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Federal Register, June 16

As an initial measure, I'll note that the most recent encounter between Washington and the Yankees is not exactly a long-forgotten or never-remembered moment in Washington baseball history. Quite the contrary, in fact. On September 30, 1971, the Senators II played their final game, against the Yankees, a seemingly imminent and inconsequential 7-5 victory with one out remaining in the top of the ninth that became a 9-0 forfeit when the remaining out to be recorded was never actually recorded.

Everyone, of course, knows the story.

But it's not often that we'd have occasion to read the contemporaneous accounts, and it's fortunate that Wm. World News points us to them in the Post's archives. This article---more likely a feature than the gamer---focused on the fan reaction, quite naturally. For example:

G.E. Feeney, who will be 82 in November said, "Oh heavens. I remember way back before then. There was Walter Johnson and a pitcher named Hughes. . . . I went to the last game when they won the pennant in '33. Those were great days."

Talking about the team leaving town, he said, "I was terribly upset. I can't drive any more at night and I enjoy watching it on TV. I guess that's all over now."

By my calculations, Mr. Feeney would be about 116 years old now, so it's best not to feel too much sympathy or anger over his plight. But, of course, it wasn't just G.E. Feeney who was harmed by the parsimonious and demonic Bob Short.

And then there was Shirley Povich's timeless account:

Everybody in Kennedy Stadium stood up at 7:30 p.m. because the voice on the loudspeaker said, "We ask you to join Robert Merrill in singing the National Anthem." The voice did not bother to explain that Merrill was on wax, and that Robert, baby, was not deserting the Metropolitan Opera stage for this occasion. It was merely one more of management's deceptions Senators' fans had long been taught to live with.

. . . If there was no general wet-eyed melancholia in the stadium, there were still unmistakable pockets of bitterness. From the upper stands hung banners spelling out four-letter words in large design, all of them reviling club owner Bob Short for shanghaing the team to Texas.

Special police dispatched by management to remove the hanging vulgarities in the second inning drew the boos of the crowd, which was making no secret that its sentiments were pro-banners and anti-police. And then in the third inning, the six-letter word made its appearance in the left-field upper stands in a new, vertical banner that read "Short Stinks." There were new cheers for that little number, which had a life of approximately 10 minutes before police took it by storm.

  • So now the modern Yankees come to town to play the modern (National League) Nationals, and Robert Fick's advice for success is pretty simple: "Pray." Four days ago, divine pleas hardly seemed necessary, as the Nats were riding the best record in the bigs since mid-May. But, once again, the mountains provided the agent of undoing. (It's a little known fact that Aaron managed the Israelites to a similar four-game losing streak while Moses was hanging out on some mountain.) If the Nats attempted to tap the Rockies, then the Rockies hammered back---four in a row---and illusory designs on something greater became just that: illusory. After a brief dalliance with envisioning something greater than thorough mediocrity, this four-game thud has to snap us all back to reality. (If you're not ready for reality, you could dwell on happier days, such as last June 16, when the Nats were twelve games over .500 and led the division by two-and-a-half.)
  • The 6-5 homestand I penciled in depends entirely upon a sweep of the Yankees. They come to town beaten up (check out this disabled list) and slumping (losers in five out of their last seven) but nevertheless lead a competitive top-tier of the American League East by a game. (Boston's four-game losing streak has certainly helped in that regard.) What the Yanks lack in outfielders---both Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield are out of action and will be for quite some time---they inspire in quality blogging. See, e.g. Pinstripe Alley (fine SBN site), Bronx Banter (I hope to post a review of Alex Belth's excellent book on Curt Flood soon), Replacement Level Yankee Weblog, Futility Infielder, and Was Watching. (And many others; that's what the e.g. means, of course.) Tonight, the Nats face Jaret Wright, Livan's opposite number during the '97 World Series, who---one excellent season in Atlanta notwithstanding---is still living off those earlier days. My dime-store analysis of Wright is that his paltry strikeout rate (3.8 per nine innings, trending way down from two years ago) seems rather untenable long-term. On the other hand, Wright has suddenly become a control pitcher (2.8 BB/9 IP) and is keeping the ball in the yard (one homer per sixteen innings pitched so far). Because Wright's only ineffective-looking pitching component is hits allowed (61 in 48.2 innings), his "FIP" ERA is currently 4.22, about two-tenths of a run better than the actual figure. Thus, maybe we should be on the lookout for the home team"knock[ing] out some hits, but . . . lack[ing] the big, sustained efforts needed to score runs when you're not hitting homers." Or maybe the Nats will pound Clyde's son into oblivion. This, after all, is a team that took three out of four from Philly and then lost four in a row against Colorado. So you never can tell.
  • I suppose the big story of the day (really, yesterday; news travels slower to these less sophisticated parts) is the edict to sober up the bullpen---professionally speaking, I mean. Capitol Punishment reviews the various accounts of John Wetteland's dismissal and then concludes, more broadly, "[t]he bullpen coach doesn't make a damn bit of difference." This is more than likely the case. At the least, we don't see those guys do a whole lot more than shuffling around back there, flexing their phone-answering muscles and spitting sunflower seeds. I'm sure your most professional bullpen coaches out there do more (and do so while gaining the relievers' trust, unlike Eddie O'Brien, a/k/a "Mr. Small Stuff" from Ball Four), but I'm guessing the main role is to observe, not to impart pitching philosophy. Thus, reading between the lines, it would appear that Wetteland's performance as bullpen coach was both underwhelming (not preparing the relievers) and overwhelming, to the extent that he was allegedly (and apparently) undermining Frank Robinson's authority. I wonder how that is accomplished, by the way:
    Stanton: The phone's ringing, Wet. [Note: I don't really know what Wetteland's nickname is.]

