Sunday, February 27, 2005

Pre-Oscar picks

A year when I have actually seen most of these, so why not..

Best Picture MILLION DOLLAR BABY
Actor in a Leading Role Jamie Foxx in RAY
Actor in a Supporting Role Morgan Freeman in MILLION DOLLAR BABY
Actress in a Leading Role Hilary Swank in MILLION DOLLAR BABY
Actress in a Supporting Role Cate Blanchett in THE AVIATOR
Animated Feature Film THE INCREDIBLES
Art Direction THE AVIATOR
Cinematography HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS
Costume Design LEMONY SNICKET’S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
Directing Martin Scorsese for THE AVIATOR (going out on a limb to say he will win, but his picture won't)
Documentary Feature SUPER SIZE ME
Documentary Short Subject AUTISM IS A WORLD
Film Editing THE AVIATOR
Foreign Language Film THE SEA INSIDE
Makeup LEMONY SNICKET’S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
Music (Score) FINDING NEVERLAND
Music (Song) "Accidentally In Love" from SHREK 2
Short Film - Animated GOPHER BROKE
Short Film - Live Action 7:35 IN THE MORNING
Sound Mixing THE AVIATOR
Sound Editing SPIDER-MAN 2
Visual Effects SPIDER-MAN 2
Writing (Adapted Screenplay) SIDEWAYS (although I wouldn't be surprised if Million Dollar Baby took this as well)
Writing (Original Screenplay) ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Nats Depth Chart

I had not noticed the Nats' depth chart on the official Web site until, oh, 45 seconds ago. It was last updated February 8th - so I've clearly missed out on an important document.

Notable about the depth chart is that it features an outfield of Terrmel Sledge (LF), Endy Chavez (CF) and Jose Guillen (RF). Where's Brad Wilkerson, you say? He's at first base, while Nick Johnson rides the pine. The rotation is listed as Hernandez / Armas / Ohka / Loaiza / Day.

I note that this depth chart is inconsistent with the February 14, 2005 white board that the Washington Post so disturbingly photographed. (If this were House, Tony Tavares would be screaming, "You're risking our team's trade possibilities!"). That depth chart has Wilkie in the OF and Sledge on the bench.

Notice a disturbing trend here? Endy Dejesus Chavez is in both starting lineups. Endy .303 career OBP Chavez! Endy No Power Chavez. Is the love affair between the Expos and Chavez being renewed in Washington? Do we need an intervention here?

Dear Nats,

Endy is bad for you. Sure, I know how attractive guys with fast wheels can be. They look flashy running around the bases and give you a thrill with their outlaw (base-stealing) behavior. But you got to get on first base to steal, honey, you really do. And a guy like that is only going to cost you runs when you need them most. I'm only telling you because I want you to be happy. I want all of us to be happy. He's not right for you, and you should wake up - at least by April - and dump him before he causes you pain.

Yours,

Nats Blog

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Those Guys Are AWESOME

It apparently took a football writer, Peter King, to notice this quote from Johnny Damon. Writes His Royal Highness:
"Quote of the Week
'It's incredible. What more can you ask for? Even being mentioned in the same sentence as Jesus or God ... I mean, those guys are awesome. I'm just a knucklehead.'

-- Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon, who, by all appearances, actually answered a question in Boston Magazine about his Jesus-like appearance seriously.


And you wonder why Tony Kornheiser doesn't have athletes on his show. Why reporters ask questions about non-sports-related topics is beyond me.

That said, Mr. Damon is on to something. The Nats really are two players away from the NL East division crown. But where would the Almighty play on a Baseball team? (Preliminary thought - middle infield. He's got the whole world in His hands).

Friday, February 18, 2005

Nats Radio 2005

The Washington Post reports that Nats games will be heard this year on two Bonneville-owned DC stations: (1) night games will be heard on adult contemporary station Z104 - WWZZ 104.1 FM (#6 on my presets); and (2) day games will be heard on WFED 1050 AM. I had never even heard of WFED before, much less listened to it.

I note several aspects of this deal. The split between two stations can be frustrating for fans of the Nationals. The Wizards, reputedly tired of being shuffled between Sportstalk 980 and 1260, this year are on 1260 AM only. So there is significant downside to being on two stations - fans can forget where they can find their teams.

