Guy Hansen has done an amazing job with Denny Bautista.  Did I ever get it wrong on that guy.  This is what I said last year when the Orioles traded him:

"The O's have taken some heat for trading away AA pitching prospect Denny Bautista for essentially a journeyman reliever, Jason Grimsley.  And on the surface it looks like a bad trade.  However, Bautista probably wasn't going to be making the O's rotation any time soon anyway.  The O's have several quality young starters ahead of him: Bedard, Riley, Cabrera are already with the big club.  In the minors they have Kurt Ainsworth, John Maine, Adam Loewen and Luis Ramirez (who struck out 15 batters in 5 innings tonight for Aberdeen), each of whom appear to have more upside.  So Bautista was pretty much trade bait anyway.  But why not get more than a journeyman reliever..."

Clearly, Bautista turned out to be more than trade bait.  And with Riley working out of Texas' bullpen, Ainsworth still on the mend and Maine not being a hard-thrower, it's obvious that at least those three didn't have more upside.  Then again, he looks like a completely different pitcher than he was in Baltimore.  Less than a week after they made that trade, the O's relieved Mark Wiley of his coaching duties and hired Ray Miller.  Not to take anything away from the job Hansen has done, but given the turnaround of the Orioles staff since then it would have been interesting to see how Bautista would have reacted under Miller's guidance.

Last week I wrote that the jury was still out on Pedro Astacio and Scott Elarton because their home run rates were still low enough to be optimistic.  Well, both pitchers were kind enough to take care of that issue this week, Astacio surrendering 2 bombs against the Red Sox, Elarton offering up 3 gopherballs to the Royals no less.  While this doesn't disqualify either pitcher from being useful, it does mean that both will have limitations on when they should be active, i.e. pitching in large ballparks or against some of the less potent offenses.  Fortunately for Astacio, the AL East has three pitcher friendly parks; unfortunately, he doesn't call any of them home.  At this point, Elarton is probably the safer bet.  He pitched better than his last two line scores indicate.  His defense committed three errors behind him and none of those runners were stranded.  Eventually, the law of averages will kick in and some of those runners will get left on base.  And, although it seems unlikely given how they've performed so far this season, it's possible that the Indians will be able to play an entire game at some point without making an error. 

Speaking of awful defense, on the surface it appears that Yankee rookie Chien-Ming Wang had a pretty solid start against the Blue Jays.  With Jaret Wright out for the next month or so and quite probably longer, he also looks like a great pick-up.  However, it's not unusual for a call-up to pitch well his first start because opposing hitters have not seen him, either live or on video.  So it takes a time or two through the batting order to get used to him.  The second time through the order, the Jays got 3 hits (all singles), a walk and a run scored off Wang.  The third time through the order they got 3 hits (all singles), a walk and a run scored as well.  Just as importantly Wang did not strike out a single Blue Jay hitter.  The Jays rank 7th in team strikeouts, but are only 9 K's away from being first in the AL.  Wang's strikeout numbers in AAA aren't especially impressive, so given that he couldn't strike out a single batter on a team that strikes out with some regularity, he'll have to rely heavily on the defense of the Yankees to get him out of innings.  Probably the Yankees biggest weakness so far is turning balls in play into outs, so this doesn't bode well for Wang's future. 

This is neither here nor there, but Saturday's Nationals/Mets game had some unusual features that make for interesting trivia.  For example, Mike DeJean came into the game to pitch the bottom of the 8th inning, but because of the ensuing rain delay which ultimately ended the game, he is credited with a game played.  But because he did not throw a pitch, the Mets' pitcher before him, Royce Ring, is credited with the game finished.  Also unusual is that Frank Robinson contested the decision to continue with the game after the top of the 8th and was thrown out of the game.  But even though he was thrown out after the last pitch was thrown, he is still credited with being thrown out of that game because the game was not called until an hour later. 

Crew chief Joe West tried to place the blame on the league office by saying that they were told to "get the games in" when it was raining.  But the condition of the field after the seventh inning was so hazardous that anyone with an iota of common sense should have known to stop the game. 

Even had they done so, the grounds crew, which are not employees of the Nationals, but of RFK and the DC Stadium authority, were not capable of dealing with the situation.  When the game was delayed after the 5th inning, only 11 grounds crew were available to unfurl the tarp.  In an normal major league ballpark, there are between 16-20 grounds crew for this purpose.  I was told that the reason there were so few is that DC refused to budget for more because the workers were unionized.  Regardless, those 11 guys were exhausted after laying the tarp over the infield for the first delay.  When they were asked to roll it up, they did so as quickly as they physically could, which turned out to be somewhat sloppily.  The problems began because Joe West made his first error of the night - removing the tarp too early.  Had he just looked at the weather radar, he would have seen that more rain was imminent.  So almost as soon as they resumed play it started raining again.

By the time they decided to stop play again, there were literally pools of water between shortstop and third, and behind second base.  There was a shallow, U-shaped moat surrounding the batter's box.  If you want to know why Gary Majewski gave up 3 earned runs in the top of the 8th, it was because he was reluctant to take his full step forward in his pitching motion for fear he would slide forward and pull a hamstring.  When the grounds crew was summoned to recover the field, they were not only short-handed and exhausted from the first effort, but the tarp wasn't rolled correctly so there were extra folds in it.  These folds quickly gathered water and made it impossible for even a normal-sized grounds crew to unfurl it. 

Although it wasn't reported, the crowd was really the story of this game.  As the grounds crew tried valiantly to get the field covered, they fans chanted, "let's go, grounds crew" a la the ubiquitous Yankee and Red Sox chants.  A couple of guys from the crowd ran onto the field over to the crew and grabbed the tarp to help them pull, but were quickly apprehended by the security and escorted away.  For whatever reason, the security teams got a little rough with those fans, which inspired the crowd to start chanting, "Attica, Attica, Attica" a la Al Pacino in "Dog Day Afternoon".  Truly erudite fans in DC.  The PA got into the act, playing the "Theme from Superman", the "Theme from Rocky" and any other inspirational tune short of "How Great Thou Art" every time the crew tried to spread the tarp.  The jumbotron was soon employed as well, displaying the crews efforts with the caption "National Tarp Pull".  Eventually, employees of the Nationals' were summoned to help.  It took 34 people and 31 minutes to get it done, but the field was finally covered.  And all Joe West had to say was it wasn't his fault.  He ordered the tarp be removed prematurely despite impending rain and the obvious inability of the grounds crew to cover the field quickly, and then risked serious injuries for both teams by having them play on a field in treacherous condition and through weather that any sane person would be sheltered from.  And they wonder why people dislike umpires.

One final note on the game.  It was the National's 12th home game of the season.  Their attendance total after that game was almost half way (371,408) to surpassing the full season's total from Montreal (748,550) last year.   The team is currently on pace to draw over 2.5 million fans.  If they end up drawing that many, they will surpass the total of 16 of the 30 teams last year.  So much for DC not being a baseball town.  And for those of you who were so worried about the presence of another team drying up the fanbase of the Orioles and leaving them an empty shell of a team... Baltimore is currently on pace to draw 2,616,705 this year, which averages out to about 1,576 fewer fans per game than they drew last year.  Since they are winning, that number is likely to decrease as the season progresses.  So much for the sky falling on Baltimore, too.