Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Things we've learned

1) The Caps are awesome.
2) The Nats are not.

That's all I have to say on that subject.

In other news, Philly Killer John Lannan took out Cole Hamels with a bunt last night to add to his list of casualties. Lannan's blinding speed caused Hamels to rush and sprain his ankle. 

The Zim Streak continues and Fangraphs takes a look at it (1 sentence review: CHONE says he can keep it up!!).

Guzman is back from the DL, sending Alberto Gonzalez down to AAA in the process. Fine with me.

Closer-by-committee? Works for me. But how are Julian Tavarez and Kip Wells your closers and not Jason Bergmann? And am I the only one who thinks they gave up on Mock wayyyyyy too early with only 1 bad outing in 4 games (well, 1 bad outing and 1 meh outing).

Shell's gone and Ledezma stays. I really wish that was reversed. Shell is no Mariano Rivera, but he's at least league-average in my book and Ledezma's lack of control makes me want to hurl.

That's all I've got. Better get your umbrellas out so you don't get drooled on by ESPN's Crosby/Ovechkinfest. The single reason why I rooted for NJ to beat Carolina in the first round-so we wouldn't have to put up with this crap.

Edit-link to CBS Sports talking to Nats players about the possibility of Strasburg making a kagillion dollars. Common quote: " 'Good for him,' Josh Willingham said. 'I'm not mad at anyone for getting paid.' "

Sunday, April 26, 2009

3 Game Sweep

DC teams took New York City by storm today, with the Caps dominating the Rags, the Nats crushing the Mets and DC United scoring 2 goals in the 90th minute to pull out a 3-2 victory.

In terms of the Caps, they've stolen all momentum from the series. They have a huge advantage in game 7 in terms of mojo and home field advantage. They have to win it.

The Nats looked good (on GameDay) today, with 5 and 1/3 strong innings from ZNN, homers by Flores and Kearns and a nice day by Justin Maxwell out of the leadoff spot. Also, I think it's safe to punch Cintron's ticket to Syracuse when Guz is back.

Such a good ending to a pretty fun weekend, with the NFL draft and such. Hopefully the DC teams can keep it up in the near future.

EDIT-Like clockwork, Shawn Hill to the DL.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday Inbox

Here's your latest inbox:

Leadoff is my main concern at this point. Truthfully, I would like to see Dukes lead off and see what kind of pressure he can put on starting pitchers. Speed and power on top could put a scare into the other teams. Any thoughts on this one?
-- Don M., Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

It's a difficult position to put Dukes at the top. He has a great combination of OBP and speed, but can we handle losing his bat in the middle of the lineup or his baserunning gaffes?

I'd rather see a lineup like Guzman-Johnson-Zimmerman-Dunn-Dukes-Kearns/Willingham-Belliard/Hernandez-Flores.

I don't think Acta is the reason the Nationals are off to a slow start, but are there some people in the organization who think he is to blame?
-- Alex C., Montreal

He's not THE reason the Nats are off to such a bad start, but he is A reason. Manny still has a lot to prove to me to be honest-he hasn't locked in a spot for any future years as our manager.

I was pleasantly surprised to see outfielder Austin Kearns have a decent Spring Training, however, he seems to be back to his old unproductive self. Shouldn't the Nationals see more of Josh Willingham in the outfield and give Kearns the shakeup like Lastings Milledge got?
-- Frank W., Fairfax, Va.

Ummmm....he's got a bad batting average (.229) but a .386 OBP and .514 SLG are both awesome, especially when you factor in his plus defense. I'm not following you, Frank...bench the guy with the .900 OPS because he's not producing enough?

What's up with all these guys -- Ronnie Belliard, Cristian Guzman, Willie Harris and Anderson Hernandez -- pulling up lame while running the bases? I thought hiring a new strength and conditioning coach might have helped, but something's wrong here.
-- Maurice N., Fairfax Va.

A strength and conditioning coach means something, but not everything. The players still might not do their individual stretching right, or they still might not be in shape. Chances are, some of them didn't prepare themselves enough for the situation (I won't say ALL of them) and ended up hurting themselves.

