Monday, October 30, 2006

5 Questions With Screech's Best Friend

It's time for another edition of 5 Questions! This time I linked up with Screech's Best Friend of the Nats 320 blog. Nats 320 burst onto the Nats blogging scene this year and is unique for Screech's in-person accounts of nearly every home game. Screech's Best Friend and his wife attend nearly every game at RFK and are among the many rabid fans that inhabit Section 320. His enthusiasm for the game, the team and blogging shine through in each and every post. It's my pleasure to bring you his answers to my questions. To see my answers to his questions, head on over to this link.

Brandon: I know that you used to play pro ball in the minors. Did you ever imagine that you would have such a rich experience as a fan after having had the experience of actually playing the game?

Screech's Best Friend: No--I have never lost the PASSION for the game. Baseball is the only game that I enjoy that does not end because time has run out. You must get that final out to win. Something happens in virtually every single game, that you have never seen before. Baseball is special. Since I was a little tike, I LOVED BASEBALL, playing it every single day possible growing up. I was fortunate enough to play professionally for 3 seasons, I did well, but a career ending injury took away my best playing abilities--and I did not look back, not once---no regrets--I gave it my best. I ended up competing in a far distant career, television news, and have been fortunate enough to travel all over this amazing planet we live on. But, for 34 years, I yearned for the return of baseball to my hometown, and it was, miraculously, returned in 2005. I vowed to do everything personally possible to support Our Washington Nationals. I love THE GAME. I LOVE MY TEAM, AND, I LOVE ATTENDING AND ENJOYING EVERY SINGLE HOME GAME with the knowledgable friends and fans we sit with in Section 320. To see my team, The Washington Senators, leave town when I was 12 years old, and Major League Baseball not return, the game I enjoy soooooo much, until I was 46, approaching geezer age--very, very special.

Brandon: What is the best part about being a season ticket holder? What are us non-season ticket holders missing out on?

Screech's Best Friend: This one is easy. THE FRIENDS WE HAVE MADE AT RFK STADIUM. Sohna and I became Season Ticket Holders for the Inaugural Season, for one reason--My LOVE OF THE GAME. As it turned out, we ended up with a fairly large group of like minded, baseball fanatics. WE ARE FAMILY!! There is nothing like attending a game with so many others that have that same feeling about the games as you. When the 2005 season started, I was not expecting to attend all the games, not even close, yet we came to enjoy the comaradarie and fun that has become Section 320. We Have A Blast, each and every game. The African Queen and I have made many, many friends among other SeasonTicket Holders that come to most every game, including Ushers and even Nats Officials. We are fortunate to have the players wives, girlfriends and family to also sit, just to our right in Section 320. It can make for interesting conversations. At the same time, attending virtually every single game has it perks. Management has noticed us, and if we have an issue, question or a request, you can bet, Mr. Kasten or someone involved with the Nats will take care of it. And, belivee it or not, Screech is a major assest for Section 320. No game can begin unless Screech visits us at First Pitch. Its become TRADITION!! The GAMES ARE THE DRAW--THE ATMOSPHERE THE TOXIC ELIXER!!

Brandon: A lot of Nats blogs start slowly and hit their stride after a few months. You burst onto the scene this season and started cranking out great posts every day. Was there a particular moment that you can recall thinking "I should start a blog about this?"

Screech's Best Friend: As amazing as it may sound, The Nats320 Blog was not my original idea. SayHeyKlib, an original Secton 320 faithful, sent out an email to all Fellow 320's stating, since I was sending so many email's each and everyday to everyone, inundating their inboxes with Nats Info and Dialogue, we should have a blog. I thought that was a good idea. SayHey started it up and another Section 320, Andy, was away on business in Holland. Andy is as passionate about Our Nationals as me. He asked me to send him a report on every game. My reports were virtually play by play with all the personal commentary added in. Andy enjoyed reading them, and passed them on to others. I loved writing them, continuing to do so even after Andy returned back to the States. Then, I began to write some appreciation pieces when the Nats Traded Gary Majewski and then Jose Guillen was lost for the season. And, I enjoyed it more and more. I found that if I wrote about something that interested me concerning the Nationals, there was alot of enjoyment in the effort. Then, surprisingly to me, people started to read my musings--commenting back, and I was shocked. Then, Screech found out that I was "SCREECH'sBESTFRIEND, and eventually, some in Nats Managment, and folks involved with the Stadium were reading the blog. I have been hooked ever since. I really enjoy it. More fun than I ever, EVER expected.

