Nationals Review

Sunday, January 30, 2005

On Thongs and Torture

According to the always sophomoric Maureen Dowd of the NY Times, the interrogation of prisoners at Guantanomo Bay by female interrogators wearing thongs is tantamount to torture. You really can't make this stuff up. In her most recent article cleverly titled "Torture Chicks Gone Wild" (haha, get it?), Dowd claims the following:

A female military interrogator who wanted to turn up the heat on a 21-year-old Saudi detainee who allegedly had taken flying lessons in Arizona before 9/11 removed her uniform top to expose a snug T-shirt. She began belittling the prisoner - who was praying with his eyes closed - as she touched her breasts, rubbed them against the Saudi's back and commented on his apparent erection.

After the prisoner spat in her face, she left the room to ask a Muslim linguist how she could break the prisoner's reliance on God. The linguist suggested she tell the prisoner that she was menstruating, touch him, and then shut off the water in his cell so he couldn't wash.

"The concept was to make the detainee feel that after talking to her he was unclean and was unable to go before his God in prayer and gain strength," Mr. Saar recounted, adding: "She then started to place her hands in her pants as she walked behind the detainee. As she circled around him he could see that she was taking her hand out of her pants. When it became visible the detainee saw what appeared to be red blood on her hand. She said, 'Who sent you to Arizona?' He then glared at her with a piercing look of hatred. She then wiped the red ink on his face. He shouted at the top of his lungs, spat at her and lunged forward," breaking out of an ankle shackle.

"He began to cry like a baby," the author wrote, adding that the interrogator's parting shot was: "Have a fun night in your cell without any water to clean yourself."

A female civilian contractor kept her "uniform" - a thong and miniskirt - on the back of the door of an interrogation room, the author says.

Who are these women? Who allows this to happen? Why don't the officers who allow it get into trouble? Why do Rummy and Paul Wolfowitz still have their jobs?

Ok, lemme get this straight. A female interrogator parading around in a miniskirt and rubbing red ink on a man's forehead is now considered torture? Although the always virtuous bloggers of Nationals Review would never even entertain such thoughts, let alone enact them, some men do in fact pay for this kind of "torture".

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Boswell Botch

As the Nationals Inquirer blog first pointed out, between all of Tom Boswell's unwarranted boosterism of Jim Bowden's offseason moves in today's Post, there is one glaring error:

Yet Bowden has managed to put together a heart of the order -- Castilla, Guillen and Brad Wilkerson -- that hit 94 homers last year. Second baseman Jose Vidro is a perennial .300 hitter. Outfielders Juan Rivera (.307 in 391 at bats) and Terrmel Sledge (15 homers as a rookie) are promising.

Maybe if Boswell knew that Bowden traded the promising Rivera to the Angels for Guillen, he wouldn't be as elated.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Number Fumbling

Chris over at Capitol Punishment cites a recent Dan Okrent column about media illiteracy of statistics. Chris focuses specifically on the baseball end of reporting, and really lobs some revelant criticism of the baseball press in the process.

Update: Here's a perfect example of statistical illiteracy in baseball reporting, courtesy of MLB.com columnist Tom Singer on Carlos Delgado:

But he has always been prime-time. He complements the modern-day scourge of power hitters -- strikeouts -- with the discipline that enables him to walk 100-plus times and keeps his on- base percentage around .400, rare territory for a slugger.

Anyone with even a basic grasp of baseball statistics realizes that there is a very strong correlation between on-base percentage and power. Here's a quick look at last year's NL OBP leaders:

Bonds .609
Helton .469
Berkman-.450
Drew .436
Abreu- .428
Edmonds-.418
Pujols- .415
Rolen- .409

All of them are among the best power hitters in the league -- in fact Pujols, Bonds and Edmonds all are among the top five in homers as well. But Singer doesn't even understand Baseball Statistics 101, and assumes Delgado's 400+ OBP is rare territory for a slugger.

Duke Craziness

Lior, I'm wondering if you were a part of this:

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- In what police say was an homage to the movie "Old School," partying Duke University students were found in a fraternity house basement with an inflatable pool, a whole lot of baby oil and women in bikinis.

