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Undefeated. Still Undefeated!

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My friend has a tennis game for the XBOX 360; I've played it a few times. We both select Roger Federer, so that Roger Federer (white tennis shirt) is playing . . . Roger Federer (navy blue tennis shirt). If there's one distinguishing feature about this video game, it's that Roger Federer is absolutely other-worldly. You know that scene near the beginning of The Phantom Menace when beardless Obi-Wan and his bearded master put on the super-speed to evade the rolly-droids with the rapid fire blaster cannons and shield generators? Of course you don't; The Phantom Menace sucked. But just trust me on this---those Jedi fools went into fast mode really quick, and that's what Roger Federer does in this game. You can stick him waaaay down off the baseline, and he'll get to anything, even off-screen. Roger Federer is nigh unbeatable. Of course, this also means Roger Federer himself can't beat Roger Federer. Thus, our games invariably result in a tie (or would, if neither of us got bored).

The Washington Nationals are apparently a lot like that, though the other-worldly part might need to be taken under advisement. The Nationals tied . . . the Nationals, 4-4. Among the highlights, a bunch of pitchers went two innings and gave up some runs, Nook Logan took an oh-fer, and Michael Restovich and Ronnie Belliard are both on pace for 350 unofficial homers this year.

Speaking of ties, two beat writers apparently tied for best blog headline. Or perhaps it was worst blog headline. Whatever. On the quality scale, they're probably safely between Roger Federer and the 2007 Washington Nationals.

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I must confess---I have no idea what the hell is going on with the Nats. I'm so far out of the loop, I'm in Loudon County (or, you know, Richmond). Anyway, it's time for some random thoughts:

  • The big buzz machine seems to be the RFK public address announcer . . . or shall we say ex-PA announcer . . . or, I guess more accurately, unofficial ex-PA announcer. He seems to have been benched for poor performance, and his wife got mad. Out of this, I suppose we can conclude:

    Kurt Warner:Ex-PA Guy::Brenda Warner:Ex-PA Guy's Wife.

    I cannot say I hold strong feelings on the matter one way or another. I wish ex-PA Guy best wishes and Godspeed. Apparently, he will serve as the PA guy for the Potomac Nationals. In one of those Wouldn't Have Guessed That Two Years Ago moments, there's a chance he'll be introducing Mike Hinckley---in High-A ball.

  • Speaking of Hinckley, it's right about time I propose a crazy idea; sure has been awhile, so I'll catch up on lost time: Mike Hinckley, Fifth Starter?

    In Washington, I mean.

    Yes, the real Washington, not Prince William County.

    Stop laughing---I'm serious. Well, sort of serious. Listen me out on this.

    Years ago, I heard an econ professor lecture on the concept of Opportunity Evaporation. From what I remember---and there are no assurances I was taking copious notes on the subject---Opportunity Evaporation is the principle that an anticipated thing will degrade to the point where the anticipation is never tested, and the thing will eventually waste away without ever being given an opportunity for implementation. Put another way, what this means is that sometimes we don't give things a chance, notwithstanding their apparent merit or lack thereof, and consequently we never know precisely what we missed.

    Hinckley reminds me of Opportunity Evaporation. He is something (or someone) we have anticipated, and now that his performance has declined to a harrowingly substantial extent, we probably will never see him given an opportunity. It has, in essence, evaporated. Consequently, we don't know precisely what he can do. Given the promise he once showed, and given the cast of thousands competition for a rotation spot (thus, with no certainties among the candidates for the last four spots), a case can be made to extend Hinckley an opportunity to confirm or deny, as a matter of finality, that former anticipation.

    Make sense?

    If you're scratching your head wondering what I'm saying, just imagine what the econ majors out there are doing, because I just made up the concept of Opportunity Evaporation. Whole cloth, baby.

    But it sounded better than just asking, "Why not? What the hell?"

  • Apparently, Jim Bowden's intelligence is greater than or equal to that of anyone who has ever employed him. Pretty impressive. In the interest of good taste, I'll hold off on any snarky Buck v. Bell allusions and merely comment that District of Baseball offers the line for all seasons.

