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OnBaseMachine
03-31-2007, 11:35 AM
For '07, defense is the word
Deal for Gold Glove-caliber infielder raises hopes for shot at brass ring

By C. Trent Rosecrans
Post staff reporter

SARASOTA, Fla. - It was another routine hit up the middle this spring and Bronson Arroyo was getting ready to pitch out of the stretch.

But when Arroyo looked back to see the ball getting thrown back into the infield, he saw Alex Gonzalez's follow-through and the ball already at first and the runner out.

"I'll take a Gold Glove shortstop any day of the week," said the Reds' All-Star pitcher. "Bringing Gonzalez in was a really good thing. You look at him at face value and the numbers, you think he might help us a little bit. But when you get to see him and how he interacts with the guys, with Brandon (Phillips) and (Edwin) Encarnacion, how he moves those guys around the infield, he makes them better. They have someone to lean on, a defensive guru out there."

Arroyo has now played two springs with Gonzalez and talked to his former teammates in Boston about the impact of the shortstop.

"Everyone who has come through this spring has told me we've gotten the best in the business," Arroyo said.

This off-season when a career 55-44 pitcher like Gil Meche signed a $55 million contract, the Reds' biggest pitching acquisition was a shortstop.

"We knew we improved our pitching when we signed Alex Gonzalez," said Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky. "You're very athletic up the middle with he and Phillips."

With Gonzalez, who led American League shortstops in fielding percentage (.985) last season with the Red Sox, the Reds hope to improve on their defense of last season when they finished next-to-last in the league with a .979 fielding percentage.

"I think any winning team, it doesn't matter what the sport is, any team that wins a championship is strong defensively," Krivsky said. "Baseball is no different. We can't afford to be next-to-last in fielding percentage and give up the unearned runs we gave up last year. That puts too much stress on the pitching staff and we're not really a strikeout-dominating pitching staff. It puts more importance on defense and making the routine plays."

Four of the six division winners last season were in the top five in field- ing percentage of their league last season.

This year's Reds team is much more defensive-minded than last year's squad.

Not only did Krivsky add Gonzalez, the team also moved Ryan Freel to center and Ken Griffey Jr. to right field hoping to improve the amount of ground covered in the outfield.

Phillips, in just his third season ever playing second base, has shown improvement in his defense and has the athleticism to team with Gonzalez to make one of baseball's best double-play combinations.

At third base, Encarnacion has worked hard to improve his defense and it has been noticeable this spring with better throwing accuracy than he has shown in the past.

First baseman Scott Hatteberg didn't commit an error in 100 games from May 6 to September 23 - the longest streak by a major league first baseman since 20003. A converted catcher, Hatteberg has a career fielding percentage of .993.

And in late-inning situations, the Reds have their own defensive closer in Juan Castro, so good defensively he's been nicknamed "Manos de Oro" - "Hands of Gold."

With Castro in late in the game at third, along with Gonzalez, Phillips and Hatteberg, the Reds could have themselves a "Diamante de Oro."

"A lot of times when you have guys like that around you, you pitch different," Arroyo said. "Maybe you're up by a run or down by a run and you have first and third, you don't feel as pressured because you know if it's on the ground you can be out of the inning and not worrying about striking people out."

Arroyo's been on the other side of the situation, and not just with last season's Reds that committed 128 errors, the second-most in baseball.

"We had Nomar (Garciaparra) at short and Todd Walker at second and both were known for their offense," Arroyo said. In '03 the Yankees turned so many more double plays than us in the ALCS and it changes the whole momentum of the series. I've seen first hand what it can do."

Although baseball is a game of numbers, fielding is one thing that is still difficult to quantify with statistics.

Fielding percentage is the most common indicator of fielding excellence, but that can be misleading. Fielding percentage relies on a judgment call of a hit or an error, which can be an error itself. The number can also be influenced by a pitching staff - a staff dominated by strikeout pitchers will create fewer chances, a fly-ball staff will induce fewer chances for infielders and sinkerballers will give outfielders fewer chances.

Gold Gloves are supposed to be given to the best fielders at every position, but those are often awarded on reputation more than merit. In 1999, Rafael Palmeiro won the American League Gold Glove at first base even though he played only 28 games at that position.

Reds first baseman/outfielder Jeff Conine played with Gonzalez in Florida in 2004 when the Dodgers' Cesar Izturis won the NL's Gold Glove at shortstop.

"It's a crying shame he didn't win a Gold Glove," Conine said of Gonzalez.

The Reds are hoping that Gonzalez can become the fifth Red shortstop - joining Roy McMillan, Leo Cardenas, Dave Concepcion and Barry Larkin - to win a Gold Glove.