The good news is that Z104 has a good signal that I can hear pretty much everywhere I go in DC. In addition, it's only a one-year deal, meaning that the Nats may find a more permanent (AM) home next year. There's just something about AM radio and baseball that makes sense.

Interestingly enough, the Nats are doing their radio deal as a we-purchase-the-air-time-and-sell-the-advertisements-model. This could be very interesting. My own thought is that the team will have many of its fans at the games in the first couple of years, and that the Nats will need either some success or 5-10 years to grow really deep roots in the community that generates radio success.

Meanwhile, check out Dave's rant at DCRTV arguing for an FM-sports-talk station in DC. Previously, Dave had argued for WJFK-FM to go all sports talk with the Redskins and Nationals, but now he argues for Z104 to go all sports talk. Personally, I think sports talk in DC would be pretty good if you had a lineup of the Junkies, Tony Kornheiser and Steve Czaban, but it probably would be tough to get them all under one roof - especially a Bonneville roof at that (Junkies are Infinity, Kornheiser and Czaban are Clear Channel).

1988 AL MVP Jose Canseco?

Heretofore known as Mr. Unbelievably Fast Career Decline, Mike Greenwell is now taking the position that he was cheated out of the 1988 AL MVP by a steroid-puffed-up Jose Canseco. Apparently taking an IOC/Ben Johnson-esque position, Mr. Greenwell contends that since he finished second, he should be awarded the AL MVP. Although I am sympathetic to this position (recall that Mr. Clean Frank Thomas finished 2nd to Jason Giambi in the 2000 AL MVP race), I have a couple of words for you, Mr. Greenwell:
You weren't even the MVP of your own team in 1988.

Your friend Wade Boggs had an OBP of .476 and SLG of .490, giving him an OPS of .966, besting your mark by .019.

Moreover, if a pitcher should ever win the MVP, Frank Viola had a pretty good case in 1988 - he won 24 games against just 7 losses and had the 3rd best ERA in the league. Kirby Puckett drove in more runs than you and scored more runs than you and led the league with 234 hits.

Newsflash: You were lucky to place second. It was only the traditional bias sportswriters have against high average, high OBP, low-homer hitters like Wade Boggs that got you second place.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Headlines, get your Headlines

So, SNV and I were chatting about a flight he was taking, which got me on pun central regarding the new team.

What I am looking for here is ideas for potential headlines for the Nationals that the Post or the Times can eat up and make the rest of us groan.

The two that came to mind right off the bat (pun intended) that I mentioned to SNV were:

When the first free agent bolts from the team:
"Flight out of Nationals"

and when the team can't seem to ever score more than a couple of runs:
"Nationals plain; rather Dulles"

Fire away with more, our loyal readers.

News And Notes

Among other things I've picked up from the Nats' e-mail list in the last two days are two items worth noting (if you are not a subscriber, send an e-mail with "subscribe nationals" in the body to listserv@apple.ease.lsoft.com).

First, the lawsuit by the Expos' minority owners against Jeffrey Loria and MLB has been dismissed. This lawsuit was reportedly a reason to hang up the completion of the move to Washington - i.e., the final sale of the team to an ownership group for Washington. Hopefully, the deal with Peter Angelos and the Baltimore Orioles Sosas will go shortly and the team will be sold off to ownership. Among the ownerships, I would favor the Malek group which was material in its efforts to persuade the DC government to give MLB an "offer you cannot refuse" deal on the stadium.

Second, the Potomac Cannons have changed their name to the Potomac Nationals in recognition of their new affiliation. The Potomac team plays in the Carolina league, which is a high-A league, and would be the Nats' third-highest minor league affiliate. To restate the pecking order of the Nats' minor leagues, here goes:
  1. New Orleans Zephyrs (AAA - Pacific Coast League) (new affiliation in 2005)
  2. Harrisburg Senators (nice name) (AA - Eastern League)
  3. Potomac Nationals (High A - Carolina League) (new affiliation in 2005)
  4. Savannah Sand Gnats (another fitting name!) (Low A - South Atlantic League)
  5. Vermont Nationals (Penn League - Short Season)

What's nice about the minor league affiliates is that the Senators and Sand Gnats already have names loosely affiliated with the Washington Club - the Sand Gnats being a rather fortuitous name. Also nice is that Harrisburg, PA is not an unthinkable drive from Washington, D.C., making it a possibility that the team will drawn fans from that area, and that Nats enthusiasts will have reasonable trips to see their teams play. Having close-in affiliates is a strategy that the Orioles have used to good effect, having all but their AAA team in the Mid-Atlantic.

