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Wednesday, May 9, 2007


Alluding to what I last posted, there was a lot of activity in the Nats organization yesterday.

Chad Cordero, as previously noted, is on bereavement leave and will probably be out seven days. Until he returns, Jon Rauch will be taking over the closing duties.

Reliever Ryan Wagner was put on the 15-Day disabled list.

Reliever Winston Abreu's contract was selected from AAA Columbus.

The club purchased the contracts of pitcher Jason Simontacchi, who started last night, and infielder Tony Batista from AAA Columbus.

They designated infielder Josh Wilson for assignment.

Team President Stan Kasten, who is no doubt all too familiar with the concept of liability, announced strict changes to the team's alcohol policy, including banning it from the clubhouse. From the management standpoint, it makes complete sense and if (Heaven forfend) something unfortunate happened to a Nationals player which involved alcohol, the team wouldn't necessarily be considered complicit. Proactive stances like this can be good, even if it seems like a knee-jerk reaction in the wake of the death of Cardinals player Josh Hancock. If a player wants to drink, that's fine, but there really doesn't seem to be any reason for the club to facilitate that for them. It may have been part of the clubhouse culture for a long time but, hey, so was smoking. Sensibilities and attitudes change.

Reliever Ray King went on record as believing that the changes don't really change anything, and at one point he said, "If you look at every stadium and you want a beer, how many of them have a bar within walking distance?" Well, R.F.K. certainly doesn't, unless you agree with comedian Steven Wright who once famously said that, "Every place is within walking distance if you have the time." King doesn't believe that the new policy will stop players from drinking, but he misses the point - the idea isn't to stop players from drinking, the idea is to keep players from drinking in their place of business, where they might then have to leave in their cars and might have an accident. What a player does on his own time is their own business (to a point, anyway) and the Nationals join probably a huge percentage of corporate America in having strict policies about alcohol consumption on company premises. Certainly the federal government has this policy in place, I sell alcohol to many people who work for Uncle Sam, and we can't deliver to them at their offices because they are prohibited from even possessing alcohol while at work. Want to buy a bottle of wine for dinner while in your lunch hour and take it back to work with you at the Federal Bureau of Miscellaneous Information? Not if you value your job.

Changing subjects a bit, I read with disgust this article in yesterday's Washington Post by writer Linton Weeks, where he dumped on the club and their struggles to win thus far this season. Not only do I believe that it was a poorly-written article, I have to question the motive behind it - was he asked to write this article, or did he just take the initiative himself? His tone was a bit smarmy, and he didn't seem terribly well-informed to a keen Nats-watcher like myself. Weeks seems to want to cast the Nationals in the "loveable losers" mold, the way the Chicago Cubs have been regarded for so many years. I posted the following comments:

I would venture that a GREAT part of the mystique of the Cubs is Wrigley Field. Would the team be so embraced if they played in, oh say, Miller Park or Petco Park? I think not. The Cubs experience is retro-chic, like going to a baseball game at a baseball museum. How else do you explain the mass gnashing of teeth over installing lights in the late 1980's?

If the Nationals give fans a great experience in the new stadium beginning next year, much can be forgiven by the casual fan who might go to one or two games per season or take the kids once. Judging by the recent crowds at Mets games, I think that plenty of fans of other teams will flock to the new stadium to see "their" team. This town is filled with transients, folks who come here for an administration job, or college/grad school, et. al. and they seem to relish the opportunity to see their hometown team play our teams.

The Nationals will be fine. This is (so far) one bad year under the current ownership and I for one have no reason to believe that it will be anything but an anomaly. Oh ye of little faith, Mr. Weeks.

Reading the comments to this article online was fun. I wasn't alone in thinking that Linton Weeks article was simply crap-tastic. Don't expect a Christmas card from the Lerners, Linton.

Speaking of writers who shouldn't expect Christmas cards from the Nationals, I haven't taken the time to address the lengthy article by Ken Rosenthal where he didn't just dump on the Nats, the way Linton Weeks did, he savages them. It's mostly internal stuff, personnel problems and the like, but he paints such a terrible picture of the club which I felt was unfair. The Lerner group, which includes team president Stan Kasten, arguably the best executive in major league baseball, took a bit of a beating from Rosenthal, and worst of all, he cast them in the light of being penny-pinchers. To me, there is a HUGE difference between being a "penny-pincher" and being fiscally conservative: Penny-pinchers don't want to spend money, there is an unwillingness there. Fiscally-conservative people are perfectly willing to spend money, but they will only spend money WISELY. The Lerner family didn't get where they are by being spendthrifts who don't understand where their money is going and, let's face it, there is something of a learning curve going on, they haven't owned a sports franchise before, but they are getting up to speed in a hurry, due in no small part to Kasten, the man who made the modern Atlanta Braves the great organization that they are today, and who built Turner Field. Will there be growing pains? Sure. The Lerner group has owned the team for less than a calendar year and they've made many great strides to do the best that they can with what they have and preparing for what promises to be a great future in a beautiful ballpark. I hope that Rosenthal revisits these issues in a couple of years, I'll bet he'll change his tune. While he did say some nice things about Stan Kasten in his piece, it just came off as something of an ugly exposé. To his credit, Rosenthal seemed to soften his tone a bit in this Washington Post online discussion. He doesn't appear to have intentionally "gone after" the Nats with an axe to grind. Still, it didn't seem to emphasize much of what is positive with the team.

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