"Inside were several of America's future, re-enacting a scene from the movie 'Old School,' where females wrestle in a pool of lubricants," police Sgt. D. Gunter said. In their version, the Duke students apparently opted for baby oil.

This has all the makings of the next Miller Light commercial.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Nats Bloggers in the Post

Unbeknownst to them, Matt Bonesteel excerpted several comments from some of the top Nats blogs around -- Ball Wonk, Distinguished Senators and Nationals Pastime -- in today's Post sports page.

Wishful thinking: upon seeing the piece, I nearly expected some free pub for Nats Review, despite not updating it in the last couple days! Congrats guys!

Peter Carlson Award

Howie Kurtz today wrote a media notes piece, covering the Bush administration's limited access for reporters at the inauguration balls. In the piece, he quotes Post reporter Peter Carlson, aggravated that he didn't have unfettered ability to interview and hassle ball attendees, saying the restrictions were like "Saddam-era Iraq."

How out of touch are many members of the mainstream media today? From this point forward, Nationals Review inaugurates the Peter Carlson award for elite, out-of-touch commentary from reporters in the media.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Snow Job

I'm no Mark Mathis, but I'm going to play a meteorologist on this blog.

As of this afternoon, the first snowfall of the year in DC -- two whole inches of snow! -- have fallen in Washington, whitening side streets and causing traffic headaches. This morning at 8:55, NBC4 AMS-certified weather guy Tom Kierein predicted only a dusting of snow would fall in the DC-metro area. Two hours later, light-to-moderate snow covered the streets, and that dusting quickly turned into 2-3 inches. So much for forecasting.

Who needs weather guys like Kierein or Bob Ryan? If they can't predict snow a few hours in advance, what are they good for?

So I have a gut forecast for this weekend, aided by the good folks at Weather.com. There's going to be a whole lot of snow Saturday. I'm convinced of it. Get your shovels out, and prepare for the white stuff.

And if I'm right, I'll automatically have a better track record than the meteorology wonks on NBC-4.

Esteban Loaiza Signs with Nats

In a signing that makes zero sense (and 290 million cents), Trader Jim continued his offseason of signing expensive mediocrities by snatching Esteban Loaiza for a one year, $2.9 million contract.

The reason why this signing is so mind-boggling isn't entirely because Loaiza's career 4.70 ERA is nothing to celebrate. It's not because his 5.70 ERA last year, and 8+ ERA with the Yanks made him one of the least valuable pitchers in the league.

It's because the Nats have an amazingly deep rotation, and need to see guys like Jon Rauch, Zach Day and Mike Hinckley pitch. Signing Loaiza likely relegates Hinckley to AAA -- perhaps a necessity -- but also pushes an Armas or Day into the bullpen, or perhaps sets them free as trade bait. All this for Esteban Loaiza?

He's the kind of pitcher who usually appears on the transaction wire as such:

WASHINGTON NATIONALS -- Invite P Esteban Loaiza as non-roster invitee.

Instead, in the year of bloated contracts to mediocre pitchers, one of the worst out there gets tons of dough -- and a likely spot in the Nats rotation.

Burger Chick

There once was a girl and a six pound burger. The girl had an enormous appetite.

Image Hosted by www.glowfoto.com

She ate and she ate and she ate.

Image Hosted by www.glowfoto.com

She was only 100 pounds -- at least before she ate the Big Big Big Mac, which was 1/10 of her body weight. Here's more, including pictures, of the woman and her remarkable feat.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Road Trip for the Nats

The Washington Post recently published a complete guide to Nat-o-philes who want to road trip to see the Nationals play.

I'm still pining for the first regular season game in Philly, but spring training would be nice too.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

An Unlikely Match

In a surprising move, the Atlanta Braves signed free agent right fielder Raul Mondesi on Friday to a $1 million contract. Manager Bobby Cox and GM John Schuerholz run perhaps the most professional and humorless franchise in baseball, so one can understand why signing Mondesi--whose ballooning weight, off-field legal issues, and questionable commitment to the game are, frankly, grossly unprofesional--was a bit of a shocker. But was it a good decision?