The Nationals could consolidate their holdings further by picking up either the Norfolk Tides or the Richmond Braves in AAA and picking up the Hagerstown Suns (or perhaps the West Virginia Power, nee Charleston Alley Cats in the Sally League). Both Hagerstown and Norfolk are affiliated with the Mets, so there seems to be some advantage in trying to pick off both of them.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Anyone else worried about this?

So, Barry Larkin is now in the Nationals front office. I'm not terribly surprised by this since various people said he would move to some front office when he retired. What I am surprised by is who he joins in that office according to this article. It is bad enough that Bowden is the general manager. His moves have certainly not made this team better, and have probably made them worse through both action and inaction. But essentially, his assistants are now Larkin, Bob Boone and Jose Rijo. I'm just not sure that getting your old buddies from the Reds together, a team, mind you, that slowly collapsed on your watch (besides a respectable 1999 season), is the way to operate a team. Larkin obviously has no front office experience, although he may at least bring on the field knowledge. Boone never had a .500 or better record as a Reds manager. And I frankly have no idea what Jose Rijo has been up to outside his attempt at a comeback a couple years ago. Thoughts?

Monday, February 07, 2005

Frustration

I generally share BallWonk's view that we should now turn our attention to baseball, but I must make one observation on the demise of my Eagles last night that some in the MSM don't seem too eager to make: Donovan McNabb has a propensity to really blow the big games, and last night was the most glaring example. Not just be a non-factor, but be a net negative to his team. And it's not like he is new to the spotlight: he played poorly in each of the Eagles' NFC championship losses (though, in fairness, he was injured early against Carolina). I felt like I was watching the game three years ago against the Rams all over again. Last night he looked unprepared, made bad decisions, and executed poorly. I wanted a football version of ERV scoring to determine just how many points he cost the team last night.

Anyhow (as Ken Beatrice would say), on to spring training ...



Thursday, February 03, 2005

Total Team Control

I don't know about you, but this story in the Post has got me all nostalgic for my Tudor Electric Fotball Game. Mine was from 1977, and included the teams from Super Bowl X (Cowboys and Steelers), which means I got the teams for Super Bowl XIII free. The story notes that a company called Miggle Toys bought Tudor in 1992, pretty much because the owner fondly remembered electric football and wanted to keep it alive. A quick browse of their site brings back waves of memories -- even thirty years later the little guys with real NFL uniforms give me a thrill.

The funny thing is: I never once completed a game of electric football. Can't say that I ever even finished a quarter of electric football. Even the time I played was more frustration than anything -- passing was a joke, as the average pass went about 650 yards clear out of the stadium. But I still loved it. Weird.

Private Funding And Ticket Sales

If you have not seen the Washington Times article about the possibility of private funding for the stadium, you should read it. It's funny how the Moonie paper's coverage of the Nationals has been as good or better than the Post's coverage. There are two items I would like to highlight and discuss:
Natwar Gandhi, the District's chief financial officer, likely will certify at least two of eight offers of private financing for a new ballpark in Southeast, paving the way for the city to meet its target of funding half the hard construction costs with private money.

At this point, I would like to point out that if one of the plans is the ">parking proposal (i.e., a special parking district), that's really not "private financing" or "private funding." All that would be is a new tax (on parking), the receipts of which the city essentially assigns to a private party for an up front payment. They just don't call it a tax. The sale-leaseback idea, i.e., the tax avoidance scenario also is not private financing or funding. What that plan would be is to create a tax loss for investors that takes tax revenue out of the federal government. The "funding" in that instance comes from the federal government rather than the DC governmnet. That, of course, makes it an interesting and perhaps poetic proposal.

Further:
The lower deck is nearly sold out through sales of full season tickets. Tomorrow is the deadline for full season ticket holders to pay off their outstanding balances.
The Nationals have sold more than 18,000 season tickets. At this point last year, that sum would have been 12th best in major league baseball, said Kevin Uhlich, the club's chief operating officer. The total also translates to a paid attendance of nearly 1.5 million for 2005, better than any of the Montreal Expos' final eight seasons in Quebec.