Don't you think the Nationals made a mistake in not signing second baseman Orlando Hudson? He is apparently healthy and certainly hitting and fielding well. I think they blew it big time.
-- Peter R., Vancouver

Yes. I don't care if he failed the physical-they knew he was hurt. How does an injured player pass a physical? O-Dog is miles ahead of Belliard with the glove and ahead of Hernandez with the bat.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Correct Opening Day roster set...2 weeks too late

Chico's got the moves:

Added to the roster: Garrett Mock, Jason Bergmann, Kip Wells and Jordan Zimmermann
Removed from the roster: Saul Rivera and Josh Bard (optioned to Syracuse) and Wil Ledezma and Steven Shell (DFA'ed).

I think Colome should be up rather than Wells (and is bringing Kip Wells up really worth losing Steven Shell?) but other than that, the right moves were made.

And Ryan Zimmerman has agreed to terms. Maybe today isn't so bad after all!

EDIT-my first favorite Natinal, Brad Wilkerson, has retired. Best of luck, Brad!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

You're welcome

The Nats are now 1-0 in games I've watched. Anyone want to buy me MLB.TV?

Nice game all-around, guys.

Remembering Leslie

Many of you may know that today is the second anniversary of the shootings at Virginia Tech that took place on April 16, 2007, but I doubt many of you really know how extraordinary the 32 students and faculty members who died that day really are-so extraordinary that "were" is simply not appropriate.

I can't believe it's been two years. That night, I remember my parents getting a call from my older sister. All she could say was "Leslie's gone." Leslie Sherman was one of her best friends in high school. They ran on the cross country and track teams together, hung out, went on trips and all that jazz. Leslie wasn't exactly a third sister to me-I never really knew her that well-but it really hit close to home. It's hitting closer to home now, because everything is beginning to align. She was a History major. So am I. She worked at a dining hall. So do I. It's just these two little coincidences, going along with the anniversary that really bring it all up. 

I didn't know what to do that day. Fairfax County let us out of school early due to "high wind" (although now we know what the probable reason really was). I went to a friend's house, sat on the couch and saw everything. And then I changed the channel. It was too much for me to think about-I had a binding agreement to go to Virginia Tech, a school as rooted in my family as can be. I never doubted my decision, even afterwards, but obviously it was just too much for an 18-year-old to deal with.

There's not too much else to the story. There were the cameras at West Springfield when we had our "Senior Night" for track. Naturally, I decked out in Tech stuff and ended up on the news. There was the funeral, where I wore a VT tie. I didn't know how to deal with the situation except to be proud of who I was: a Hokie, and where I was going to spend the next 4 years of my life: Virginia Tech.

I've run out of words, so I'll let VT professor Nikki Giovanni finish this post:
We are Virginia Tech.

We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning.

We are Virginia Tech.

We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.

We are Virginia Tech.

We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by the rogue army, neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory, neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water, neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.

We are Virginia Tech.

The Hokie Nation embraces our own and reaches out with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid. We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness.

We are the Hokies.

We will prevail.

We will prevail.

We will prevail.

We are Virginia Tech.

--Nikki Giovanni, April 17, 2007

If you would like to read more about the legacy Leslie left:
Here's the link to her official VT rememberance biography.
Here's the link to the tribute my high school journalism teacher wrote.
Here's the comment board set up by the New York Times to let people give their best memories of Leslie.
Here's Leslie's biography from the Washington Post.
Here's a feature on Leslie from the Roanoke Times.

We'll never forget you, Leslie.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tuesday Inbox: Angry Nats Fans edition

Why don't we call it the mailbag anymore? =( Here's your inbox:

What is happening with right-hander Jordan Zimmermann? When can we expect to see him in Washington?
-- J.D. S., Arlington, Va.

According to Ladson, he's making his MLB debut on Sunday against the Fish. He gave up 3 runs in 5 and 1/3 innings in his first minor league start on April 9, striking out 4, walking 1 and allowing 4 hits (2 of them were HR). Apparently his start that was supposed to take place tonight was rained out so that may change things.