But more importantly, they're hoping the new-found Gold Glove-caliber defense will lead to victories.

"These guys have so much range that they make it look so much easier than it really is," Arroyo said. "Some guys may see it as a routine play, but for someone else it's a diving play because of the way (Gonzalez) positions himself and the jump he gets on the ball. Sometimes he makes it look so easy that it masks how good they really are. You watch day-in, day-out then they start making things look easy, you can see how much they're worth."

The Reds are banking that it's at least $14 million.

http://news.cincypost.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070331/SPT05/703310311/1027

dougdirt
03-31-2007, 11:53 AM
I still dont like the thought of removing Edwin in the late innings of games for Castro.

OnBaseMachine
03-31-2007, 12:03 PM
I still dont like the thought of removing Edwin in the late innings of games for Castro.

Nope. It's stupid IMO. Edwin's range is more important than whatever it is that Castro has.

The Reds infield will be the best defensive infield in the NL, and possibly the whole majors. Edwin, Gonzalez, and Phillips all have great range and Hatteberg and is pretty good at scooping balls out of the dirt.

dougdirt
03-31-2007, 12:15 PM
Nope. It's stupid IMO. Edwin's range is more important than whatever it is that Castro has.

The Reds infield will be the best defensive infield in the NL, and possibly the whole majors. Edwin, Gonzalez, and Phillips all have great range and Hatteberg and is pretty good at scooping balls out of the dirt.

Lets not forget that you replace Edwins bat with the one of Castro as well, in the case you do need to score, you are now severly hurting your chances.

PuffyPig
03-31-2007, 12:43 PM
The Reds infield will be the best defensive infield in the NL, and possibly the whole majors.

Of course you mean 2nd best, behind the Cardinals.

Gonzalez and Phillips can only dream about having the range of Eckstein and Kennedy.

And with Jimmmay in CF, Eckstein and Kennedy can cheat half way in, knowing that Edmonds can get any ball hit over their heads, even if he has to sprint all the way into the infield to make the play. Yes, he's that good!!!

;) ;) ;)

Ga_Red
03-31-2007, 01:07 PM
Arroyo:
"...changes the whole momentum..."

OnBaseMachine
03-31-2007, 01:49 PM
Of course you mean 2nd best, behind the Cardinals.

Gonzalez and Phillips can only dream about having the range of Eckstein and Kennedy.

And with Jimmmay in CF, Eckstein and Kennedy can cheat half way in, knowing that Edmonds can get any ball hit over their heads, even if he has to sprint all the way into the infield to make the play. Yes, he's that good!!!

;) ;) ;)

:laugh:

Falls City Beer
03-31-2007, 01:59 PM
Nope. It's stupid IMO. Edwin's range is more important than whatever it is that Castro has.

The Reds infield will be the best defensive infield in the NL, and possibly the whole majors. Edwin, Gonzalez, and Phillips all have great range and Hatteberg and is pretty good at scooping balls out of the dirt.


This team has butchers at first and catcher; and EdE is still a bit of a work in progress. So that automatically disqualifies them, IMO.

The Phils have a pretty solid defensive infield. And the Cards are every bit as good as the Reds on the infield. So are the Astros.

But I would have agreed with your take that the Reds have one of the best defensive infields had they kept Larue.

VR
03-31-2007, 02:47 PM
But I would have agreed with your take that the Reds have one of the best defensive infields had they kept Larue.

Based on fielding %?

Falls City Beer
03-31-2007, 03:11 PM
Based on fielding %?

Based on athleticism, respect of pitchers, quickness. None of which Moeller, Valentin, or Ross possess.

VR
03-31-2007, 03:21 PM
Based on athleticism, respect of pitchers, quickness. None of which Moeller, Valentin, or Ross possess.

the untangibles?

Falls City Beer
03-31-2007, 03:23 PM
the untangibles?

Except that quickness and athleticism aren't intangibles. I trust my eyes on defense.

VR
03-31-2007, 04:07 PM
I trust mine too, which tell me Jason has never overcome his clunky/ jabbing catching style. Many still have the 2001/02 Larue in mind, when he was throwing out runners at a +50% clip, not the past 4 when he is sub 30.

It's tough to quantify Jason's 'superior' defense by using stats....if anything they show he had plenty of areas that he was being outperformed by Valentin and Ross last year.

Spitball
03-31-2007, 05:30 PM
I still dont like the thought of removing Edwin in the late innings of games for Castro.

How many meaningful at-bats would that cost Encarnacion? He would not be coming out of games in which the Reds were behind or tied.