Schuerholz insists that Mondesi is on the level and, even more critically, healthy and fit. I'll believe it when he gets to 150 games. At age 33, Mondesi's career OBP/SLG rates of .332/.488 are quite underwhelming for a player who was once considered to be a budding superstar and one of the best athletes in the game. On the bright side, since the 1999 season he has shown the ability to take a walk, and when healthy can be relied on for 25 homeruns. Even if Mondesi has a solid comeback season (say, 75 walks, 25 dingers, good defense) that's a huge drop-off in all-around production from J.D. Drew. But considering that Drew was irreplaceable in Atlanta's current payroll situation, to get a player of Mondesi's modest talent for only $1 million is the type of high-risk, low-cost move that brought Drew to Atlanta in the first place. Atlanta still needs to replace Drew's production somewhere in the lineup, but at least Schuerholz can't be accused of overpaying for mediocrity (see: Jim Bowden). Nevertheless, unless Schuerholz does something drastic about the left-field situation, this move should give Nationals fans reason to hope in 2005.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Fun Forecasting

Ever since the advent of high-tech meteorological technology, the weather on your local news hasn't been the same. Decades have passed since professional goofballs, like Willard Scott, could become local icons broadcasting the weather.

The end of an era officially passed with the departure of Charlotte forecaster Mark Mathis, who was fired for his on-air antics in November. And, oh, were his antics something you'd rarely see on your local news.

Check out this montage -- it's cant miss viewing.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Say it Ain't Sosa

The Chicago Sun-Times reported today that the Nats are interested in trading for Cubs star outfielder Sammy Sosa. According to MLB.com, the Cubs are interested in Termel Sledge but the Nats aren't eager to give up any young prospects and are looking for younger, more athletic hitters (read: tools goofs).

Sosa's 36, has seen his production decline over the last three seasons and only played in 126 games last year because of injuries. While trading Sledge for Sosa straight up -- with the Cubs picking up most of Sosa's salary -- might make some sense, our outfield looks fine with a Sledge-Wilkerson-Guillen trio next season. The biggest weakness is at third base, where we're saddled with Vinny Castilla's mediocre production and contract for the next two seasons.

With all the news of Trader Jim looking for veteran mediocrities, I can't say the Sosa buzz is too encouraging.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Nats Roundup

  • Estes, Loaiza and Chacon, oh my! Trader Jim's initial assessment that the Nats rotation was set for 2005 seems to have been premature. Yesterday's Post reported that Bowden is hot on the trail of veteran mediocrity Esteban Loaiza and barely missed out on Shawn Estes, who holds an unpleasant career 4.71 ERA. Rockies closer Shawn Chacon has also caught Bowden's eye. So pick your poison.

  • Radio Daze: Clear Channel's WTEM are close to inking a one-year deal to broadcast the Nationals for 2005. Here's hoping for more Phil Wood and none of the godawful Mark Sterne, whose knowledge of baseball and radio broadcasting ability leaves much to be desired. Former Skins play-by-play man Frank Herzog is rumored to be in the mix for the play-by-play position. which will be decided by the team and not WTEM.

  • Check out the Washington Times' story on the renovations necessary to put RFK Stadium into baseball shape. DC Sports Commission CEO Allen Lew is optimistic about readying the field by Nats' Opening Day, but isn't a fan of the charity exhibition game planned for April 3.

Adios WHFS

WHFS, which was one of the longest-running FM rockers in the DC metro area switched over to all Latino music at noon today.

Adios, Sports Junkies!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Lost in Fukuoka

Apparently, Japanese baseball has followed MLB off the deep-end. ESPN reports that former Expo Tony Batista--he of the .298 career OBP--has signed with the Fukuoka Hawks for 15 million for two years (that's dollars, not yen). Is this now the going rate for washed-up major leaguers? Maybe Todd Zeile has a future after all. Here's what Batista had to say for himself:

"The Japanese gave me a good offer, but it was also really the only offer that I got."