Brandon: What is your favorite Nationals moment of all time?

Screech's Best Friend: NO BRAINER!! In my entire life history of playing and watching baseball, nothing compares to June 18th, 2006 when Ryan Zimmerman hit that DRAMATIC Game Winning Bottom of the Ninth Home Run to beat THE YANKEES 3-2 at RFK Stadium. RFK was ROCKING--FOR THE YANKEES ("Let's Go Yank--ees!!), we were down 2-1 and Marlon Anderson had just dribbled a roller in the hole just to the left of Robinson Cano. Chien-Ming Wang had pitched a TERRIFIC GAME for New York. Z stepped to the plate and on Wang's 107th and final pitch of the game, Ryan drilled that offering over the left field fence for The Game Winning Hit!! RFK Stadium ROARED like never heard since the Washington Redskins played there. The Stadium was SHAKING!!!! The Crowd DELIRIOUS!! If there was ever BEDLAM at a Baseball Game in The Nation's Capital, it was that day. Everyone hugging EVERYONE!! Vividly, I remember running up the stairs in Section 320, giving and receiving a HUGE HUG and KISS, from Barbara (Mrs. Frank Robinson) and her daughter, Nichelle. Sohna said you could not take the smile off my face for a week. Still, to this day, I can re-play that final play on video with Charlie Slowes' TREMENDOUS CALL!! and just giggle and cheer to no end. It is the SIGNATURE MOMENT in the young history of OUR WASHINGTON NATIONALS. As I had stated before, unless the Nationals win the World Series, dramatically, I could not imagine being as happy as June 18, 2006.

Brandon: The Nats have a great fan base, but there are still a lot more baseball fans in the D.C. area than there are Nats fans. What do you think has to change before this becomes a diehard Nats town?

Screech's Best Friend: The Nationals need to become a winner. The Redskins have a tremendous fan base because, at one time, they were consistent winners and contenders for THE SUPER BOWL, each and every year. Due to the nature of business in Washington, DC--Politics, there will ALWAYS be alot of fans from other cities. For my entire life, The Bullets, now Wizards, have drawn well for New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago--Teams with Nationwide exposure, fans that follow those teams, even when they transfer to a job in DC. Winning is everything, people get on the bandwagon, folks that don't have any knowledge of the game, but want to be a part of something special, jump on board. Mr. Kasten has said to me, that the Nats need to draw those casual fans, looking for someplace to entertain their family for the evening, every once in a while. The Nats need to get good, provide the spark, everything else will follow. Many times, I have stated: The WASHINGTON NATIONALS WILL BE A GLAMOUR FRANCHISE!!


Brandon: You grew up during the Senators days and now attend virtually every Nats home game. What's the best-kept secret of RFK stadium?

Screech's Best Friend: I could comment all night long on this one. First, RFK is the EASIEST BALLPARK to get to. Whether you live in Virginia, DC or Maryland there are multiple ways to drive, via roads and highways to reach Lot 8 for that tremendous tailgating. And, if driving not your thing, Metro. It works and Metro can line up a ton of trains at the Stadium-Armory Station after games to get folks moving. Lot 8--to me, the best tailgating parking lot imaginable. Spacious, fun and right next to the ballpark. You can party right up until 10 minutes before gametime and still make it to your seats. Which leads to the seating at RFK Stadium--the upper deck hangs out over the field, giving those sitting in the Upper Deck a close in view of the game--unique in the sport today, as each successive new stadium builds its subsequent upper decks farther and farther away. RFK has some of the BEST SIGHTLINES in the game. And EVERYONE is going to miss that in the new park. And, finally, THE NOISE--the cantiliver waving roof at RFK traps all the noise rising inside the ballpark--making for a tremendous home field advantage. That, along with the jumping seats along the 3rd baseline, make for a unique baseball experience. People can bitch and moan all they want about what RFK Stadium does not have, but when The Nationals move to South Capitol Street, alot more are going to miss the natural setting of the Stadium on EAST CAPITOL STREET. DC Stadium, then renamed, RFK Stadium, was the very first ballpark I attended as a child. Long after its gone, It will remain Number 1 in my heart. The Nationals playing the last few remaining years at RFK has given this, one time, Architectural Wonder, a graceful, deserving ending.