Do you think the Nationals will draft and sign Steven Strasburg?
-- Dylan H., Leona Valley, Calif.

Ladson thinks so, and I agree. The organization simply cannot afford NOT to take Strasburg. They can't afford the bad PR. They'll draft him and sign him.

It is so frustrating to see that the Nats are going to have another season like last year. This team just doesn't have pitching to win ballgames. Don't you say otherwise. There is absolutely no one the team can count on. I know you want the kids to play, but you need at least someone who you can be sure he's going to lead you to a win, even if he's 100 years old.
-- Alex C., Montreal

Pitching stinks, clutch hitting has been awful, defense has been bad...this is a bad team right now. Luckily, baseball is a game of streaks and there's nowhere to go but up for about 90% of the team.

Is Adam Dunn the worst fielder you have seen? In nearly 60 years of watching baseball, and studying the game from the 1870s to the present, I have never seen and do not know of a worse fielder in professional ball either in left field or at first. The guy is a natural designated hitter, so what's he doing in the National League? He makes Frank Howard look like Willie Harris.
-- Woody S., Arlington, Va.

No. Just because he's below average doesn't make him the worst fielder ever. Did you forget Dmitri already?

I know it is early, but is there anything to be concerned about regarding the Nationals? Are the games giving you any more confidence than the box scores?
-- Brian W., Arlington, Va.

I'm concerned that Manny might not be the manager we think he is (I share a similar concern with Redskins head coach Jim Zorn). Both are good guys and good motivators, but they haven't really proven to me to be good in-game managers. They can rally the troops, but at this level you need more than that out of the head honcho.

On an unrelated note: LETS GO CAPS!!!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

0-7, Millz

BoldI don't have a whole lot of time to discuss things. I am at school and can only catch the highlights, so that's what I base my thinking on right now (those and stats).

It's good that Milledge got sent to AAA. Despite the fact that he's young and full of talent, it unclogs the ML outfield because Manny simply is not going to bench 2 out of Willingham/Kearns/Johnson every day. Hopefully he'll get straightened down (well, up) there. He won't be in AAA all season, just until one of them gets dealt.

That's all I have time for. I'm not ignoring you guys, I just don't have much to say when I can't see games!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thursday Inbox

Before I get to the inbox, I'd like to extend my condolences to the Adenhart family, as their 22 year old son Nick, a pitcher for the Angels, was killed by a drunk driver who ran a red light last night after the rookie's 4th career start. There's a lesson to be learned: don't drive drunk. 

Here's Ladson's latest:

Although I like the outfield strengths, I think Adam Dunn, Elijah Dukes and Austin Kearns should be the starting outfielders. I know Lastings Milledge is starting in center, but the other three guys seem to be more of an offensive threat. What are your thoughts?
-- Don M., Charlottetown, Canada

Ladson: "I like Dunn, but I want to see Maxwell and Roger Bernadina as the other outfielders. I've often said this: I want to see the Nationals play the kids. Washington manager Manny Acta, acting general manager Mike Rizzo and team president Stan Kasten will disagree with me, but Maxwell and Bernadina are ready. They are better than some of the outfielders they have now."

What? Maxwell and Bernadina are older than Dukes and Milledge. I think the Nats need to step up soon, though and either trade somebody or send Milledge or Dukes down because it hurt their development to not play every day.

It's not a secret the Nationals are shopping Nick Johnson, but what are they looking for in return? And is Johnson concerned about this at all?
-- Philip G., Brandywine, Md.

Ladson: "The Nationals are looking for young starting pitching in return. As far as Johnson goes, he is not worried about being traded. All this guy wants to do is win. The Yankees spoiled him, and I can tell you he wants to win a World Series ring badly."

Works for me. I'd like for Johnson to stick around, but somebody needs to go.

I don't understand why right-hander Jason Bergmann wasn't given a shot to make the starting rotation this year?
-- Darren M., Fairfax, Va.