Batista was paid 1.5 million by the Expos in 2004, so I can't blame him. Here's hoping the Japanese like his funky batting stance, which is well worth the price of admission.

Love that Dirty Water

Q: What do Bronson Arroyo, Peter Gammons, the Dropkick Murphys, and Theo Epstein all have in common?

They all rocked out at a Boston charity concert this weekend.

Update: For those, like Phil, who wanted to see a pic of Gammons rockin', here he is:

Image Hosted by <a href=

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Beltran Is A Met

According to ESPN, Carlos Beltran is the newest member of the Mets. No word as of yet on whether George Steinbrenner has gone into conniptions or fired Billy Martin again.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Marriage Mismatch

Sometimes, you just wonder how some people could possibly be married. This week, the New York Times provided a perfect example: Vanessa Reisen and Jacob Kreilkamp. Here's their engagement pic:

In the engagement article, it says:

Ms. Reisen and Mr. Kreilkamp did not know each other in college, but they eventually met through mutual friends in New York.

Ms. Reisen remembers being aware of Mr. Kreilkamp, however, since her days as an undergraduate. "He's sort of unforgettable," she said, adding that in college he had waist-length blond hair and played in a punk rock band that was popular with Harvard students. "But I never thought of him as the man I was destined to marry, right up to the time that we started going out."

Mr. Kreilkamp said he had seen her at parties and was struck by her charismatic, gregarious personality and her ability to command a room's attention. "I was very interested in her and wanted to get to know her," he said, "but she completely ignored me."

One of those bungled attempts to meet was at a Halloween party in 1999, where he was dressed as the tennis player Bjorn Borg. "I remember having the most profoundly awkward conversation," she said. "I was just trying to get away from him."

Several months later, Ms. Reisen and Mr. Kreilkamp were at the same New Year's Eve party, and Mr. Kreilkamp finally found a way to get Ms. Reisen's attention.

"I saw her there, and at the stroke of midnight I decided this is my big chance; and so I kissed her," he said. "But this was not a normal moment, because literally the millennium had just ended, there was this euphoria and social conventions had broken down."

Ms. Reisen said, "Everyone was relieved that the world hadn't ended. "He kissed me and then moved off. I had had a bit of champagne, so it was less awkward than you might think."

Several weeks later, Ms. Reisen agreed to go out for dinner with Mr. Kreilkamp. That unexpected kiss, perhaps, had changed everything between them.

Classic.

Paul Krugman's Screeds

Friends of mine know that I don't consider myself a big fan of NY Times columnist and MIT professor Paul Krugman. In fact, I actually find him kind of creepy. His ability to produce sources from the most irrelevent and mysterious of sources demonstrating Republican malfeasance and culpability are a dedication to both his excellent work ethic and creepy obsession with his political opponents. Krugman has degenerated into nothing more than a political hack of the highest order, which I personally find quite disappointing being a fellow economist. (Economists are generally trained to disdain excessive ideology and focus on results.)

Paul's latest screed in the NY Times is nothing more than an elongated character assasination on...well just about every single Republican or conservative. Stephen Green of Vodka Pundit does justice to it, reviving the long lost art of the Fisking, named after the notorious British reporter Robert Fisk who quite literally advocated beating himself during the Afghan War.

Poster "pouncer" adds the following in the comments section:

The economic theory of comparitive advantage suggests that if Krugman can crank out more bad novels faster than he can crank out bad economics textbooks or newspaper columns, then -- overall, for all of us -- wealth is increased by him doing so.
I mean, if Krugman gave up the space in the NYT, somebody else, some other economist -- one perhaps now SLOWLY writing an even WORSE novel -- would get the slot. Then the world would be spared both Krugman's column and the worse novel. Win win.

Metro's Decline

Today's Post reports that some Metro board members are considering several different designs for existing rail cars that would remove a significant amount of seating so the trains can pack more people into them.

Instead of using taxpayer money from bonds to improve service, Metro is trying to make the once-relaxing subway commute as frustrating as possible.