That the lower bowl has been nearly sold out with 18,000 season tickets is impressive in its own right. But if RFK's seating capacity is 56,000, does that really mean that 36,000 seats are in the upper deck? That seems like an extraordinary ratio for any stadium.

The 12th-best season ticket base is also encouraging. The Nationals are likely to be surprised by the number of partial season packages that are purchased. My bet is that that popularity of such packages in Baltimore will encourage like purchases in Washington and that the Nats will go into the 2005 with 24,000 or more full-season-equivalent tickets sold. That would virtually guarantee 2 million in attendance this year, shattering previous DC records. Indeed, 3 million in attendance may be in reach. Good grief, they even drew 2.5 in Tampa during the Devil Rays' first season.

The Benefits of Sammy Sosa

There is an interesting article by Doug Padilla in the Monday Sun-Times talking about Sammy Sosa's effect on Orioles' ticket sales. According to Padilla:
An Orioles representative confirmed that the team sold 5,000 individual season tickets over the weekend, double any previous weekend in January. The team's previous top-selling weekend came during its annual fan fest, when it moved 2,500 season tickets.

Assuming that an average weekend would have resulted in 1,000 season ticket sales, let's attribute an additional 4,000 season tickets to Sammy. If they go for an average of $20 each, that is $80,000 extra per game and $6,480,000 over the course of an 81-game season. Assuming those season ticket holders spend another $10 in food and merchandise per game, Sammy Sosa's $9 million salary seems to be self-funding. Quite remarkable.

What is perhaps more interesting is how this might impact the Nationals. Assume, all other things being equal, that the Orioles attendance goes UP this year due to the presence of Sammy Sosa. Wouldn't that be exhibit A in an argument against Peter Angelos' demands for cash benefits from the Expos' move to DC? What if MLB held the team until the end of this year and said, during the course of negotiations, "Peter, your revenues went UP year over year with the Nationals in DC...you'll get nothing and like it." An interesting wrinkle.

All in all, I would not be surprised with total attendance of more than 6 million for the Orioles and Nationals this year. Hell, I might even go to some Orioles games this year when the White Sox are in town.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Newest Nat: George Arias

I was intrigued that we signed a guy from the Japanese league, George Arias. Here are some stats from his stint there I found on the Web -- no idea if these are reliable. The Post story says the Hanshin Tigers let him go in October because his numbers had declined, but it looks to me that he had a decent year in 2004 (.272/.326/.522, better slugging than PECOTA projects for us this year) which is essentially his average from his several years in Japan. While I'm not expecting Cecil Fielder here (who also played for the Hanshin Tigers), this might turn out to be a decent pickup.

(Speaking of Fielder, I had totally missed this sad story of him screwing up his life after baseball).

Stadium Design, Part II

I've pretty much fallen in love with DM's idea of basing the stadium design on the Federal Triangle. For starters, it is based in Washington's rich architectural heritage. The Federal Triangle was begun in the first decade of the 20th Century, when Washington implemented the McMillan Plan, which gave us the essential layout of modern D.C. To give you an idea of the general look of the Federal Triangle design, I hereby insert this picture or photograph:

home plate under the dome?

Note a couple of features - quasi-neoclassical columns on the outside and a red-tiled roof to give the Federal Triangle a distinctive look from above.

Now translate that into a ballpark design. The exterior with an alabaster facade rising straight from the street with rows of windows peeking into the concourse. The top of the building capped with a Nationals-red tile roof. I would even propose to make the interior similar to this design - how about a three-decked structure with the second and third decks essential on top of the lower deck, with perhaps 20 rows of the first deck uncovered? Have the second and third decks right on top of the field to increase the intimacy as well as the home-field-noise-advantage.

I think there has been way too much emphasis on removing poles and supports and having 45,000 unobstructed seats. Any fan would trade 20,000 closer-in upper deck seats for the 500 or so obstructed views it creates in the lower deck. And, having sat in obstructed view seats in Comiskey Park before the tore it down...you mostly get over the obstruction if it gets you a cheaper seat. Think Griffith Stadium, without all the ugly angles:


thank goodness we'll play in color this year

Maybe a little of old Comiskey Park in its foul-pole to foul-pole shape:


home of your 1917 world champion White Sox

I'd love to see those design elements incorporated in the Nats park. But, I leave the comments section open for further thoughts.