Ladson: "Contrary to what he thinks, Bergmann did not have a good year in 2008, and he should be considered a reliever. Just look at the numbers. I've often felt Bergmann has been in denial about the season he had. It doesn't help when a certain beat reporter tells him he should have won nine games if he had the offense and defense behind him. The record is right where it should be: 2-11 with a 5.09 ERA."

Contrary to what Ladson thinks, Bergmann is still probably the 3rd or 4th best ML-ready SP in our system. Nonetheless, he should have been given a spot on the ML roster as either a starter or reliever this year. FJB had a good take on this a few days ago.

With the Orioles letting him go, what is the Nationals' rationale in penciling Daniel Cabrera in the middle of their rotation, seemingly without any competition?
-- Jim S., Bethesda, Md.

Ladson: "It's about Cabrera's potential. This guy can throw gas and be unhittable. I think pitching coach Randy St. Claire can straighten him out. I want to see what Cabrera can do during the first half before I pass judgment."

I'm going to go out on a limb and say probably at least half of pitchers who have thrown in the majors can throw gas and be unhittable. That's very unscientific, but Cabrera has already had 5 years to prove his potential in the majors and has gotten worse as time has gone on. 

With the relative success of rejuvenating pitchers, is there any possible interest in the Nationals acquiring Tigers left-hander Dontrelle Willis? With his stock so low right now, it seems he could be obtained for little in return and would be a low-risk investment with high-reward potential.
-- Cliff S., Springfield, Va.

Ladson: "You and I are on the same page. I think St. Claire could turn Willis around. Right now, Willis is on the disabled list, so let's see what the Tigers do once he comes off of it."

Dontrelle is a 180 from Cabrera-he had great success in the majors before blowing up in 2008. I think he can be a good ML pitcher again with the right mentor (St. Claire), but he's also apparently not all there mentally anymore. He's not worth the money at this point. If the Tigers released him and he could be acquired for next to nothing, sure, but I don't want Willis taking up 10% or more of the Nats' payroll.

Dmitri Young is several floors -- not a few steps -- below Johnson defensively. I still believe Ryan Zimmerman's throwing problems are a result of playing a year with Young at first base. When you know you have to throw a strike to first base, it puts a lot of undue pressure on you as a fielder. Also, Young is not a couple of steps above anyone as a first baseman.
-- Richard A., Annapolis, Md.

Ladson: "As far as Young goes, I've seen worse first basemen. Give Young a break. I agree he is not a Gold Glover out there, and he won't be at first base as long as Johnson is healthy."

No, Young is TERRIBLE defensively. You haven't seen worse first basemen except for maybe Adam Dunn, but at least he hits 40 homers.

Wow, Ladson was really off today, even more so than usual.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I thought managment coming out and saying stupid things would be over when Jim "September 11th" Bowden resigned. Boy, was I wrong.

Really, Stan? You're going to come out and make a personal appeal to the worst set of fans in professional sports?

This is management's greed at it's highest level-trying to get a rival team's fans to come out to our ballpark because they're too cheap to put a Major League team on the field. Pathetic, Kasten.

If Stan Kasten wants drunken idiots in the crowd, he should have bolted to Toronto.

Resign, you sell-out. Go make empty promises that you'll enver fulfill to another franchise.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Nats Journal Prediction

Here's the main post and here's what I put:

2009 win total-76 (I meant to put 78, my choice in Mark Hornbaker's contest, but I failed).
Attendance at Nationals Park (81 dates; last year's was 2.32 million)-1.9 mil
All-star representative(s)-Dunn
Adam Dunn's home run total-40 (exactly)
Date of Stephen Strasburg's major league debut-Sept. 2
Nick Johnson's total games played-129
Wins for John Lannan-12
Percentage of season Dmitri Young spends in big leagues, not on DL-20%
Josh Willingham's total at bats-300 total, 60 with Nats
Innings pitched for Daniel Cabrera-160 total, 110 with Nats
Team ERA leader-Lannan
Team batting average leader-Zimmerman
Biggest surprise-Austin Kearns
Biggest disappointment-Rookie Pitchers (ZNN, Martis, Hinckley)...and I'd like to add Anderson Hernandez.
Current minor leaguer (not counting Zimmermann) who will make an impact-Bill Rhinehart