If you agree with my disgust, e-mail the board, post a comment, or vote in Metro's online poll. Metro should be using its money to purchase more cars -- the easiest way to alleviate rail car traffic. Ripping up seats so more people can squish against each other makes not a whit of sense.

Moneyball versus Scoutball

Two Moneyball advocates duke it out against old-school scouting directors.

Alan Schwarz, author of (the excellent) The Numbers Game : Baseball's Lifelong Fascination with Statistics, serves as moderator.

Old Media v. New Media in Baseball

The blogosphere is abuzz with old media's decline and their resistance to adapt to a changing landscape.

Baseball beat writers are no exception to the rule. Successful young GMs like Billy Beane (second most wins in AL during his tenure), Theo Epstein (World Series ring in two years) and Paul DePodesta (first division title since 1995 for LA in his first year) have achieved great sucess using innovative tools shunned by baseball traditionalists.

Yet the old-school journalists still resist change. Check out Bill Plaschke's column in the LA Times today. It argues that because the Dodgers fired their graphic designer, DePodesta is a horrible general manager. No actual argumentation, just rambling, bitter prose. As I've written, the Dodgers are pretty darn likely to win the division and DePodesta has rebuilt this team into a contender -- almost overnight.

The headline of his column is "Game Over." Chances are, the Dodgers are just beginning to experience long-term sucess -- something not achieved throughout the 90s with bloated payrolls and constantly finishing below expectations.

Guys like Plaschke are the dinosaurs of sports journalism and they're becoming extinct. And Plaschke knows it.

Wilkerson Re-Ups with Nats

The likely star hitter on the Nats, Brad Wilkerson, agreed to a one-year, $3.05 million deal today, avoiding arbitration. Wilkerson is a player to watch for 2005 -- here's his stat line over the last three seasons:

2002 (Age 25): .266/.370/.469
2003 (age 26): .268/.380/.464
2004 (age 27): .255/.374/.498

He walks a ton, and his power has steadily increased throughout his tenure in the big leagues. If he can raise his batting average a bit, we could have a consistent 900-OPS outfielder on our hands -- and for 2005, at a relatively cheap price.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Wanted: Nats Fact-Checker for the Post

The Post's Nationals' beat writer needs a fact checker.

A couple weeks back, Barry Svrluga wrote a short article indicating that, if Infinity gets the rights to broadcast Nats games, they would be aired on WTEM/SportsTalk980. Unfortunately, Clear Channel owns WTEM; Infinity owns WJFK, which airs Redskins games.

Now in today's Post, Svrluga makes the same mistake. He writes:

The club is also working to finalize a radio broadcasting deal with Clear Channel Communications. The deal, which could be announced within the next few days, would likely make the team's flagship station WJFK, which also broadcasts Washington Redskins games.


I'm assuming his second point is the correct one -- that the Nats will be on WJFK. But that would mean they're finalizing the broadcasting deal with Infinity.

Which would be great news. Phil Wood, the area's baseball expert and current sports-talker on Baltimore's WJFK-AM (the sister station), would likely host the pre-game and post-game festivities. He would be a much better choice than any of the "talent" currently over at WTEM.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

My Point Exactly

The Yankees are about to offer a 2 year, 32 million dollar contract extension to Randy Johnson. Ok, ok. We did know this was coming, but it is nonetheless telling. Here is a man who has never played a single game for the Yankees organization and the team is about to extend his contract for 2 years. This is commonplace nowadays, particularly in this era of free agency, where money talks and loyalty walks.

However, Randy Johnson is old. Really, really old. When his contract runs out, he will be 44 and likely have 300 victories. He'll then go on to retire and probably go to Cooperstown bearing a Yankees cap. He will do this despite not having played for the Yankees until well after his 41st birthday. The Yankees are no longer a baseball franchise. They are an active retirement community.

Meanwhile, John Sickels says Dioner Navarro, the 19 year old prospect traded for the aging Johnson, is the real deal.