Thanks to Screech's Best Friend for answering my questions. We'll look forward to seeing you and the rest of the gang in Section 320 this April!

Pictured: Screech and his Best Friend at RFK Stadium

Friday, October 27, 2006

5 Questions with Farid

Continuing our offseason circuit through the Natosphere, this week we bring you Farid from The Beltway Boys. He was gracious enough to answer our questions about life, baseball and blogging. We also answered Farid's questions, which you can find here. And without further ado, our Q&A with Farid:

Ben: What's your inspiration for blogging? You are a content machine and I often wonder what drives you. What do you want to do with this, and what, if any, aspirations do you have as a writer or blogger?

Farid: I began to follow the Senators in the early 1960’s, a time when little information was available about the team outside of what we read in the box scores in the Post or Star (or the Daily News for those of you who are really old). Sure, Warner Wolf or Mal Campbell or Steve Gilmartin might cover the game on the 11:00 news, but most of us kids were long asleep by then. “The Beltway Boys,” then, is my way of filling that great informational void of my youth; it’s how I would have covered the Senators had I had the opportunity four decades ago. Like most Nationals’ bloggers, I write about things that interest me, so you’ll read a lot about the “behind the scenes” aspects of the team.

I would love more than anything to make my living writing about the Nationals. If the site traffic continues to increase as it has, and if my readership continues to enjoy my efforts, I may one day be willing to quit my day job and invest in a real, for profit site. It’d make a nice retirement job, wouldn’t it?

Ben: Washington Nationals' greatest achievement this season? Honorable mention?

Farid: Not moving to another city. Seriously, it would have had to been Bowden’s trade with Cincinnati that brought two starting position players for a cadre of relievers. From that day forward, the Nationals were able to field a starting eight that was good enough to win every time they took the field. Had there been some semblance of a starting staff, the Nationals might have had a very impressive second half. Honorable mention would be the re-creation of a solid bullpen. After trades and injuries (and poor decisions by Bowden) forced the team to play with a “tinker-toy” relief corps, an influx of younger players at first stopped the bleeding, and later provided Frank Robinson with a bullpen almost as good as the one he had in 2005.

Ben: Washington Nationals' lowest moment this season? Worst decision?

Farid: The low point was that first day of Spring Training when Brian Lawrence was lost for the season before ever throwing a pitch. After all those injuries in 2005, Nats’ fans were hoping for an injury-free season. When Lawrence was lost, everything just seemed to go down hill. After the loss of John Patterson, Bowden was forced to field what can only be termed a minor-league rotation, effectively ending any hope of a decent year. The worst decision was not perpetrated by any member of the Nationals; rather, it was Bud Selig’s belief that allowing the team to remain ownerless for almost two years wouldn’t affect the Nationals’ relationship with the city of Washington. Had ownership been in place by Spring Training, I have little doubt that attendance would have been in the 2.5 million range.

Ben: You are the Nationals' braintrust. Within reason and logic, what would be your next three moves?

Farid: 1- Don’t resign Alfonso Soriano. I have little doubt that he’s going to revert to hitting .265-35-85 every year, which is not worth anything near $15 million dollars. Further, his clutch hits come far less often than his ill-timed strikeouts.

2- Don’t bank the savings – that would anger the faithful. Use the money and sign two “above average pitchers,” hurlers who could provide the team the opportunity to be competitive next year. Their contracts would end about the time that the National’s young pitchers are ready to join the team’s starting rotation.

3- Sign a throw-a-way manager. There is no way that the next guy in the dugout is going to be around when the team becomes competitive. The Nationals are going to lose for another 2-3 seasons, making whomever they sign “tainted.” If guys like Joe Girardi and Ken Macha can’t keep their jobs, then “no-names” with a losing record certainly aren’t going to be asked back when things finally begin to look up.

