone except for a Detroit player waiting for play to resume. A recent Washington Post article pointed out that Guzman is a loner, mainly due to his lack of command over the English language. Still these were his team-within-the-team mates. The infield has to work together to work at all.

Why did he exclude himself, or maybe was excluded? Possibly because he decidedly lacked heart in almost every play he was supposed to make this game. When, as is now the routine, “You’ve Got To Have Heart” played near the end of the 7th inning stretch, Cristian could have rightly thought “boy, he is singing directly to me”.

A list. He failed to cover 2nd base on a steal attempt that turned into a hit-and-run, the ball gliding through the spot Felipe Lopez vacated in a late charge towards 2nd. Later, when Jeremy Bonderman hit a grounder to short, Guzman practically walked to field the ball, then bobbled transferring the ball to his throwing hand–an E6 that would score. With some hint of a comeback in the making, Cristian hit into a potential double play and did not run through the bag at 1st. Instead he slowed up about 2 steps before reaching. Even though he was safe, the play was way too close. Finally, when Zimmerman ran in to field a short grounder, Guzman failed to cover third. The Tiger on 2nd saw the opportunity and advanced–the throw from 1st would have easily gotten an out if someone (You, Cristian, You) had been there to catch it.

I am ashamed I supported Guzman through the last couple of seasons, against much criticism.

update:So I undeleted the game recording and zipped through to the plays in question. First, one the play that allowed Jeremy Bonderman to Reach on Error, it was an inning before what I thought and Bonderman didn’t score.

On the play where I thought Guzman should have covered 2nd on a steal/hit-and-run, I listened to Bob Carpenter and Don Sutton. Unfortunately, they split. Bob agreed with me, while Don said that–even though normally it would be the SS’s job in that situation–it is possible that with Saul Rivera throwing and the pitch selection, it might have been Lopez’s job.

Here are some pictures from the game:

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Nationals Versus Tigers, June 18th, 8-9 loss. June 19, 2007

P1050492 My friend Eric loves Gary Sheffield. While talking about the Detroit at Washington series, he told me that I was going to see the fastest bat in the majors (disclaimer: he could have said one of the fastest). Yeah, right, like I can see the difference. I can’t tell what pitch was thrown with any reliability, so what chance would I have to notice differences in the swings among major leaguers. Still, I paid attention to Sheff during batting practice and, damn, there is a significant difference. His bat is so quick, it seems to occupy all of the path of his swing at the same time.

It would take a total fanboy to hope for a winning week, with Detroit and Cleveland in town. Scrappy doesn’t beat good for a whole week. 1 win a series, like we did in Toronto, is the most I hope for.

For a loss, I certainly left RFK pumped up. Being down 9-1 and battling back late to 9-8 is almost as much fun as a walk-off hit–almost, almost, almost.

P1050530 Matt Chico, our lone standing starter, pitched in to and out of trouble through his 4-plus innings. Until the 5th, his work was exactly what I have come to expect from him…flirting with giving up runs, but never getting overwhelmed. The Tigers worked 2 runs (one was a questionable call at the plate), plus got a solo home run from Carlos Guillen. Then in the 5th inning, the Tigers remembered they are the Tigers and bombarded Chico. It started out when the pitcher, Mike Maroth, you know from the American League, hit a double to lead off the inning. Five batters faced, 5 reached safely. Winston Abreu replaced Chico and placed into a bad situation, let a few more reach home. In all, the Nats saw all 9 batters in that inning, 6 of them scored.

Down 9-1 at the end of the 5th, with Maroth keeping the Nats to 3 hits so far, it looked like I would have no trouble getting a seat on the Metro going home. In RFK, with our offense, a reasonable fan can’t expect miracles. Yet, a 1-2-3 top of the 6th was a nice start.

P1050591 Then the Nats matched the Tigers 9 batter 5th inning with their own 9 batter appearance in the 6th. Guzman lead off with a single, Lopez next with a triple. More batters, a new Tigers pitcher and suddenly the Nats were only down 4 runs, 9-5.