    I have a friend out there---amazing, yes---who sort of follows the Nats, and he's registered here but never comments, but I can tell you he loves Bodes to death. I'm not sure my friend really thinks the old Cap'n L'Pants is all that bright, but he loves the pomposity and swagger. (And he thinks Bodes is reasonably bright.) I've been trying to get him to do an appreciation post, but his assessment is probably correct: How many different ways can you say "Jim Bowden is ultra-cool?"

    A good question, indeed.

  • Murray Chass, your fleeing brain; your fleeing brain, Murray Chass:
    Statistics mongers promoting VORP and other new-age baseball statistics.

    I receive a daily e-mail message from Baseball Prospectus, an electronic publication filled with articles and information about statistics, mostly statistics that only stats mongers can love.

    To me, VORP epitomized the new-age nonsense. For the longest time, I had no idea what VORP meant and didn't care enough to go to any great lengths to find out. I asked some colleagues whose work I respect, and they didn't know what it meant either.

    Finally, not long ago, I came across VORP spelled out. It stands for value over replacement player. How thrilling. How absurd. Value over replacement player. Don't ask what it means. I don't know.

    My word, is that ever awesome! Really. It's often difficult to brook stupidity, but sheer intellectual laziness? That transcends pathetic . . . patheticness . . . hey, that ain't a word!

    Years ago, Bill James created a character called Dick U. Oldsportswriter. This was Chass's Dick U. Oldsportswriter column, now wasn't it? Chass is a Hall of Fame writer---to the extent sportswriters are actual Hall of Famers; aren't the good ones relegated to just sorta status?---but he's lost his fastball more precipitiously than Mike Hinckley. It's akin to a Lee Guetterman floater these days.

    Okay, okay---resolved: VORP is an incurably ridiculous acronym. (It certainly can't hold a candle to IDOIT.) Let's just move past that. Once we do so, we are left with this nifty internal monologue:

    What the hell is this? An email? What's an email? Baseball Prospectus? What the hell is that? Some big words, lots of numbers---must be stats dorks. Worse yet, stats mongers. Wait, another email from those mongers? One every day? Someone stop them! How can this stop? Might as well read it one time. VORP? Sounds like a burp. {Hey, save that one for a column.} VORP, VORP, VORP---what that hell is that? I've got their email address, but should I ask for a definition? Nah; they're stats dorks. Maybe they've got a link to what it is. Nah; no time. Still . . . maybe I'll ask what it is. But I'll wait around a long while, and make sure to ask persons whose work I respect. Not stats mongers, that's for damned sure. Nope, they don't know either. Still . . . oh, there it is: Value Over Replacement Player. That's thrilling. That's absurd. It's spelled out, but I still don't know what it means. Oh well.

    They must hate baseball.

    First one to make charges of stats monger brutishness is relegated to dinner with Dr. Zaius. I mean it. I've got the number to his little stone hut on speed dial. Don't make me use it.

    Personally, I don't care if Murray Chass knows what VORP is or not. It's a measure, not a litmus test for baseball insight. It's rather intuitive, even if you prefer to stay away from inartful acronyms. It's something all of us wonder, even if just implicitly: How much worse would this Triple-A guy actually be than our starter? The calculations and all that are pure stats geekery, but the concept makes some sense.

    Even still, sure, don't accept it. Disregard it---it's not my stat, and either way it doesn't affect the price of beer. But good gracious---a multi-stage hunt to determine what a freakin' acronym stands for, then when it's spelled out . . . not to know or care what it means? That's just intellectual laziness.

    And it's awesome. Pathetically so.

At any rate, that's all that I know for the day. It's my understanding Cristian Guzman has a .500 BA so far. What's BA? Apparently it stands for batting average. That's thrilling. That's absurd.

* * * *

It's the Week of VladiHondo. If you're not familiar with him, he's one of the most insightful posters at the BPG forum. (Yes, there are insightful posters there, and he's one of the foremost.) And now he's branched out into guest-blogging.

First, he penned a prospects look at Nats Farm Authority. Now, he's taken a look at the Nationals' defense in 2005-06, which will appear at this site tomorrow evening (hopefully). The post has some tables, and I have to format them and all; once I've done that, I will submit the post in due course. So keep a look out for it, willya?