Friday, April 28, 2006

Rut

I'm in a bit of a Nats-related funk these days. There seems to be a pall over the franchise and everything associated with it. When the inagural season ended on October 2, 2005 the team left an enormous wake of hope and goodwill behind, a groundswell of positive momentum that carried fans into the offseason. We enthusiastically awaited what we hoped/thought would be a prompt resolution of the stadium agreement, followed shortly by the sale of the team to a new owner and the dawn of a new, post-honeymoon era of Nationals baseball.

I can understand why attendance numbers are so low this season. The 2005 Nationals were about hope; the 2006 Nationals are about frustration. I still love the team, but when I think about them and write about them I feel frustrated and somewhat tired. I, like many others, truly thought that the injustices foisted upon this franchise would be resolved by now. Instead, things are just as bad, if not worse. MLB's daily proclaimations of an ownership announcement "soon" have become just plain insulting and the TV deal is as big of a mess as you'll ever see. All of this affects the quality of the product on the field...this team is sinking fast and has no means by which to right the ship. For heaven's sakes, we're already out of pitchers!

I knew nothing of the large online community of Nationals fans when I started this site last September. I merely wanted an outlet to nurture my enjoyment of writing and my fandom of the team. I thought I'd pick up a few diehard fans as regular readers, but that would be it. Then the comments started coming in and I was really surprised that people were actually reading! Of course, before long I stumbled upon the Natosphere. I was shocked (pleasantly) by how many top-notch blogs there were out there. More importantly, discovering this community has deepened my own fandom of the Nationals, as I have met (virtually) so many other fans who care as much as I do.

Although I'm a relative newcomer to the blogging scene, my sense is that the Natosphere has grown sharply since last season in terms of numbers and intensity. It's really amazing what some of my colleagues out there are able to do: people are getting exclusive interviews, doing book reviews, podcasting, audioblogging from Spring Training, live blogging from hearings, and posting two to three times a day on every last bit of news. I love reading it all, but as a blogger I just can't keep up.

I really feel like I've lost my voice. I don't have any of the snazzy features that many other blogs do, and between a new baby and new job I'm lucky if I get to post once a week. By the time I sit down to write before work, after work, or on the weekend, every last development about the Nats has already been covered 13 ways from Sunday. I've never been one to just link to Washington Post articles and summarize what they say; the Curly W has always been more of a sports column than a news beat. But even then, I'll put together a long opinion piece only to publish and find that three other people have already posted on it while I was writing.

I know, I know, it's not about competition. But in a community as large, interactive and close-knit as the Natosphere the desire to contribute something unique can't be denied. Right now I don't feel like I have that to offer. Like the team, I feel that the Curly W is in the midst of a growing losing streak. I'm going to try to improve this blog as best I can by writing more thoughtful posts and (hopefully) adding a co-author or two to improve post frequency. But in the end, I'm not sure I'll be able to secure this endeavor as something worthwhile for readers or for myself.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Race to the Bottom

Capitol Punishment has a teriffic sub-post about the disquieting headlines coming out of the Nats ownership derby for the past two weeks. I'd been kicking around a post on this subject for about a week but couldn't figure out how to say what I wanted to say: I applaud the goal of bringing African-American investors into the Nationals ownership group, but I detest the way that it is being done.

In case you missed it, here's a brief summary of the events of the last two weeks: the media began to report that the Lerner group was the front-runner to get the team, but that their bid was in jeopardy because they did not have "enough" African American investors. The rationale was that Bud Selig wants his "legacy" as commissioner to be the greater inclusion of black fans, players, executives and owners in Major League Baseball. (Actually his legacy will be the '94 strike, steroids, contraction attempt...but we digress). The Lerners and the other two front-running groups spent the next two weeks adding prominent black investors to their ownership teams and then running to the press to make sure Bud knew. Finally, in a last-ditch effort to revive his flagging candidacy, Jeffrey Smulyan announced, out of nowhere, that he would name Eric Holder, a former U.S. Attorney General for DC, as president of the Nationals if Smulyan's group were chosen to buy the team.

Taken by itself, there is no reason to question this announcement, but in the context of the week's events it is highly disturbing. The WaPo story has a disturbing paragraph:

"The disclosure from the Smulyan group comes as Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig and MLB President Robert DuPuy prepare to meet this week with representatives of two groups who are considered to be front-runners to buy the team: the family of Bethesda-based real estate developer Theodore Lerner, and a group led by Washington business executives Fred Malek and Jeffrey Zients."

I know nothing of Eric Holder as a man or as a business executive, and as such have no idea whether he'd make a good team president. However, I find it extremely disturbing that it appears as though he's been chosen for this post solely because he is (in the words of the Post) a "prominent African-American." Only Smulyan and his cohorts know if this is actually true, but on the shaky bridge of racial politics appearances are everything. And right now, it appears that the three ownership groups are adding minority investors that they don't need (from a financial sense) simply to appease Bud Selig and some agitators on the D.C. council. This kind of pandering does a grave disservice to everyone involved.

I share Bud Selig's desire to see greater minority participation in all aspects of the game that I love so much. But to drag race into the spotlight as the (apparently) deciding factor of an already long and contentious battle is disgusting. We all deserve to be included in our national pastime, but we all deserve better than the disturbing racial politics of the Nats Greed Sweepstakes.

*Update* Farid has a great post on this topic at Beltway Boys. Check it out.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Imagine

So, uh, I haven't posted in awhile. Part of my absence has been the lack of real Nats news, the other (greater) part is attributed to work and home life demands. It happens.

However, the news from the Natosphere is looking pretty good these days. Stan Kasten has merged with the Lerner group and the rumors are swirling that Bud will announce them as owner/team president on Friday. This is pretty much the best of all possible worlds. We'd get a deep pocketed, hands-off local owner combined with an experienced operations man from one of the most successful franchises in baseball. Chances are good that we'll get a real management team instead of the bumbling clown corps of Tony Tavares and Jim Bowden.

Speaking of the reviled GM, Bowden laid a huge Easter egg by getting beaten by his fiancee, then arrested for DUI. Too much lightning in a bottle, eh? This pretty much seals the deal on his upcoming firing; now the team can add his off-field conduct to his questionable stewardship of the team for a solid causus termini. Just for fun, check out his mugshot. It takes a special kind of asshole to smile for your own mugshot.

As we head out of the Dark Ages of the Nationals' history and into what will hopefully be a new era of prosperity and competitiveness, I'd like to offer you a little song to get you through the week. This is a song that I think the great John Lennon would have written if he were a Nats fan:

Imagine there's no Selig,
It's easy if you try
A real ballpark around us
luxury boxes in the sky
Imagine Jimmy Bowden
On the next train out of town...

Imagine there's no Guzman,
It isn't hard to do
No Royce Clayton either
A real shortstop turning two
Imagine middle infielders
Actually hitting their weight...

Imagine there's no Comcast,
I wonder if you can
No need for Peter Angelos
Or MASN on your cable plan
Imagine 2 million people
Actually watching the games...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the Nats will be World Champions...