    Wetteland: Yeah, I hear it.

    Stanton: Are you gonna get it?

    Wetteland: Yeah . . . I guess. Hey, Rivera. Saul. Yeah, you. Work on these firecrackers for a sec. I wanna trash this place.

    {. . .}

    Stanton: So what'd he want?

    Wetteland:To get Majewski up.

    Majewski: Frank wants me to warm up? {Grabs glove}

    Wettleand: Yeah, but . . . I don't know. Hey, Rauch. Start throwing.

    Stanton: But he wants Majewski, right?

    Wetteland: Yeah.

    Majewski: Then shouldn't I start warming?

    Wetteland: Nah.

    {A few moments pass . . . }

    Wetteland: Alright, you're on, Big Guy.

    Stanton: But isn't he expecting Majewski?

    Wetteland: Sure. But, from this distance, the old man can't even tell the difference. . . . Rivera, heads up. Bombs away!

    Stanton: I don't know . . .

    Wetteland: Stop worrying. Oh, and Rauch: Don't throw strikes.

    Rauch: Huh?

    Wetteland: I mean . . . throw some, yes. But not a lot of them.

    Rauch: Really? Why?

    Wetteland: It's more fun that way.

    Rauch: Hmmm. I hadn't thought of that. Okay!

    Wetteland: Killer, dude!

    Stanton: {Shakes head, puts head in hands.}

    Well, that's a dramatization, lest anyone with standing wish to sue me. But it's somewhat in comformity with the assessment by Mike Stanton that was published by Nats.com: "John will be missed. He helped a lot of the young kids. There were some differences that could not be dealt with anymore."

    At any rate, Wetteland's departure necessitated a sort of organizational sea change, in order to find a replacement and then replace the replacement and then replace the replacement's replacement. Nats Farm Authority outlines the long and short of it. Meanwhile, OMG presents the case that this move goes beyond Wetteland (upon whose feet the relievers' recent poor performance was blamed) and lays the burden on Frank Robinson himself. Well, he does "hate pitchers."

  • Colorado's most high-profile hero of the recent series can't really be called a villain in DC. It was inaugural season fan favorite Jamey Carroll, who sliced-and-diced his former team. Jim Bowden sold Carroll to the Rockies for $300,000 during the offseason, in a move Bowden characterized in the most facile manner possible---even for him---as a transaction that saved the Nats a million. Which is ridiculous, since he's counting Carroll's roster slot at the salary of $700,000. Unless Bodes was planning on fielding no one in that slot, it saved at most $400,000---plus his precious $300,000 purchase price--but we know it didn't. And we know that because Royce Clayton eventually took Carroll's slot, and Clayton cost the Nats $1 million this season, which in effect means that Carroll's loss paid for Clayton's spot. Or, alternatively, you could say that Carroll's sale brought in a couple hundred thousand above the difference in price between Carroll and his utility man replacement, Damian Jackson. Or, less sympathetically, you could say that Carroll's sale paid for one-eight of Cristian Guzman's salary this season. To sit around and do nothing. While a $1M replacement plays. And while the $800,000 utility man plays centerfield.

    Makes sense to me.

    Anyway, OMG proffers the existence of a Carroll curse, andJust a Nats Fan is on board. The evidence is mounting. Distinguished Senators takes a look at the pound-the-former-team motivation factor.

  • Curly W sees the recent slide as merely regression to the mean; the team's okay but nothing special, in essence, and these things will invariably happen. Lots of stuff from Beltway Boys, including perspective on what this team is shooting for: Are 73 wins, rather than 64 wins, that important this year? (Or 75, instead of 68, or whatever.)
  • Brick agrees with Tom Boswell's assessment of the Nats' draft (in short, avoid high schoolers with top picks):
    A weak draft is like a bear stock market. That's the time for the dependable blue chip companies. They may not have high ceilings, but they won't be a drain on your portfolio. In a bull market, any idiot can make money, so take all the risks you like.

    The NBA instituted a rule preventing teams from drafting high school players. Despite the success of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James, the NBA thinks high school players should spend a year honing their skills, whether that is in college or a minor league. They created a rule just to protect clubs from their own stupidity. Is [top pick] Chris Marrero another Kwame Brown waiting to happen?

  • Nats Triple Play has some interesting content to review. There's an XM-enabled assessment of Charlie and Dave2.0, courtesy of tr ntp Dave:
    I think this year's radio team is actually really strong. Their game coverage was tight, and included good side stories on minor league ball (and clubhouses), and a particularly good sense of the game. They dwelled some on a foul ball that landed in the booth yesterday, but you can't blame them. Apparently it almost took out Dave's head.

    They had plenty of information (as you would expect), but also used it well. It was good situational descriptions. They even went into great detail on player placement, uniforms, and the like -- I got a good sense of the game as it was played.

    In addition, Nate offers both praise of and sympathy for tonight's starter, Shawn Hill. The praise is a review of Hill's most recent outing; the sympathy is inspired by the knowledge that John Patterson might (hopefully) be coming back soon---so Hill might not be long for the rotation (or the big club), no matter how well he pitches.

  • Finally, bite your nails along with "Caniac" Josh Crockett. And submit your wit to Beltway Sports Beat.