On a side note, a friend noted I had left out Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, and Jason Giambi in my Yankee free agent sweepstakes in the previous post. I don't know if that reflects more poorly on my offhand knowledge or the Yankees free-spending ways.

Does Thom Loverro Read this Site?

Last night, Nationals Review blogger Phil wrote about how the Yankees were on the decline and resembled the unsuccessful 1980s teams and concluded that he's gonna be pulling for the Nationals this season.

This morning, the Washington Times published a column by Thom Loverro, making these exact same points.

Coincidence? We report, you decide.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Conflicted Yankees Fan

Welcome readers. This is your newest humble narrator Phil here. As you can probably tell from the title of the post, I am in fact a Yankees fan. And not even one of those teenie bopping "I got on board when the going got good" type of Yankees fans, I mean I am a real dyed-in-the-wood Yankee fan.

Born and raised in New York City, I started rooting for the team way back when in 1992 when I was nothing more than a diminutive 9 year old tyke. Meanwhile, Bernie Williams was the rookie center fielder who "would never amount to anything", Mike Gallego was the scrappy utility player that no one noticed, Melido Perez still sucked no matter how good his ERA was, Jim Leyritz introduced us to his spinning the bat routine each time he stepped up to the plate, Scott Kamieniecki was the new Great White Hope with the name no one dared to spell, and Sterling Hitchcock was the promising young pitcher who sounded like he had just escaped the British pornography industry.

Yes, those were the good ol' days, when men were men, a Bush was in the White House (but didn't need to use his middle initial to differentiate himself), and the Internet was cool only to a couple of acne faced losers down in some place called Silicon Valley.

However, as life has shuttled me to the beautiful suburbs of Northern Virginia, my sympathies have moved to the scrappy and historically screwed over Montreal Expos -- er, Washington Nationals. Meanwhile, the Yankees have all but bought themselves a championship for the coming year (although I'm sure they will find a way to lose to the eventual champion for an unprecedented 5th year in a row - kudos to anyone who can name the first four in the comments section). Normally, being the greedy, selfish, capitalist, *insert standard liberal stereotype about anyone to the Right of Mao Zedong here*, bastard that I am, I would be satisfied with these efforts and even welcome them. However, I am troubled by the direction of the team as of late.

With the trade of two of the team's top prospects (Brad Halsey and Dionner Navarro) as part of the Randy Johnson swap, the team has all but abandoned its one vibrant farm system - a system that gave birth to such home grown All-Stars as Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Alfonso Soriano.

The 2005 version of the New York Yankees is virtually unrecognizable to me, a baseball version of Ebay, with the highest bidder being one George Steinbrenner Esquire. Gone are these heros of mine (with the exception of Jeter and Rivera) in favor of Kenny Lofton, an older Posada who can no longer hit, Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson, Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Steve Karsay, and perhaps Carlos Beltran on the way. An impressive group of talent no doubt, but one that has been put together for no other reason than Steinbrenner doesn't like to get one-upped by 20-something young punks named Theo.

When the Red Sox bested the Yankees in 7 games this year, it wasn't painful. Worse than that, I did not care that they had lost. The team was virtually unrecognizable to me and no longer interesting.

So count me in Nationals. If you bring them, I will come.

Dissecting the Dodgers

While various knucklehead L.A. columnists (see: Plaschke, Bill; Simers, T.J.) are lambasting L.A. Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta for his offseason moves, he quietly has made the Dodgers the easy favorites for the weak NL West title. As Lior reported, he's quietly re-signed Odalis Perez to a very reasonable 3-year, $24 million contract. Assuming he trades Shawn Green for Dioner Navarro and another middling prospect, here's how the team looks for next year:

C- Ross/Navarro
1B - Choi
2B - Kent
SS - Itzuris
3B - Valentin
LF - Bradley
CF - Drew
RF - Werth

SP: Perez-Weaver-Jackson-Penny-Dessens
Closer: Gagne
Setup: Brazoban

Clearly, losing Beltre and his 2004 production is a significant hit. At the same time, Kent will likely provide a big offensive upgrade over Alex Cora and Drew, assuming he's healthy, will outproduce the third-outfield spot that Finley briefly filled last year.