Ben: You have packed up your house and are moving across town tomorrow. The truck will be there in the morning, but you need another friend to help move furniture. Based on your opinion of the players, who's the Washington National you could call tonight and expect to be there at 7am? Who would give you the worst excuse and what would it be?

Farid: Without a doubt, it’s Ryan Zimmerman (ed. note: Wahoowa! -Ben). He has shown in his short career that he places loyalty above money (he was the first top draft pick to sign in ’05, coming to an agreement with the Nationals only hours after he was picked), has compassion for others (he’s watched his mother suffer with a debilitating illness and has set up a foundation with his own money to help fight the disease), and he doesn’t take himself too seriously on the field. The worst excuse would come from Brandon Watson, who would tell me that he doesn’t live around here any more. Oh, wait …

Ben BONUS QUESTION: My family and neighbors think I'm crazy to or don't understand why I spend so much time blogging. What do they think of you out there?

Farid: My family, particularly my wife, believes in my ability to write, but also thinks that I’m “wasting” it by spending 20+ hours per week on my blog. They all want me to write a book, get rich, and retire. I will write that book one day – it’ll be about the Nationals – but only when I find the right angle. I’d love to do something that follows a group of fans, showing how the team affects them, their family, their careers, etc. Of course, wanting to write a book and actually getting it published are two very different things.

Farid, you certainly have the stamina to write for a living. Thanks for trading up with us!

Pictured: Farid, Mrs. Farid and Granddaughter of Farid

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stadium Arcadium

The arrival of the new Nationals stadium is only 18 months away. Sure, we still don't know where the creme de la creme will park and we haven't even hit the surface of the cost overruns iceberg, but the new stadium is an emerging reality. The Lerners will have many life or death decisions to make concerning the new park, like where to put the souvenir store, for instance.

After building the stadium and finding places for people to park their Bentleys, the biggest question is what to call the place. After all, the chosen name is one that we'll all be using several times a day for years to come. Well, we'll be using the name until they demolish the stadium in 30 years or the naming rights contract runs out, whichever comes first.

It seems like a foregone conclusion that the Lerners will sell the naming rights to the team. After all, selling naming rights is de rigeur in professional sports today, and there's no reason to believe that the Lerners won't follow suit. I hope that the Nats sell the naming rights and get top dollar for their efforts. Some, like Screech's Best Friend, decry the alleged desecration of these hallowed parks with corporate monikers, but we fans can hardly sneeze at the additional revenue that these deals bring. The web site League of Fans puts the sum of all naming rights deals of all MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL stadia at a whopping $3.551 billion dollars. The average deal is for $54.6 million over 19 years, or 2.9 million per year.

What could this mean for the Nats? Even if their naming rights deal is merely average for pro sports, that extra $3 million per year essentially pays for a cornerstone player all by itself. In 2006, this revenue could have paid for any Nats player save Alfonso Soriano, Jose Guillen, Jose Vidro, Cristian Guzman (gulp) and Nick Johnson. What if the deal is above average? After the collapse of Enron in 2002, the Houston Astros sold their naming rights to the Coca-Cola corporation for $168 million over 28 years, or $6 million per year. Think the Nats would have trouble re-signing Soriano if they had that kind of cash injection?

So which major corporation will pony up for the naming rights? I'd kind of like to see it be a local corporation, if only to reinforce the "hometown" nature of the stadium. Let's take a look at the Post 200 index of big local companies to see what we might get.

-Lockheed Martin: Not to be too cynical, but as long as the war keeps going on, Lockheed will keep getting those government contracts, so they'll have the cash to buy naming rights. Lockheed is also into information technology and other sectors outside of aerospace, so they'd have a motive to advertise. Maybe instead of fireworks we could get a sonic boom after each home run.

-Chevy Chase Bank: Chevy Chase may buy the naming rights if for no other reason than to have another place to stick a branch. Rumor has it that they might try to put an ATM in the back of each seat and charge non-customers $12 to make a transaction. Bank consolidation has created a ruthless competitive environment in this area, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a bank buy the rights. Hey, it might spare us from hearing those God-awful "What I Want" commercials from PNC.