BRM
03-31-2007, 05:32 PM
How many meaningful at-bats would that cost Encarnacion? He would not be coming out of games in which the Reds were behind or tied.

With this bullpen? It could cost alot.

Falls City Beer
03-31-2007, 05:47 PM
I trust mine too, which tell me Jason has never overcome his clunky/ jabbing catching style. Many still have the 2001/02 Larue in mind, when he was throwing out runners at a +50% clip, not the past 4 when he is sub 30.

It's tough to quantify Jason's 'superior' defense by using stats....if anything they show he had plenty of areas that he was being outperformed by Valentin and Ross last year.

If you believe reports from reliable sources, Jason played with a gimpy knee last season. You can choose not to believe that, too, though.

Spitball
03-31-2007, 06:16 PM
If you believe reports from reliable sources, Jason played with a gimpy knee last season. You can choose not to believe that, too, though.

Does his gimpy knee from last season explain the all those passed balls between 2003 and 2005? I don't know exactly how many passed balls he had in 2004, but he was awful that season.

Basically, even a blind man could tell you LaRue has not been anything special defensively as a catcher for a several years now. I really don't see your "eyeballs" argument here.

VR
03-31-2007, 06:17 PM
If you believe reports from reliable sources, Jason played with a gimpy knee last season. You can choose not to believe that, too, though.

I could remove last year, and that still wouldn't make him a superior defensive catcher. I can choose to believe every reliable source or none, but I can't choose to ignore the reality of statistics.

Spitball
03-31-2007, 06:28 PM
Does his gimpy knee from last season explain the all those passed balls between 2003 and 2005? I don't know exactly how many passed balls he had in 2004, but he was awful that season.


LaRue has had an incredible 68 passed balls in his 680 games played as a catcher.

Falls City Beer
03-31-2007, 06:28 PM
I could remove last year, and that still wouldn't make him a superior defensive catcher. I can choose to believe every reliable source or none, but I can't choose to ignore the reality of statistics.

I don't think Jason is or was a superior defensive catcher, just that among the four we've been discussing--Larue, Ross, Valentin, and Moeller--Larue has been far and away the best defensive and offensive catcher over his career.

919191
03-31-2007, 06:32 PM
LaRue has had an incredible 68 passed balls in his 680 games played as a catcher.

I wonder how many of them where from Fernandez, the knuckleball pitcher?

Falls City Beer
03-31-2007, 06:32 PM
LaRue has had an incredible 68 passed balls in his 680 games played as a catcher.

We'll just have to agree to disagree on the relative importance of passed balls in that span of time when weighed against his other strengths.

Spitball
03-31-2007, 08:43 PM
We'll just have to agree to disagree on the relative importance of passed balls in that span of time when weighed against his other strengths.

Catchers have a way of wearing down physically. Though LaRue was never very good at moving to the ball in order to catch it and keep a runner from advancing, it is my suspicion by observation that LaRue has been worn down by the rigors of the position he plays. Ross, outside of taking throws to the plate, plays a much better level of catch and throw than does the 32 year-old LaRue.

That said, I can agree to disagree.

Ltlabner
03-31-2007, 08:50 PM
Based on athleticism, respect of pitchers, quickness. None of which Moeller, Valentin, or Ross possess.

Arroyo chose Ross as his "personal" catcher? Doesn't that imply some level of respect from a pitcher?

Spitball
03-31-2007, 08:52 PM
I wonder how many of them where from Fernandez, the knuckleball pitcher?

I remember only one game where LaRue caught Fernandez, and he had six or seven passed balls. I believe Kelly Stinnett usually caught Fernandez.

Ltlabner
03-31-2007, 09:04 PM
I don't think Jason is or was a superior defensive catcher, just that among the four we've been discussing--Larue, Ross, Valentin, and Moeller--Larue has been far and away the best defensive and offensive catcher over his career.

Yea, but for a 33 year old catcher, with knee injuries I think more recient stats might be more relevant over what he did 3 or 4 years ago.



INN FPCT RF ZR PB SB CS CS%
512 .995 7.24 .882 3 23 13 .361 - Jason LaRue 2006
621 .985 7.44 .933 4 17 14 .452 - David Ross 2006

So Ross had a better caught stealing percentage and only 1 more PB over 109 aditional innings of work in 2006. His zone rating is also better than LaRue's, which IIRC, implies he's more athletic since he can cover his zone better.

LaRue did have the edge in FPCT, however. I'm assuming those dropped balls on throws home would effect that for Ross?