Predict the Nats' rotation entering the last week of the season:
(Zimmermann and Martis will be shut down because of innings)

Revisiting the 25 man roster contest

You forgot about it, didn't you? Well, here is the original post, here's the spreadsheet and here are the final standings:

Mike Harris-20 correct
Either Mike is Nostradomus or he sent in his predictions late. I can't find the email, so I don't have a date on it.
Out on a limb (correct): Willingham, Olsen, Cabrera, Zimmermann in the rotation.
Glaring omissions: None.

Out on a limb (correct): Martis in the rotation.
Glaring omissions: None.
Dave also called the Kip Wells signing!

Andrew (commenter)-16
Out on a limb (correct): Martis in the rotation.
Glaring omissions: None, unless Dunn counts.

Sean Hogan-14 (Zimmermann doesn't count since he's not on the roster)
Out on a limb (correct): Kearns in the starting lineup, Zimmermann in the rotation.
Glaring omissions: Ronnie Belliard (thought they would trade him with Bonifacio), Adam Dunn (even though I saw it coming, I didn't think it would happen).

Out on a limb (correct): Martis in the rotation.
Glaring omissions: Kearns, Belliard and Saul Rivera.

Out on a limb (correct): Kearns starting.
Glaring omissions: None, unless Dunn counts.

All hail Mike and Dave!


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Roster Strategery

From NJ: your Opening Day Nationals

Pitching Rotation 
LHP John Lannan 
LHP Scott Olsen 
RHP Daniel Cabrera 
RHP Shairon Martis

These 4 all deserved to be here. No surprises or disgust here. Z-NN will be up when we need a 5th man in a few weeks.

Ronnie Belliard (1B/2B/3B)
Alberto Gonzalez (2B/SS)
Cristian Guzman (SS)
Willie Harris (2B/3B/OF)
Nick Johnson (1B)
Ryan Zimmerman (3B)

I think the Nats did the right thing here as well when they sent down Casto and Cintron. Both will get another chance at some point during the year.

LHP Joe Beimel
RHP Joel Hanrahan 
LHP Mike Hinckley 
LHP Wil Ledezma 
RHP Saul Rivera 
RHP Steven Shell 
RHP Julian Tavarez

YUCK! This is poor bullpen management at it's best. 3 LHP is just stupid on all levels, even if Beimel isn't a LOOGY. Tavarez shouldn't have made the pen over Mock or Bergmann (or Colome, even), and one of Hinckley/Ledezma really had to go. Rizzo and Kasten get a F for the bullpen.

Elijah Dukes
Adam Dunn
Austin Kearns
Lastings Milledge
Josh Willingham

The front office failed here as well. They brought the best 5 OF they have to the big league squad, that's not the issue. Instead, the issue is that they didn't move a single one of them! I really can't believe they didn't deal off Willingham.

As for the Kearns/Dukes situation, I favor Manny's decision to start Kearns off under 1 condition-it's not permanent. When Dukes' bat gets up to speed, he starts. He's not ready yet, but needs to start when he is.

Josh Bard
Jesus Flores
Wil Nieves

Carrying 3 catchers is stupid in almost every case, but this is just going to be an extended audition between Bard and Nieves until Hernandez comes back. Also, Flores will need time to adjust to ML pitching, as he missed much of ST, so 3 catchers isn't a terrible idea here.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Nats notes

As expected, Kory Casto and Mike O'Connor were waived. Both cleared and will end up in Syracuse. Good for them, I'm sure both will see time in DC this summer. Also, Rule 5 pick Terrell Young will start the year on the 15-day DL with right shoulder inflammation. Young needs to spend 90 days on the active roster (the DL doesn't count) to stick with the Nats. I'd put it about 50-50 when injuries start to set in halfway through the year.