Note - the design of a new DC stadium on Ballparks.com goes a long way toward meeting my design hopes:

as the ominous shadow from the mothership slides over D.C.



Tuesday, February 01, 2005

ESPN SportsCenter

The Off Wing Opinion blog has a good post about the demise of SportsCenter as a place where we gather to get sports news. It links to an article by a Chicago college student, and boy did I feel old when he talks about watching Keith Olbermann while in the fifth grade! (I first saw Olbermann on Sportscenter after the 1992 NCAA Final, and, upon seeing his Ron Burgundy-style moustache and hair, I thought "Who's the new guy from the Witness Relocation program?") The essence of the comments is that SC has long ago jumped the shark.

So true. In fact, my wife stopped watching SportsCenter in the late 80s in favor of CNN Sports Tonight with Fred Hickman and Nick Charles -- a principled and rational worldview to which she attracted no adherents. But also, in my view, this metamorphosis a direct result of the Internet and (more recently) blogs. Face it, we don't need to go to SportsCenter anymore to get scores, analysis or even highlights. So they have to do goofy things to keep people's attention. Even if the "old" SportsCenter came back, I'm not sure I could sit through the Clippers/Sonics highlights anymore to get to what I really want. More and more I'm opening up the laptop instead of turning on the TV in the evenings, and I'm not really missing the TV.

Also, that vibe we got from SportsCenter that we enjoyed so much has been amply replaced by Pardon the Interruption, which is a much more compatible with my laptop blog hopping than SportsCenter. I look forward to that like I did SportsCenter in the late 1980s.

The New Ballpark

District of Baseball links to a Washington Times story about the design competition for the new SE ballpark, noting that the District wants "a stadium that veers sharply away from the bevy of recently built, retro-inspired facilities and pushes sports design into another generation."

Yikes! That news is exciting and worrisome at the same time. While I agree with the sentiment that we shouldn't simply build another Camden Yards here, trying to come up with a ballpark that "pushes sports design into another generation" is both hard and risky. In 1968, a lot of people thought Veterans Stadium was a design for the next generation -- and it turned out to be one for less than half of a generation.

But I thought I'd use this post to open a discussion of what we'd like to see in the new ballpark. Frankly, I'd be happy with a design that echoes the classical architecture of the Federal Triangle buildings of the 1930s and 1940s (Main Commerce, Justice, IRS etc.) -- staid, yes, but in my view timeless and essentially Washington.

As for other features, I would say definitely no retractable roof. Other things I am still pondering. Thoughts?


Five Things I Think That I Think

Don't you love Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback? If you are going to get stream of consciousness, it's great to get it from a football writer who loves baseball.
  1. I think that District of Baseball is a great new blog. Lots of news, lots of updates. It may even qualify as a Web site, it's that good! I've added a link.

  2. I think you should not cry for Sammy Sosa....between the Orioles and Cubs, he'll be making $24 million for playing in 2005. Here's how it goes: The Cubs will be paying $12 million of his $17 million salary for 2005. The Orioles will be paying him $5 million. The Cubs also owe him $3.5 million from a "severance agreement from a prior contract." The Orioles will be obligated to pay him a $4.5 million buyout of his 2006 option. Total for Cubs: $12 + $3.5 = $15.5. Total for Orioles: $5 + $4.5 = $9.5 million. Grand total for 2005= $24 million. All for hitting 40 homers or so.

  3. I think that the ESPNzone Nationals event tomorrow will be interesting. If they take questions, I'd like to know what they really think about getting out of Montreal.

  4. I think that the six bidders for the Nationals are going to have to fork over well over $300 million for the team. Given about $60 million or so in operating losses for the Expos from 2002-2004, that will be about a $120 million profit on the other 29 clubs' $120 million investment in the Expos before 2002. If you don't think that is smart economics, you are in denial. MLB created value from thin air by moving the Expos to DC. The market has proven to be efficient. This may be a model for franchise relocations in other sports.

  5. I think that the Austin Grill is really getting cheap when they offer a plate of steak fajitas. I mean, five strips of steak for $11? The best fajitas in the world, by the way, belong to Border Cafe in Harvard Square. About this, there can be no argument.