So I'm not sure I'd agree with a blanket statement that LaRue is more atheletic. I'd also dissagree that he's the better defensive catcher (with the exception of blocking plays at home, Ross is way weak in that area). And offensivley last year, LaRue was nowhere to be found. He gets credit for the knee injury, but he's also 33+ and likely on the downward spiral so those may become chronic problems that always effect his output. Ross may regress back to a 850ish OPS but I'll take that for a few years.

Falls City Beer
03-31-2007, 11:02 PM
Yea, but for a 33 year old catcher, with knee injuries I think more recient stats might be more relevant over what he did 3 or 4 years ago.



INN FPCT RF ZR PB SB CS CS%
512 .995 7.24 .882 3 23 13 .361 - Jason LaRue 2006
621 .985 7.44 .933 4 17 14 .452 - David Ross 2006

So Ross had a better caught stealing percentage and only 1 more PB over 109 aditional innings of work in 2006. His zone rating is also better than LaRue's, which IIRC, implies he's more athletic since he can cover his zone better.

LaRue did have the edge in FPCT, however. I'm assuming those dropped balls on throws home would effect that for Ross?

So I'm not sure I'd agree with a blanket statement that LaRue is more atheletic. I'd also dissagree that he's the better defensive catcher (with the exception of blocking plays at home, Ross is way weak in that area). And offensivley last year, LaRue was nowhere to be found. He gets credit for the knee injury, but he's also 33+ and likely on the downward spiral so those may become chronic problems that always effect his output. Ross may regress back to a 850ish OPS but I'll take that for a few years.

Or Ross may regress to a .750 OPS--that's the thing; we really have no idea what we have in Ross offensively; defensively, he's lame as all-get-out.

edabbs44
03-31-2007, 11:19 PM
I wonder how many of them where from Fernandez, the knuckleball pitcher?

I think Williamson can be blamed for a bunch as well.

reds44
03-31-2007, 11:35 PM
Or Ross may regress to a .750 OPS--that's the thing; we really have no idea what we have in Ross offensively; defensively, he's lame as all-get-out.
If Ross was "lame as all-get-out" on defense, what did that make LaRue? Just flat out bad?

Falls City Beer
03-31-2007, 11:39 PM
If Ross was "lame as all-get-out" on defense, what did that make LaRue? Just flat out bad?

I can't defend Larue's last season with the Reds; it was bad. But I pointed out that it was likely due to a bad knee.

What was Ross's excuse?

reds44
03-31-2007, 11:41 PM
I can't defend Larue's last season with the Reds; it was bad. But I pointed out that it was likely due to a bad knee.

What was Ross's excuse?
LaRue is a 33 year old catcher, you think he's ever not going to have bad knees?

Falls City Beer
03-31-2007, 11:43 PM
LaRue is a 33 year old catcher, you think he's ever not going to have bad knees?

I don't know; but there was only one year left on his contract. Whatever, though; we're stuck with one of the worst defensive catching corps in all of baseball--and lucky us, we get three of them. Just cross your fingers and pray Ross can somewhat replicate last year's numbers.

VR
04-01-2007, 07:49 PM
I can't defend Larue's last season with the Reds; it was bad. But I pointed out that it was likely due to a bad knee.

What was Ross's excuse?

for what? throwing out 44%? For a CERA close to 4?

Falls City Beer
04-01-2007, 07:53 PM
for what? throwing out 44%? For a CERA close to 4?

I'm not sold that Ross's CS % is the real thing; and come on, CERA? Is that really a valid statistic, or is it like rating someone's defense on error totals?

VR
04-01-2007, 08:03 PM
I'm not sold that Ross's CS % is the real thing; and come on, CERA? Is that really a valid statistic, or is it like rating someone's defense on error totals?

I'm more impressed with the few baserunners that tried to steal on him, that tells me something. He's certainly been given the chance to prove he's for real...we'll now quiet soon.

As far as stats, I guess we could look at RF and ZR as well? Or we could just tell how good they really are by looking at them?

WebScorpion
04-02-2007, 10:15 PM
I haven't seen Moeller play, but I was under the impression we were keeping him for his defense? :confused: Personally, I think the differences between Larue, Ross, and Valentin are close enough to make them a wash. I'd just ask Harang and Arroyo who they wanted and keep those two. The Moeller thing is beyond me...I'm guessing Krivsky sees Valentin as a switch hitting pinch hitter who happens to be able to play Catcher, and Moeller is our real #2 catcher. Like I said, I haven't seen Moeller so I'll reserve any judgement until after I do.
:beerme:

Highlifeman21
04-02-2007, 11:19 PM
If Defense truly is the word for 2007, then Ryan Freel showed today that he has no business playing CF, and that he should platoon in RF with Griffey.