As I've said before, Perez is one of the more underrated pitchers out there, Weaver quietly put up a very good season out of New York (and has a better career record than, say, Yanks-nightmare-in-waiting Jaret Wright) and Edwin Jackson could emerge as one of the top young starters in the NL. In 2004, he was considered in the top-tier of prospects in all of baseball, and suffered injuries and a small setback last season.

Nevermind the potential dominance of the bullpen, and a Brazoban-Gagne combo to end the game.

Sure, losing Beltre's gonna hurt. I'm actually skeptical that he'll ever match his 2004 production but I'll assume that he will with Seattle. Drew essentially makes up for his offense, and Kent is a net plus in the infield. I think the pitching staff will be much better, and they'll actually get some post-LoDuca production out of their backstop. (Ross, not a bad player, hit an execrable .170/253/.291 last season.)

No, this isn't a dominant team. But they're surely better than the rest of the garbage in their division. Colorado's a joke, Arizona's a mess and lost over 110 games and the Big Unit, and San Fran is dealing with a steroid-addled Bonds and a roster heading towards AARP membership. San Diego has some talent, but outside Giles and Loretta, have a pretty average offense and could use some more arms backing up Jake Peavy.

After years of underachieving, the Dodgers won 91 games last year, won the NL West for the first time since 1995 -- in large part because of DePodesta's management. (Dan Evans, his predecessor, also deserves credit for the Brown-Weaver/Brazoban deal.)

I don't know about T.J. Simers, but I'm looking forward to seeing these Dodgers at RFK on August 2.

The Creation of I-66 in Arlington

Here's another DC-area transportation fun fact:

-- Interstate 66 was built throughout the late-1960s and 1970s, but the part inside the Beltway from I-495 to Arlington -- parallel to the Orange Line Metro -- was not completed until the mid-1980s. Here is a pic of construction underway, circa 1983, adjacent to the Glebe Road exit:

The Maddening Richard Cohen

I consider the Washington Post's Richard Cohen to be one of the most maddening columnists around. I love his anecdote-driven writing style and often he presents a contrarian view (for a liberal) that is quite refreshing. But just as consistently, he writes some of the most stupid, illogical mind-boggling prose of any well-known columnist out there. (Sorry, Nick Coleman, you don't count.)

In a October 2004 column trying to exonerate Clinton-era policies for the second intifada, he wrote:

But the isolation of Arafat, while immensely satisfying, cannot be said to have saved lives -- not Israeli and not Palestinian. In fact, his demonization is characteristically Bush. Arafat is another Saddam Hussein -- vile, evil and all of that. But just as the capture of Hussein has not made Iraq any safer for Americans, so has the isolation of Arafat not ended the intifada.

Huh? I mean, technically, it wasn't just the isolation of Arafat that began the dramatic reduction of Palestinian violence. It was the Bush administration's recognition that Arafat was not suited to be a negotiation partner, plus aggressive targeting of Hamas infrastructure plus the security barrier that the Israeli government has constructed, reducing the ability of Palestinians to enter Israel to kill civilians. (These types of barriers aren't just limited to the Mideast; they can even be found on the DC-Prince George's county line.) And it was Bush who realized that negotiating with a veteran terrorist was pointless, and who allowed Israel to defend itself with those aforementioned measures.

Yet, Cohen concludes:

Maybe a more active Middle East policy on the part of the Bush administration would not have produced any breakthrough, but even something more modest would still have been welcomed.

Of course, Cohen's definition of a breakthrough is negotiating with parties that support terrorism, and promote such an infrastructure while still insisting they want peace -- that's what happened during the final years of the Clinton administration. What's happened since Bush has taken office is that suicide bombings have virtually grinded to halt. Hamas has been forced underground. Israeli citizens can now ride buses in safety. Palestinians are actually openly renouncing violence. This isn't a "breakthrough?" Remember, folks, this was written only two months ago -- yet he doesn't consider a virtual cessation of violence to be a breakthrough.