-Capital One Financial Services: This company offers "no-hassle" credit cards, but I can only imagine how many times you'd be shaken down for a card offer if this company bought the rights. Of course, after a day at this new ballpark, the answer to this company's slogan "What's In Your Wallet?" might be simple: nothing.

-Marriott International: Maybe Marriott is tired of Paris Hilton shining the hotel-fame spotlight on the Hilton company. The obvious antidote to this is to buy the naming rights to the Nats' Stadium and then install a spokes-skank to go toe-to-toe with Paris. It's just what our celebrity-deprived town needs.

-The Washington Post: Wouldn't that be great? I'm serious. Washington Post Field, written in that great WaPo headline script. That is one corporate name that would be both tolerable and welcome.

-XM Radio: I don't know if this company has the cash (their market cap is "only" $5.74 billion) but it'd be cool to have a cutting-edge company win the rights instead of a stodgy bank.

-Comcast, Inc.: Okay, they're not local, but wouldn't it be rich if Comcast bought the rights after screwing so many of us for so long? It'd be a nice flip 'o the bird to the D.C. government and Peter Angelos to make everyone go to Comcast Field.

-Lerner Enterprises: Don't laugh. Turner Field, meet Lerner Field.

I'm sure that the true stadium name will be something I haven't thought of. But hey, it's never too soon to speculate. It's October. What else do we have to do?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

5 Questions With MissChatter

In an effort to fight those offseason bloggin' blues, I've decided to bring back one of my favorite features from the past season. This time, instead of reaching out to other MLB bloggers, we'll be staying closer to home and trading questions with other Nats bloggers. Throughout the offseason, I'll be linking up with a new Nats blogger each week to bring you the answers to those burning questions. I know, we all read each others' blogs, but sometimes the interview format yields new perspectives. And besides, what else are we going to do until March?

And now, without further hesitation or delay, it's time for 5 Questions With...MissChatter!

The venerable MissChatter is famous for her epic liveblogging coverage of important Nats events, and her uncanny ability to get closer to the players, coaches and bigwigs than anyone else. You can read her stuff at Just A Nats Fan. Her answers to my questions are below, and you can read my answers to her questions at this link.

Brandon: What was your favorite Nats moment of the 2006 season?

MissChatter: I'm mentally rewinding the season to look for the stand-outs and the tape gets stuck in New York City. Do you mean on the field or off the field? The Soriano 40/40 Club induction party in New York City was by far my favorite off-the-field Nats moment (and will probably glow in my memory several years to come). I had an absolutely amazing time meeting many players from the team, even though some will most likely not be back next season. As for on the field, I think when Ryan Church was recalled from AAA for the billionth time and hit a PH home run right away was one of my favorites. Ramon Ortiz's near no-no pitching against the Cardinals when he also slugged a home run after looking like a little leaguer in previous at-bats was excellent as well.

Brandon: Which aspect of the season disappointed you the most?

MissChatter: I know this sounds clich├ęd and it's nobody's fault, but definitely all the injuries, particularly those suffered by the pitching staff. I think had Patterson not missed nearly the entire year, the record may have reflected differently. It's odd to mourn injuries to a pitcher we never 'met', but losing Brian Lawrence was a blow. Although, who knows, maybe he would have pitched just as poorly as the rest of the starting rotation and made little difference, and on the positive side, younger guys got opportunities to prove themselves and some shone. It seemed like the team was jinxed all season when it came to injuries – freak and the common variety. The collision between Austin Kearns and Nick Johnson was the most horrific moment of the season. That made the train derailment seem like nothing.

Brandon: Despite the poor finish on the field, the franchise experienced a lot of positive steps forward in 2006. Which of these surprised you most?

MissChatter: Cristian Guzman being knocked out for the season during spring training came as a surprise. Haha, probably not the answer you were looking for! Mike O'Connor pitching so well initially was a pleasant surprise. It'll be interesting to see if he returns to the starting rotation in 2007 a little more seasoned. MLB choosing the Lerners as the new ownership group didn't surprise me, although the fact that the Nationals finally lost their orphan status was surprising. It seemed that would never end. I was surprised by how many minor leaguers were called up throughout the season, and further by how well many of them performed when called upon. I mean, sure, the record was nothing to write home about, but I think we have and have acquired some promising talent for the future (albeit with the disclaimer that there's still plenty of room to grow).

