July 23, 2008
Cristian Guzman just signed a two-year contract extension with the Nationals, which is great news. Guzman signed with the team as a free agent in November 2004, after they left Montreal but before they arrived in D.C. His first the years in Washington were nightmarish, plagued by injuries and poor performance that evidently stemmed from eyesight problems. After corrective laser surgery, he started making ball contact like he used to, and became the only Nat in this year's All-Star Game.
Meanwhile reliever Jon Rauch was traded to the Diamondbacks for Emilio Bonifacio, whom they hope will be the team's future second baseman. Felipe Lopez's job is clearly in jeopardy, but I thought Ronnie Belliard was more than adequate in that position, so what gives? Bonifacio will play for the Columbus affiliate for the time being. He is supposed to be an excellent defensive player with solid batting and base-stealing abilities. See MLB.com. Rauch was one of the dwindling number of former Montreal Expos on the team; the only ones left now are Chad Cordero, Nick Johnson, and Luis Ayala.
Mike Zurawski informed me of a hideous monstrosity that was recently unveiled at Nationals Park: a big red tent on top of the parking garage that blocks the view of the U.S. Capitol dome. See Half Street Blues. That view is one of the prime attractions of the new ballpark, for crying out loud! Was this done out of spite, or to force the D.C. government to pay the damages that the team owners are demanding? Or are the Lerners just too stupid to run a ball club? Mike thinks the latter:
Other than the Marlins Jeff Loria and maybe Peter Angelos i can't think of worse baseball owners. Fred Malek should have been the owner. These idiots should go back to real estate.
Based on the way the Lerners have structured ticket prices at Nationals Park, leaving many prime seats empty, and at their failure to sign some of their top draft picks, which Mike also mentioned, I would have to agree. NOTE: My opinion on that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I'm at the top of Fred Malek's blogroll! Mr. Malek recently resigned from his post as Finance Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, partly to spend more time on the McCain campaign, and partly to let the new state party chairman pick his own staff.
As ballparks go, rendering the profile of RFK Stadium is one of the more difficult tasks, due to its odd, swooping roof and grandstand configuration. Previously I tried to indicate this with a combined profile depiction, but now I have separate profiles for the tallest and shortest portions of the grandstand, along with a third profile that shows the outfield, where there is no lower deck. I hope it's not too cluttered. I've also added the lights to the diagram(s), but the field dimensions and grandstand are the same as before.
A few more news items with the Nats that deserve attention: Wily Mo Peña, who failed to live up to his reputation as a slugger during the first half of the season with the Nationals, had surgery on his shoulder on Tuesday and will miss the rest of the season. Apparently he's had the problem for most of this year, but he tried to keep playing anyway, possibly aggravating the condition.
On a brighter note, Ryan Zimmerman returned to the Nats' lineup for the first time in six weeks, because of a sore shoulder.* He missed 48 games altogether, during which time the Nats won only 16 games -- an abysmal .333 record. Zimmerman got one hit in three at bats against the Giants in AT&T Park last night (they lost, 6-3), and one of his outs was a blazing line drive that was caught. Well, things can only get better from this point on. (Right?)
Another bright note was the fact that the Nats beat the Braves in two of the three games in Atlanta over the weekend, and they almost caught up in the one game they lost, 7-6. During that series, the Nationals scored a total of 29 runs, their highest such total since last September 24-26, when they swept the Mets by a cumulative score of 32-19.
* Speaking of sore shoulders, mine is still bothering me, after throwing out the first pitch at a local game on July 3. It's making it hard to use the mouse, so maybe I'll have to learn to use my left hand.