The Nationals failed to threaten anything in the 7th or 8th, outside of a walk and a single. Still, the taste of those four runs scored in the 6th, plus the troubled Tigers’ bullpen gave me hope.

Following my recent habit, I headed down to the lower deck to stand on a ramp for the last half inning. I was conflicted because I had hope yet by moving down I was saying “well, it is probably only 3 outs left” Really, I could have stood on that ramp for the rest of the night if the Nats tied it up.

The Tigers brought in Todd Jones, who is on my fantasy roster and has been killing me lately. Needless to say, he will not give me any ERA victories this week either. The bottom of the 9th started like this: double, single, triple, single, single. The Nats closed the score to 9-8, with no outs and men in scoring position. While we failed to plate anymore runs, it was still an exciting game and a victory to each young Nats player who will now think twice the next time they think they are out of a game.

A few side points. A number of people brought dogs to the game. The dogs wore vests that said something along the lines of “service dog in training” which was necessary because they were led by people who definitely didn’t need service dogs. Anyway, I thought it would be an easy way to bring your dog to the game, just finding a vest like that.

I would think that fans of a team with a deep history as the Tigers would be more baseball savy, or at least know how to watch a game. As Screech’s Best Friend recounted, I wasn’t the only one that noticed annoying Tigers fans. His guy heckled the Nats fans in section 320 all night long (minor crosstalk is acceptable, but heckle the team not its fans). He topped off the night with a “fuck you” as they left. For me, there was a tall Tigers fan in the last row of the section in front of me. He did nothing more than cheer his team at the appropriate times, but that made me angry because he also liked to stretch his legs for extended periods of times while the game was happening. At least 3 times, he stood up for at least 10 minutes. He wasn’t blocking my view, so I didn’t shout him down but the couple nearest to me couldn’t see the pitcher when he stood.

P1050613 Finally, I got a great laugh out of Placido Polanco’s at-bat in the 5th inning. He was up in a bunting situation but he could not understand the 3rd base coach’s signs at all. It went something like this. He steps to the plate, looks over the third base. The coach runs through a bunch of signs. Polanco continues to stare well after the coach finishes his hand movements. Polanco steps out of the box and stares at the coach, and the coach starts the signs again–this time about 80% the speed of the first time. Polanco stares some more. Finally, they ask for time and meet between home and 3rd. Polanco steps back into the box, tries to bunt but takes a ball. Back in the box, he looks to 3rd for the signs again. To my untrained eye, I saw the exact same sequence of signs from before. Polanco continued to stare, pleading for a clue. The coach went through the signs again, this time at about 50% speed. You could almost feel his thoughts, in a slow drawn out scream “BBBBBUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNNNNNNTTTTTTT”. Polanco, still confused, turns and steps back into the batter’s box, and shrugs his shoulders and throws out his hands in the universal signal for “I have no idea what I am supposed to do but here I go anyway”. Before the pitch could be thrown, the coach asked for time again and they conferred on the base paths. So, 4 sets of identical signs and 2 conferences mid at-bat, just so Polanco could understand what everyone in the stadium knew–bunt the damn ball.

UPDATE: Added pictures

Week 1 April 9, 2007

Week one is over and the Nationals are 1-6 and heading to series against Atlanta and New York. Like the weather this week, the outlook is pretty damn chilly. That isn’t to say, however, there wasn’t positives to be found:

Now for the bad, which I will limit mercifully to the top 3:

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I cry for my lost Angus beef weiner April 1, 2007

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Word from Saturday’s exhibition game that the Hard Times Cafe is no longer one of the RFK  vendors saddens me immensely.  Most will miss the large chili cheese nachos, but I always found that too intimidating to try.  Instead, I was partial to the Angus beef chili dog–the only food sold at the stadium that felt more than food for captives.

My first fantasy roster March 24, 2007

After a lifetime as a baseball fan and even working at a fantasy sports company, today I completed my first MLB fantasy draft.  I got sucked in by a request for managers in the forums for one of my favorite podcasts, filmspotting.net.

It is a head-to-head league that sets rosters weekly and gives points for wins in each of these categories: R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG, W, SV, K, ERA, WHIP.

My Roster after the jump. (more…)

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