Brandon: I know you've met quite a few of the players...which player did you enjoy meeting most?

MissChatter: Oooh this is a tough question because I really enjoyed meeting all of them! I'd say two are tied at the top. I heard he filed for minor league free agency and may not be part of the Nats organization next season, but Melvin Dorta was one player I enjoyed meeting the most. He was so surprised that I knew who he was, which was endearing, and he thanked me personally for the round of drinks (while the other guys 'played it cool' and ignored us). Plus, he was talkative and down to earth. Austin Kearns also takes the cake. The non-player I enjoyed meeting the most award goes to Tony Beasley hands down. I sure hope he sticks around somewhere in the organization going forward.

Brandon: What are you looking forward to most in 2007?

MissChatter: Figuring out which party is best to crash for my annual gig (never really thought of myself as the party crashing type, but there you have it! I can't deny history.)! I also plan on paying much more attention to the minor leagues so that I'm familiar with players by the time they join the major league Nationals.

Thanks, MissChatter for answering my questions! Alright, who's got next?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Star Trek: The Nats Generation

Ah, the offseason. A time to reflect on what could have been and what might have been. It's also time to reflect on what couldn't possibly be. A time to fire off absurd, barely baseball-related posts like this one.

When I was a kid, Star Trek: The Next Generation was my favorite show. What if, by some strange melding of fact and fiction, the Nationals became the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise? Here's what it would look like:

Jose Guillen as Commander Worf

This is a no-brainer. Jose the Barbarian embodies much of Worf's quintessential surliness and penchant for temper tantrums. Guillen is rumored to be fluent in Klingon as well as Spanish and English and totally hates Romulans.

Brian Schneider as Captain Jean-Luc Picard

Schneider is a fearless leader on the field, even when the Nats are down 13-9 to the Pirates. Like Picard, his cool grace under fire and wise mentorship of teammates makes him admired and respected by all. Despite their even-handedness, both have been known to throw chairs on the HoloDeck in times of extreme frustration.

Chad Cordero as Ensign Wesley Crusher

Like Wesley Crusher, Cordero's youthful exuberance make him extremely likeable to all other crew members. However, Cordero's youthful cockiness sometimes gets him into perilous Wesley-esque situations, like giving up walk-off grand slams in the bottom of the 9th.

Nick Johnson as Commander William Riker

Come on. Just look at him!

Brad Wilkerson as Lt. Tasha Yar

Tasha Yar was an integral part of the Enterprise crew and a fan favorite. Alas, she was killed off early in the series and replaced by Worf. Wilkerson was also a fan favorite in the Nationals' inaugural season, but was quickly discarded in a controversial trade for Alfonso Soriano. No one missed Tasha Yar after awhile, either.

Alfonso Soriano as Commander Data

Commander Data was an android, which meant that he could do just about anything better than any of the humanoid characters on the show. He was super smart, super fast and super powerful. His main weakness was his amusing inability to communicate effectively with humans. We suspect that Soriano's monster year may also be attributable to being an android, along with his bizzare behavior during the whole switching-to-left field episode.

Felipe Lopez as Lt. Geordi LaForge

Geordi LaForge was an indispensable member of the Enterprise crew, but his blindness made him a liability in certain Away Team situations. Similarly, Felipe Lopez's blindness on the field makes him a liability on defense, despite his occasional offensive prowess.

Bud Selig as The Borg

The Borg were a ruthless race of cyborgs whose sole mission was to assimilate all life forms in the Delta Quadrant and beyond. Bud Selig is a ruthless cyborg whose sole mission is get the picture.

Jim Bowden as Q

Q was a mischevious entity with a penchant for showing up at exactly the wrong time and doing exactly the wrong thing. Q's antics would set the Enterprise crew back weeks as they scrambled to avoid him and his misdeeds. Jim Bowden shares Q's penchant for mischief and bumbling, committing such foibles as signing Cristian Guzman to a four year, $16 million dollar contract and signing Matt LeCroy as a backup catcher.

