Saturday, June 09, 2007

Calling Mixologists

I realize it's been awhile since I've had a real NIH update, and this isn't one. This is on a slightly different topic.

I've been on a bit of a bar tending craze of late, doing a Cocktail of the Week for the last three or four months. Three of the last seven weeks we've been doing the official cocktails of the triple crown races, including today finishing off the Belmont Breeze, which is very wonderfully refreshing even though it has a lot of random ingredients.

That got me thinking that I would love to create a drink that I would tentatively call the Curly W. That is to say, an unofficial official drink for the Washington Nationals, and I was hoping to get some input from fans.

Some thoughts that I have:

1) Optimally the last ingredient on the list should be a splash of grenadine for color.
2) It should be an appropriate drink for a summer night. That is to say, probably three ounces of booze that is then topped off with some fruit juice and some combination of 7Up, club soda, or any other kind of bubbly liquid.
3) The drink should be well suited to enlarge to pitcher-sized, perfect for that backyard barn viewing or tailgating (even though the latter may become a thing of the past in the new park).
4) Any ingredient should be readily available both through the VABC and through a minimally stocked DC liquor store. Optimally something available in minibottles, to allow for a single or pitcher to be made without messing around with measuring.

So I thought I'd throw it out there to see if there are some thoughts about any ingredients that seem appropriate, anything that would have a local significance that I might not know, or if anyone is just a better drink creator than I am.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

NIH: Here it goes, here it goes, here it goes again

At the pace we're going, the Nationals are likely going to flirt with some sort of record for most starting pitchers used in a season. In the past few weeks, a solid 60% of our opening day rotation has hit the disabled list. First we lost John Patterson. Next Shawn Hill went down with a known injury in his glove arm and an as-yet-unknown injury in his throwing arm. Well, last night we managed to lose one more in the form of Jerome Williams.

Look, it's bad enough when a good team can't keep their pitchers healthy. That's the problem that has been plaguing the Yankees this year. But these are the Nationals. We were just barely keeping up a 50-win pace even with the pitching staff that we had, and now we're down to two opening day starters, and a guy who started the season on the DL. Beyond that? Well, tonight we're trotting out someone for his first career start who has never put in more than 3.1 innings of work. Maybe the plus side is that the pen only gave up 1 run in 7 innings of work last night, but they're going to be paraded for another 6 innings tonight in all likelihood, and they can't keep up like that forever.

The official cause of injury for Williams is a rotator cuff strain. The only prescription for that kind of injury is resting the shoulder, icing it for a few days, then heating it for a few days. Hopefully if it is just a strain and not a more serious tear he shouldn't be gone for more than the required 15-days that his DL trip will mandate. But that's still 2-3 starts that the Nats are going to have to pull out of somewhere. If it's more severe, it could require surgery. My guess is there'll be an MRI very soon, and we'll know how serious it is in the next few days. It's a 94% success rate surgery if it comes to that, but obviously a much longer stint on the DL.

As for who'll be pitching for the Nationals these next few weeks? Bermann is the current ace of the non-DL staff, and Simontacci had a good second start winning his first game since 2003. Simontacci is also currently scheduled to start Thursday and Friday according to the list of probable pitchers on the Nationals web site.

We all knew this was going to be a rough season. It's about to get rougher.

Monday, May 07, 2007

NIH: Catching up (huff puff)

One week in Vegas, one in Huntsville, and one trying to get a novel first draft done, and I'm a little behind on the injury news. Today's a good day to catch up, though, because it's a huge injury news day.

First, guess who has landed on the DL. John Patterson. And I let out a sad sigh, because I had such high hopes this would be his healthy season. He looked better with each start, until his most recent, when he left in the third injury with elbow problems. He's got some elbow nerve problems in the same elbow that was operated on to end his 2006 season. The team doctors are saying there's no structural problems, but there is fluid, there are some nerve problems, and Patterson's May is likely over. We could be seeing him back around the same time as...

Nick Johnson, who isn't part of the news today, but that provides as good a segue as any I'm likely to write in this blog. His recovery process is being reported as very good, he's getting back into playing shape, and I'm really hopeful that he'll be back in June.

