To the uninitiated, that's "a swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever." Whether it was Shakabuku or the deletion of first-pitch meatballs from his repetoire, Williams righted the ship Saturday, tossing four shutout innings in a rout of the Mets. At any rate, Williams made some necessary adjustments and seems to have solidified his standing.
I'm rooting for Williams, as if that hadn't been strongly implied previously. Among the myriad bargain bin pickups this winter, Williams intrigues me far more than any other. (Which is not to imply that I'm in any way unique in this regard.) This is not to say there is any particular reason to anticipate greatness from Williams, but it is to say Williams is probably the only offseason pitching pickup who could turn into a lasting contributor.
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Nats Farm Authority conducted a very nice interview with new Director of Player Development Bobby Williams. The interview is timely from my point of view since a few evenings ago I wondered what his role was and whether he was necessary. To address my questions, it appears Williams is in essence a liaison, and I still wonder whether he's necessary (though I imagine he is, of course). I can't remember if I knew Williams was a Friend of Bodes, but it's now clear to me that he is.
Anyway, the interview is certainly worth the read. Williams touches on the organization's developmental philosophies with fairly broad strokes, but there are some revealing aspects. Among players on the horizon, he referenced outfielder Mike Daniel, the second time this weekend Daniel has been praised.
On Saturday, Nats.com reported Daniel thrived during the accelerated intrasquad games and emerged as a favorite of Bob Boone (who may or may not be Williams's boss). Boone apparently regards Daniel the organization's best hitter. And the article provides just enough description of Daniel's abilities to intrigue. Although Daniel does not hit for power, "he is a high-on-base-percentage type of player with a lot of speed." If you're keeping score at home, that's equivalent with all of Washington's speed guys so far, except for the high on-base part.
For what it's worth, Daniel appeared to have a pretty turbulent 2006 season, flopping at Savannah (.198/.301/.298) before thriving in a repeat performance at lower-level Vermont (.304/.376/.431). Assuming he develops and/or retains a high-OBP/low-SLG skill set, the question likely arises whether Daniel is a projectable centerfielder. Obviously, I have no idea about that. According to the stats, he split time between center and left. Daniel apparently the '07 campaign at Class-A Hagerstown (the new Savannah). Baseball America didn't rate Daniel among the organization's Top 30 prospects, and given his age (23 in August) this is probably the year for Daniel to mount a surge up the ladder. He told Nats.com he believes he can handle High-A Potomac; at some time this season, one would think, Daniel will have to show he can.
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It's probably best I bury this last musing at the bottom of a post. It has become extremely difficult for me to think critically and creatively about the Washington Nationals. I have used up most of the angles, perspectives, and styles I will ever conjure with respect to this team. This is not to say I'm complaining about "The Plan" or a lack of interesting signings or any of that. It simply is the way things stand. I have lost my fastball, assuming I ever had one. Obviously, we're not talking Mark Prior here; it's more like Jason Bere---if I'm feeling charitable about myself---or, more likely, Brad Woodall. This is just a fact.
I have been dealing with this fact for several months. During this time, I've waffled between giving up the blog and recruiting new contributors who are interested in the day-to-day stuff. The former is far more difficult than it might seem. The latter has proven (with the exception of a really nice guest post) unsuccessful---and, beyond that, what's the point? If the point of staying current on the day's news items is the objective, I'd just as happily refer to other Nats blogs who do that sort of thing much better. Ultimately, I think the right answer is an entirely different direction.
I do this blog for a few reasons, but the essence is that it is rewarding for me. I certainly don't do it for acclaim, and I don't do it for relevance either; heck, I'm pretty sure most of the Yudites don't read this blog anymore, if they ever did. If that's true, it doesn't bother me. I don't blog for Sitemeter stats or ad revenue; I blog for myself. If people read, all the better---and I will attempt to incorporate a reader's sensibility as much as possible. I am certainly grateful that people would read my meanderings. But I don't do it because others read, and I wouldn't stop if no one else read.
I would only stop if it ceased being personally rewarding, if my main aims with respect to this blog (creative outlet, an opportunity to approach a baseball subject analytically) were no longer satisfied. Meaning no offense to the Nationals, those aims have run rather dry in recent months. But---again, meaning no offense to the Nationals---there is more to baseball than the Washington Nationals. Yes, it is true. Foremost, I am a baseball fan. Among baseball's teams, I have chosen to dedicate my focus on the Nationals, and I am glad I have. But I do not want to miss the forest for the trees, and I believe I have done so over the course of twenty-six or so months blogging.
For this reason, it occurs to me that neither quitting nor bringing along another person with a more day-to-day focus is the way to go. Instead, I desire to zoom out a tad and look at the game of baseball as a whole. One of the strange effects of doing a team-specific blog, I have found, is sacrificing knowledge of the rest of the league for the sake of one team. I miss following all the teams as closely as I can. I want to get back to that.
Now, this is not to say I'm turning Teh Fed into a general baseball blog, and heaven only knows I can't or won't blog every team. But I want to look at broader issues, maybe weave and wind and relate them to the Nats somehow, but make darn sure I satisfy my desire to absorb baseball as much as possible without getting mired in the mundane associated with one team. There's still time for the mundane---and, to some, it most certainly isn't mundane---but I don't want it to overcome me anymore or let it drag me down.
My favorite form of blogging is what one might call a long-form essay. I wish I were more precise in some ways with the manner the essays manifest themselves (for instance, 99% of the time you are reading my first draft, superficially edited for grammar and parallel structure), but the formula satisfies my needs for creativity and introspection. I like to take a topic and run with it, essentially free-writing with an evidentiary foundation, and let my thoughts guide my to whatever insight I produce. Sort of a "let the Spirit move me" approach, as clerics would say about sermonizing. Someone whose opinions I respect once called this style a journey of sorts, and I like the description. This is the style that gives me the most pleasure as a blogger. I anticipate there will be more journeys in the offing; they will be about the Nats strictly when appropriate, but a good deal of the time they will be about baseball, with a tie-in to the Nats when possible. Many of the better journeys will, I hope, be published at Baseball Digest Daily, a project I have unfortunately neglected far too much.
I suppose I am not announcing anything too newsworthy, if indeed I am announcing anything at all. But let it be known it is damned hard to produce interesting content about this team on a regular, much less daily, basis. I have profound respect for those who can. Recently, the snarkmeister website Deadspin essentially punted its Nats preview, inviting some guy to waste everyone's time with some truly pointless, craptastic content. Strangely, the preview doesn't offend me. I have no idea who the hell Dan Shanoff is, but he has no idea who the Nats are. I'm also pretty sure I have no desire to know who Shanoff is, but I strongly suspect he has no desire to know who these Nats are.
Shanoff's fluff preview is basically an object lesson with this team. At this point in time, it takes a special type of person and writer to produce consistent insight about this team, much less any insight at all. Shanoff wasn't up to the latter, and I'm not up to the former.
To reinforce the message, for those who care: This isn't a goodbye. It's just a bit of a course adjustment. Here I have this networked website with wonderful infrastructure and basically carte blanche editorial control, and I spend four straight posts obsessing over the fourth starter on a team. I might as well just start sniffing glue. Yet, I want to post something, because the very act of doing so is rewarding to me. So I will do so. Just without the obsessing over the fourth starter. Life's too short for that and, more to the point, there's way too much baseball out there.