So help me out...who'd I miss? Deanna Troi? Beverly Crusher? Guinan? Drop a comment with your Nats-Star Trek casting calls.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

RIP Cory Lidle

His father cried, "Icarus, Icarus, where are you?"

Four days after ending his season, Yankess RHP Cory Lidle is killed in a plane crash in New York City. He had recently purchased his small plane and was planning on flying it cross country to California. He and a passenger crashed into a 50-story condo tower on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

Although I was born no Yankees fan, this has shades of Thurman Munson for me. The Yankees all-star catcher died in a plane crash on the runway in Ohio in 1979. I was nine.

The writers of Curly R and Curly W send their condolences and best wishes for the families of the deceased.

Cory Lidle: AP

Monday, October 09, 2006

No Dollar Left Behind

I've been waiting for this moment since the beginning of May: the first sign of fan agitation with the new Nationals ownership regime. I haven't been waiting joyfully, mind you, it's just that there are some things that are inevitable, and fan-ownership tension is one of them. The first scintilla of the upcoming love-hate relationship between Nats fans and the Lerners was evidenced in today's long-winded profile of Lerner's rise to billionaire status in the Washington Post.

The article casts the Lerners as hard-nosed businesspeople whose pedantic adherance to letter of law and clause of contract strike fear into the hearts of business partners and civic leaders alike. The D.C. officials tasked with negotiating with the Lerners, particularly the members of the toothless DCSEC, are cast as urban planning visionaries whose dreams of a utopian Near Southeast are held in the vile clutches of Avarice itself.

The Post's profile sets the stage nicely for what has now become a quintessential American exercise in diametric opposition. The city government and the taxpayers view the owners of local sports franchises as stewards of public goods and expect them to put aside a certain amount of their rational self interest to appeal to populist whims. The owners, on the other hand, view themselves as billionaires who have just purchased a business and intend to run it as such. This is the rational and correct point of view.

Take a look at your bank account balance. Add to it the total value of your stocks and bonds. Toss in your home equity and your car, if you own it. What's the grand total? That's what I thought. If you want to make a billion dollars ($1,000,000,000), you must be very, very smart with your money. This means making shrewd, stable investments and having the patience to wait years or even decades for a big payoff. Ted Lerner is this kind of man.

Repeat after me: Ted Lerner owes us nothing. Nothing- not five years of Soriano, not below-ground parking garages- nothing.

He and his partners plunked down nearly half a billion dollars to buy the Nationals. This means that they own the team outright. There is no such thing as a public trust in professional sports, unless you're the Green Bay Packers. Lerner's only obligation is to his partners and to his immediate customer the ticketholder. More specifically, he is most obliged to the big-money season ticket holders, for they are the goose that lays his golden eggs.

The city agreed to build the parking spaces for the "wealthiest one percent" of Nationals fans, and Lerner is right to hold DC's feet to the fire. If the past two years have shown us anything it's that the D.C. council will renege on any and all agreements. Ted Lerner would be a fool to spend years haggling with a new mayor and council over a few thousand parking garages while his best customers stay away from the stadium in droves.

D.C. is crying wolf again over the above-ground parking garages. First of all, if they are so desperate to get the garages below ground, no one is stopping them from coming up with the money from a private developer. They tried once and failed, but is Herbert Miller the only game in town? He must be, because now DC is going back to the taxpayer well for $75 million more dollars. If the Hoi Polloi are angry at all, this double-dipping should be the reason. Good luck holding the bag, Mayor Fenty.

The other thing that troubles me is the city's false insistence that the Ballpark District will only be revitalized if a magical fairy comes down and pours billions into the project. Realists know that "revitalization" (gentrification) would happen naturally even if no stadium were built in the area at all. D.C. is undergoing an unstoppable wave of development that would soon consume the Ballpark District, which immediately adjoins tony Capitol Hill. This effect is even being felt in the suburbs, where Del Ray (Alexandria) and Silver Spring have revitalized without a stadium or an infusion of cash. The bottom line is this: the area will be developed and everyone involved will make money whether the garages are built above ground or not.

So don't fall for sad stories of hardball and teary-eyed cries of civic duty. Lerner is behaving as a businessman should, and the city is behaving as a city government should. Guess who has all the leverage?