So, back to today. Just as Patterson goes on the DL, two names will be coming off it. Cristian Guzman and Nook Logan are both being reinstated for today's game. Guzman will likely be starting at SS today in Milwaukee, moving Lopez back to second base. The outfield should feature Church sliding back to left, where he's more comfortable, Nook as a defensive center fielder, and Kearns continuing on in right field. How long things will stay like that is hard to say, especially with the addition of Langerhans to the roster. Both players went out in that disastrous season opener, Guzman having gone 0 for 3, and Logan managing a single in his only at bat so far this season. Both will likely be looked at very closely as they get some additional at-bats.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

NIH: A new low

Last night hurt. Nationals got shut out for the first time this season, dropped their expected pythagorean record to 17-145 (yes, you read that correctly), and suffered yet another injury when reliever Ray king pulled up lame with what is being diagnosed early on with that catchall baseball injury: tendonitis. The hope is to medicate him and avoid the DL, but since the pen is the one almost bright spot this season for the Nats, an injury out there really...well, it just sucks.

Monday, April 09, 2007

NIH: Trying the rose colored glasses

John Patterson in his second start after losing most of last season to injury...looked better. Alright, I know I've already lost most of the people who could be reading this, since the Nats fell to the Diamondbacks 7-1 for the second straight night behind Patterson's starting performance, but just look at the pitches thrown.

His curveball was curving again. His fastballs were faster (though still not up to where he can throw them). He went deeper into the game, and after the disasterous first inning (can we just start games in the second inning?) gave up no runs on two hits during his remaining four innings.

Alright, look, I'm not saying that this is the kind of outing we should be happy about for our supposed ace, I'm really not. He's still not striking out batters, sitting at just 4 Ks on the season. He was still out after just five innings and was chalked up for his second loss of the season. But he did stay in longer, his stuff looked better, and he gave up fewer runs than the debacle that was Opening Day.

Here's my two cents on the problem: kid gloves. He was underworked through Spring Training because the team was concerned that he was going to fall apart at any moment. Pitchers go through the period that Patterson is, but they tend to do it in March, during Spring Training, when the games don't count. Hopefully he's coming out of it, and I think he's still going to justify the team's faith in putting him at the top of the rotation. 20 wins? Hardly, but I do think he'll shake off these first few starts and look better.

I just hope to hell I'm right.

Friday, April 06, 2007

NIH: How things could be worse

At one point I toyed with the idea of having this be an all-DC-sports injury blog, but decided against it, just because I didn't know enough about the other sports to reach even the level of general cluelessness that I approach baseball with. Sad, huh? However, there is the need to step back from baseball for a moment and look at another team that plays in Chinatown.

As the Nationals suffer injuries early this season, the one solace that can be taken is that this is a team that was never really built to compete this season. If we lose a cog or two, it might affect whether we lose 98 games or 104 games. Heck, if I wanted to really spin it, early injuries and reliance on some of our less tested prospects could only possibly have upsides if the prospects plesantly surprise or our first round draft pick inches higher and higher.

And then...there's the Wizards. This was just a dream season for them through the early months as they ate up the East like a buffet and even occasionally held their own against teams from the more dominant West. It was a team poised for a deep playoff run, and even had a good chance of taking the Eastern crown. Now? It's a team in shambles that has been plagued by enough injuries that, if I were tracking DC sports injuries, I'm sure I'd need to post an entry about myself and the ravages of carpal tunnel syndrome.

The latest collapse is star Gilbert Arenas who is going to be unable to play basketball for the next 2-3 months. Now, as I understand the NBA playoffs, that just means he'll be out for the opening games of the first round, but this has teams licking their lips as the once feared Wiz are now being looked at as the team everyone wants to start their playoff push against.

I'm not sure what I would prefer. Injury problems on a team so bad they hardly register a blip, or a team that's playing fantastic ball suddenly falling apart because of injuries. Which is harder to watch? Hard to say. Though I do think more good is possible from the Nationals woes then from the Wizards.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

NIH: The Next Day

I know it's usually not my beat to try and parse what people are saying. But when it has to do with injuries, it becomes my beat. First, let's look at the facts:

Fact the first: Cristian Guzman is now on the 15 day DL with a strained hamstring.

Fact the second: Felipe Lopez will start tonight's game at shortstop, where he's played most of his career, instead of second base, where he moved to this season.

Those are the facts we're dealing with. Next we've got what people said. First up we had the Nationals radio team on Monday after the game postulating that Lopez would not make the move back to shortstop unless Guzman was going to be out for at least a month. Now, they were obviously not running that question by the team management when they said this, but they do understand the situation well enough. Someone who did talk to Nationals brass is Bill Ladson, who reported that Manny Acta, "said if Guzman is out for an extended period of time, second baseman Felipe Lopez will move over to short and Ronnie Belliard will be the second baseman."

So, what do we know about the chances for Guzman's return right now. We know that hamstring injuries don't necessarily heal up overnight. We know that two different sources, one quoting Manny Acta, said that Lopez would not move to short unless the injury was going to be long term. And we know that Lopez is moving to short.

All of this probably means that Guzman is done for April. We'll see where it ends up going.