Now, all we're waiting on is word on who the 4 remaining relievers will be. Still have my money on Bergmann, Mock, Shell and Hinckley (although I think Hinckley should be replaced with Colome).

Now, here are a few links to share:
The Hardball Times takes a look at Shairon Martis (along with The Angels Angels' prospect Nick Adenhart). Definitely worth a look, some pretty charts and graphs and stuff there. The author, Harry Pavlidis, describes Martis' changeup as "top notch" and notes that "his slider may actually be three different pitches."

Marc Hulet of Fangraphs takes a look at some Nats prospects. Nothing earth-shattering, just some more "Zimmermann is awesome," "Detwiler regressed," and "the Nats' farm system sucks."

New additions to Nats Park: the statues of Hondo, Gibson and the Big Train are finished, 7-feet tall Racing President Bobbleheads, recycling bins, better signs, etc.

That's all I've got for now...still have another 1,000 or so words to write on Jane Cazneau. If you're interested in a mini-history lession, click here!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Nats roster almost finalized

According to Ladson, Alex Cintron has accepted an assignment to AAA Syracuse. He also notes that Josh Bard and Wil Nieves will probably both make the team and Kory Casto will be waived today or tomorrow. That leaves the bullpen as the only place not yet decided. 

Chico was right that Bard and Nieves would stay and Cintron and Castro would go and predicts Tavarez, Shell, Hinckley and Bergmann will be the remaining 4 relievers (with Colome, Mock and Ledezma losing out). I think it should be Bergmann, Mock, Colome and Shell, but I think it will be Bergmann, Mock, Shell and Hinckley.

Bergmann has to be a lock now with a 0.00 ERA in 11 and 1/3 innings (although he has allowed 4 unearned runs). I'd have to think Mock's chances are pretty good as well, with a 2.42 ERA in 26 IP as a reliever last year and 3.94 in 16 ST innings this year, so he hasn't done anything to lose his spot. Shell is in the same boat, with a 2.16 ERA last year and a 4.09 in Spring Training. I'd like to see Colome make the team, despite my dislike of his "Human Rain Delay" tactics. He has allowed 1 run in 10 innings in ST and has an impressive 9:0 K:BB ratio (yes, that's right, Colome has not walked anyone in 10 straight innings!). Tavarez has simply sucked in his 2 games and probably needs more seasoning before he plays in the majors this year, so I don't see why he would stick with the big club (and waste another 40-man spot). I don't see why Hinckley would win a spot over Ledezma (although I don't think either should make the team). But there's my rant.

In Ladson's article, he also mentions a possible competition between Elijah Dukes and Austin Kearns as the starting RF. While I love Elijah Dukes, I do think that Kearns has earned a job at least every other day somewhere-he's an outstanding fielder and will improve greatly with the bat (he was playing hurt last year, that's why his numbers were so terrible). While Dukes' numbers haven't been terrible in Spring Training (and not that it would matter anyways, because ST stats mean very little), his K rate is alarming-43% of his at-bats! He's being overmatched by pitchers (and Spring Training pitchers at that)...does that not scare anyone else? 

Ideally, I'd like to see Willingham traded and have the ratios go like this:
1B: Johnson-80% of starts, Dunn-20% of starts
LF: Dunn-70% of starts, Kearns-25% of starts, Harris-5% of starts
CF: Milledge-70% of starts, Dukes-15% of starts, Harris-15% of starts
RF: Dukes-60% of starts, Kearns-40% of starts

Giving Johnson starts in 4/5 games, Dunn starts in 9/10 games, Harris in 1/5 (plus some 2B/3B time), Kearns in a little more than 3/5, Milledge in 7/10 and Dukes in a little more than 7/10. We've got 5 good outfielders, we just need a time and place to use them.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Chris Kay interviews former VT manager Chuck Hartman

This interview doesn't need much of an introduction. Chuck Hartman is a member of the Virginia Tech Hall of Fame and could chat you to death. He's one of baseball's all time great characters and a true legend. If you're interested in more by Chris Kay, check out his blog, We Talkin Bout Practice here and his archive of posts at DC Sports Plus here. If you're interested in more about Chuck Hartman, check out his bio here and an article written by Virginia Tech's Sports Information Director, Dave Smith, here.