And he still concludes his column with an attack on Bush's policies. Truly unbelievable.

And it really is unbelievable because Cohen sometimes writes some brilliant, cleverly written columns. Like this one or even this one, which was critical of Bush.

But then fast-forward to today's paper, where the maddening Cohen writes about prisoners in Guantanamo -- most of whom were caught fighting with Al-Qaeda. In other words, you wouldn't be inviting them over for Thanksgiving dinner. To put it mildly, they're pretty unsavory characters.

That said, he references George Orwell's "1984" and uses it to condemn President Bush for, basically, "naming a constriction of civil liberties the Patriot Act." He considers this delicious irony, referencing a classic tale of a totalitarian society where definitions are skewed for a dictator's purposes.

That isn't happening in the United States, despite Cohen's hysteria. And instead of acknowledging the serious moral decision a country faces when dealing with terrorists seeking your destruction -- and how far a country should go in such circumstances -- he makes his own obscene comparison:
It's as if the government is ahistorical, unaware of how communists and fascists also strained language and ushered the world into torture chambers made pretty for the occasion. We now keep some pretty bad company.

Sadly, apparently Cohen is unable to recognize the difference between innocent citizens who headed to the Soviet gulag because of totalitarian paranoia and Al Qaeda terrorists who threaten to kill Americans.

And that truly is sad.

Odalis Returning to Dodgers?

According to ESPN.com, it looks like Odalis Perez will not don a Nationals uniform any time soon (at least, that is, if Peter Gammons is correct, which is certainly not a sure thing):

Free-agent pitcher Odalis Perez has agreed to re-sign with the Dodgers, ESPN's Peter Gammons reports. Perez agreed to a three-year, $24 million deal with incentives. He earned $5 million for the 2004 season.

The remaining free agent pickings are none too tantalizing--there is a big drop-off from Perez to guys like Shawn Estes, Darren Oliver, or Aaron Sele. Meanwhile, (erstwhile) big names like Esteban Loaiza and Derek Lowe are likely to command more dollar than they're worth. Other long-shot retread projects like Omar Daal, Todd Ritchie, and Ismael Valdez are probably not worth the time and money. Still, if the Nationals need a dependable, veteran arm in the rotation, I wouldn't be surprised if they took a flyer on a guy like Sele or Scott Schoeneweis. But none of these guys would come close to matching Perez, which is why it wouldn't be prudent to panic and pay more than 4 or 5 million on a one-year deal.

Monday, January 03, 2005

DC-Area Flashback to the Past

As a history major, I have a fascination with the past. In particular, I get a kick of nostalgia any time I see the shops, roads and people of yesteryear. I was skimming through a DC-area transportation historical site, and came across this 1909 picture of what is now the Vienna Metro stop. Here's what it looked like almost a century ago (click to enlarge):


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Every so often I'll post these pics, for anyone who shares my historical sensibilities.

Randy Johnson to the Yanks

The Yankees went to the desert, and found themselves an ace today. The Bronx Bombers traded Javier Vazquez, catching prospect Dioner Navarro and pitcher Brad Halsey to Arizona for multiple Cy Young winner Randy Johnson. I think it's a decent trade for the Yanks.

But what if the made the same deal one year ago? RJ was coming off his 40-year old season, when he posted a career high 4.26 ERA. Meanwhile, Vazquez was entering his prime and looked to head a strong Yankees rotation.

I think the Big Unit has another very good year left in him, but I wouldn't be surprised if Vazquez performs back to his normal level of production. If Mark Mulder is still regarded as a blue chip commodity despite imploding in the second half last season, certainly Vazquez can be among the top pitchers in the game. And if that's the case, the Yankees could be pining for him, come 2006.

Distinguished Nats Blog

To the right, you'll see my blogroll, which will be expanding on a regular basis.

The newest addition is one of the top Nats blogs out there, which I constantly read during the whole ballpark fiasco to get my latest links, information and commentary. Check out Ryan's Distinguished Senators for a good look at all things Nationals as the season approaches.