Related Posts:
Capitol Punishment: Polhad Lite?
Nats Triple Play: The (New) Owner's Cheap, The Stadium's a Dump, and All the Players are Broken

Skull and U.S. Cash picture unscrupulously gaffled from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Red, Blue and Green

I heard on NPR today (sorry no article) that the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission is trying to make the new Nationals Stadium a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building in accordance with the U.S. Green Building Council. According to the NPR report, "greening up" the building will cost nearly $2 million dollars, which DCSEC Chairman Mark Tuohey insists won't be a problem within the stadium budget. Environmentalists aren't so sure, and plan to raise money to make the new Nats park Green.

I find statements like Tuohey's fascinating. After a bitter late-winter fight with the council over every last penny, the stadium project apparently has extra money to divert to Green building efforts. Now don't get me wrong, I think it would be great if the new ballpark were a model of environmental righteousness. It seems odd, though, that a major construction project financed on a fixed-price contract and due in only 18 months, would have any money to spare on things like this. Remember how Linda Cropp told us we'd have a Buick but not a Cadillac? Or how Jack Evans wanted to build a Camden Yards knockoff to save money? Or how we'll get a concrete exterior because limestone is too expensive?

We won't have these things, but if the Green plan goes through we'll have things like low-flow toilets, recirculated water, light pollution reduction (so much for that glow at night) and low-water landscaping (no more Curly W spelled out in flowers). And hey, do we really want low-flow toilets in an environment where each toilet gets hundreds of, ahem, "customers" each game? According to an ABC News report from last March, the new Patriots stadium recirculates as much as 80% of its wastewater for toilets. Well, I guess peeing in the sinks are fair game, then! Finally!

At any rate, I do hope that the stadium project is able to accomodate some or all of the LEED-certified features. The Anacostia River could certainly use some environmental relief. And hey, maybe the rest of the developers in the Ballpark District will take notice and make all of the neighborhood's buildings environmentally friendly. If nothing else, Green architecture offers an appealing solution to the dreaded above-ground parking garages: green roofs.

Photo of Kalke Village Shopping Complex, Vienna, Austria ganked unceremoniously from Green Buildings BC

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Curtain Calls

Well, there you have it. The end of season #2 for the Nationals. As always, I have mixed emotions on this day. I'm glad to see the boys get a break from their misery, but I'll miss the daily cadence of baseball in my life over the winter. April will be here before we know it, I suppose...

The day was a wonderful one for me. A group of friends got together to tailgate for my birthday before the game, and then the gang surprised me with seats in Box 341, where we all had a terrific time. Ben and I got a chance to meet Screech's Best Friend and several others of the Nats 320 crew. I really enjoyed meeting them and look forward to stopping by this great section next season.

The team managed a nice tribute to Frank before the game, but alas put themselves out of it quickly by allowing 10 unanswered hits and 6 unanswered runs. Frank's final act as manager was quite ironic. With 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth, Frank let Chad Cordero bat for himself. Cordero fouled a few off before watching a called third strike. It was as if Frank was saying: "You don't like my managing style? Then you really won't like this!"

This season was a paradox for me as a fan. The team fared far worse on the field than they did in 2005. It was clear about two weeks into the season that the Nats were destined for the NL East toilet. On the other hand, the individual components of the season were much more exciting than last year. We got to savor:

  • -The rise of Ryan Zimmerman
  • -Soriano's improbable dominance
  • -Nick Johnson's great year
  • -Groundbreaking of the new stadium
  • -Transfer of the team from MLB control
  • -MASN on Comcast
All of the things that so anguished us fans last year were resolved this year, even as the play on the field got progressively worse. This is why so many posts on this blog involved off-field events; there just wasn't much to say about the team's pitching struggles.

So now it's offseason time, and we can all take life a little easier. We'll be posting on the Nats several times per week, and hopefully be putting together some recurring features that make an offseason baseball blog worth reading. Stay tuned as we keep you up to date on the management search, the status of Alfonso Soriano and the rest of the free agents, and any other Nats news that's fit to print.

Thanks again for a great season, and as always, thanks for reading.