Chuck Hartman is well known when it comes to [Blacksburg]. The former Virginia Tech head baseball coach has 1,424 wins under his belt which ranks him tied for 4th all time in college baseball history. Hartman’s 47 year coaching history involved only two stops: High Point College and Virginia Tech. The first 19 years of his coaching career were at High Point College (now known as High Point University). The High Point team had eight wins in the previous three years, but with Coach Hartman at the helm they averaged 25 wins a year over a 19 year stretch and achieved 10 Carolinas Conference Championships. After a successful stop at High Point, Hartman moved on to Virginia Tech in 1979. For 28 years with the Hokies, he would amass over 900 wins including the special 1000th career win which occurred in 1992 versus in-state opponent Liberty. Like at High Point, Coach Hartman had great success winning three Atlantic-10 Tournament Championships, one Metro Tournament Championship, and sharing regular season championships in both the Metro and Big East regular seasons. In 2004, Chuck Hartman received the highest honors a collegiate coach could receive when he was voted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Chris had the chance to sit down with this Hall of Fame coach and what is seen is a selection from the interview that took place.

Q: Can you tell me about some of your early days of baseball as a player and early coach?
A: Well as a player, I came up in a high school that had very very good baseball. In fact, won 9 out of 10 state championships. I happened to be a part of the club that didn’t. As a sophomore I got cut. And then later as a senior when we won the state championship I was all-state, and captain of the team and ended up going to North Carolina and having an ok career down there. Thought I was good as a sophomore and then they started pitching me a little tougher (laughs).

Q: When did you know that you wanted to get into coaching?
A: I had it kind of in the back of my mind. My dad had coached [a] legion team. I had to play for him one season. In fact, I made a couple errors one day and we were on the bench and I was about 14 or 15 years old, tears running down my cheeks cause the fans were hollering to put this other kid in. You only play him cause you’re the coach’s son! And I wasn’t mature enough to handle that. He said, “Are you a quitter?” I said, “No, I’m not a quitter.” He said, “Well get your little hiney back on there out on the field.” I wavered a little bit my freshman year of college. At one time I thought a little bit about going into the FBI, but then I changed my sophomore year and from then on I wanted to be a coach.

Q: Did you ever expect coaching for 47 years?
A: (Laughs) No, no, no. No, I never thought it would be that long. I just got real real lucky, fortunate or whatever. It was in January and it was High Point College at the time and now it’s (High Point) University. They were looking for, believe it or not, an assistant tennis coach and an assistant basketball coach and a teacher. I was in the middle of grad school… So, they came in. In fact the president of the school and the athletic director of the school interviewed me. They caught me down in the gym and interviewed me in the dressing room. So they said they would be back in touch with me. I went back to my room and wasn’t thirty minutes they knocked on the door and said, “The job is yours.” And I said, “Well, I’ve never seen the place. I got to come up.” It ended up I coached tennis the first year. I didn’t know anything about tennis. I gave them a can of balls, wrote out the lineup, and got out of the way and sat around and drank water while they were playing. Gave a little pep talk every once in a while. (Laughs) In fact we played for the conference championship. In basketball, I was the recruiter for three years. The second year I was there he told me he wanted me to give up tennis and wanted me to be the assistant baseball and assistant basketball. So, that’s the way that year started off. And half way through the season the head coach at High Point resigned, and I became the interim. In two-and-a-half years I had become the year coach. (Thinks) I was 26 years old. I had become the head coach at High Point College. Oh, they were horrible. The field was bad, but I loved baseball... Having played baseball at (North) Carolina, and I loved baseball. We started working. Of course we did a lot of the work on the field, but then we started recruiting some players. We had very limited. In fact, we had no scholarships to start with… They had won a total of eight games in three years. My first captain came to me and told me we really appreciate the work you’re putting in, and you’re energetic and we’re having a lot of fun playing for you, but we can’t compete against those other teams. So right then we gotta get rid of this losing attitude. 5 years later we won the conference championships and we ended up winning 10 conference championships before I left…

Q: Coach Hughes is in the process of rebuilding the Hokies. What kind of advice can you give him because you did the same thing with High Point College?
A: Well, it sometimes becomes a slow process. You got to get good players let’s face it. I’ve got a little slogan I use. A mule never won The Kentucky Derby. You got to have horses. I still believe that. Now, you have to coach those horses just like those guys have to train those horses, but you can’t train a mule. He can only go so far. You know you got to continue to get good players. It’s a real difficult league to say the least. It’s one of the better leagues. It comes down to recruiting. I think this is a great place. The improvements ya’ll have made in the ball park. It’s got to help in the recruiting…

Q: You and Johnny Oates are the only two baseball retired numbers in Virginia Tech history. Can you tell me your favorite Oates memory?
A: Yea I do. We were playing here, and I can’t remember who we were playing, but it was a Sunday and we always had devotionals down in the bullpen after we took batting practice. We went into the bullpen and it was optional. Johnny had came down for that weekend. I had asked him if he would do our devotion. He was very religious, really religious. Lived it. His wife came down to the bullpen. We were getting ready to assemble. She said she didn’t think he (Oates) was going to be able to make it. He was sick. He was still taking all that chemo treatment and everything. Then he waved his arm, and he was coming down. He came down and spoke to us. He cried like a baby. After it when I talked to him about that. He said that it was one of the most prominent times of his career. Playing for all those teams and managing two different clubs. He said, “That was a moment I will take to my grave.” It was a very emotional day. We were all out there crying.

One note-this may end up being posted at Planet Blacksburg. Wanted to make sure to give them props just in case it does.

Chris Kay's take on UNC prospect Dustin Ackley

It's been almost two months since we last heard from Chris (although it's quite understandable, considering his busy baseball schedule). Be sure to check out his blog, We Talkin Bout Practice?

Before we delve into his latest report, I want to congratulate him and the rest of the Hokies for their improved play this year. Through 11 conference games this year, they are already halfway to last year's conference win total with 19 games to go. Chris has struggled a little bit at the plate this year, struggling to find consistency with almost half of his plate appearances coming as a pinch hitter, but at least has shown a Don Baylor-like ability to get hit by pitch. His defense behind the plate, however, has been impeccable, with 0 errors, 0 passed balls and only 1 stolen base allowed.

Here's Chris' view on Ackley.

This past month we played the UNC Tar Heels. Everyone knows who their best players are: Dustin Ackley, Alex White, and Matt Harvey. The most impressive of the 3 to me was Dustin Ackley their first baseman.
Ackley is a projected first round pick in this next years draft. He looks like any ordinary guy, but with a strong southern accent. Ackley is average height and size, but his abilities are far from ordinary. The speed that he has with the kind of power that he has is unreal. He hit a home run versus us that was crushed. The guy can really hit. He also possesses a great amount of patience. He racks up a lot of walks while being able to get pitches to hit. Defensively he is very sound at first base. It’s not a tough position to play, but he makes it look effortless with his picks. I think that in professional baseball, outfield will be better suited for him because of his speed and arm. It would be a waste of talent to leave him at first base with the kind of defensive
skills he has.

Thanks again to Virginia Tech baseball player and Michigan-area sports blogger Chris Kay for his insights.

A few of my thoughts: 
-Ackley's arm has been questioned due to Tommy John surgery last summer, but it is good to see in Chris' report that it looks good once again. compares him to Todd Helton with the bat and Darin Erstad in terms of athleticism. 
-Beyond the Box Score says he is a good overall player, but "not an otherworldly talent."
-Orioles Hangout compares him to Chase Utley.
-He could POSSIBLY fall to the Nats at #10, but I doubt it. DC Pro Sports Report's MLB Mock Draft Database has Ackley as high as second and as low as sixth. Don't count on grabbing him, but count on watching him play for the Mariners, Padres, Pirates, Orioles or Giants one day.