On the ball that he dove and went in and out of his glove, he got a poor jump, misjudged the ball, and the dove to save himself. After the ball went in and out of his glove, he should have put the ball in his pocket, as he had zero chance of getting Matt Murton at 3B. His ill advised throw led to the Cubs' only run, and D. Lee to end up on 3B.

Fast forward a couple innings after that....

Ryan Freel ranges to his left on a routine flyball to RCF and goes Jim Edmonds on us and dives for no good reason at the last minute to catch the ball. He would have caught that ball in stride had he not slowed up to make the dive, a la Jim Edmonds.

Ryan Freel has zero business in CF. Get Josh Hamilton in there Wednesday, and then for the rest of the season.

The only thing we learned today is that this team is worse off without Chris Denorfia or Josh Hamilton as the everyday CF, and having to suffer the inept defense of Ryan Freel.

Do the right thing Jerry Narron, and make Josh Hamilton the starting everyday CF and platoon Freel and Griffey in RF.

dougdirt
04-02-2007, 11:46 PM
If Defense truly is the word for 2007, then Ryan Freel showed today that he has no business playing CF, and that he should platoon in RF with Griffey.

On the ball that he dove and went in and out of his glove, he got a poor jump, misjudged the ball, and the dove to save himself. After the ball went in and out of his glove, he should have put the ball in his pocket, as he had zero chance of getting Matt Murton at 3B. His ill advised throw led to the Cubs' only run, and D. Lee to end up on 3B.

Fast forward a couple innings after that....

Ryan Freel ranges to his left on a routine flyball to RCF and goes Jim Edmonds on us and dives for no good reason at the last minute to catch the ball. He would have caught that ball in stride had he not slowed up to make the dive, a la Jim Edmonds.

Ryan Freel has zero business in CF. Get Josh Hamilton in there Wednesday, and then for the rest of the season.

The only thing we learned today is that this team is worse off without Chris Denorfia or Josh Hamilton as the everyday CF, and having to suffer the inept defense of Ryan Freel.

Do the right thing Jerry Narron, and make Josh Hamilton the starting everyday CF and platoon Freel and Griffey in RF.

While I agree that Freel shouldnt be in CF, platooning Griffey and Freel kills this offense.

pedro
04-02-2007, 11:56 PM
If Defense truly is the word for 2007, then Ryan Freel showed today that he has no business playing CF, and that he should platoon in RF with Griffey.

On the ball that he dove and went in and out of his glove, he got a poor jump, misjudged the ball, and the dove to save himself. After the ball went in and out of his glove, he should have put the ball in his pocket, as he had zero chance of getting Matt Murton at 3B. His ill advised throw led to the Cubs' only run, and D. Lee to end up on 3B.

Fast forward a couple innings after that....

Ryan Freel ranges to his left on a routine flyball to RCF and goes Jim Edmonds on us and dives for no good reason at the last minute to catch the ball. He would have caught that ball in stride had he not slowed up to make the dive, a la Jim Edmonds.

Ryan Freel has zero business in CF. Get Josh Hamilton in there Wednesday, and then for the rest of the season.

The only thing we learned today is that this team is worse off without Chris Denorfia or Josh Hamilton as the everyday CF, and having to suffer the inept defense of Ryan Freel.

Do the right thing Jerry Narron, and make Josh Hamilton the starting everyday CF and platoon Freel and Griffey in RF.

That ball that he dove and caught would have been a double last year.

pedro
04-02-2007, 11:57 PM
"I'll take a Gold Glove shortstop any day of the week," said the Reds' All-Star pitcher. "Bringing Gonzalez in was a really good thing. You look at him at face value and the numbers, you think he might help us a little bit. But when you get to see him and how he interacts with the guys, with Brandon (Phillips) and (Edwin) Encarnacion, how he moves those guys around the infield, he makes them better. They have someone to lean on, a defensive guru out there."


http://news.cincypost.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070331/SPT05/703310311/1027

This to me is an oft overlooked reason why the Reds wanted to replace Lopez at SS.

Ltlabner
04-03-2007, 09:37 AM
The only thing we learned today is that this team is worse off without Chris Denorfia or Josh Hamilton as the everyday CF, and having to suffer the inept defense of Ryan Freel.

Do the right thing Jerry Narron, and make Josh Hamilton the starting everyday CF and platoon Freel and Griffey in RF.

It was said that if Wayne wanted to be serrious about defense he had to improve the situation at short stop. He did. Brought in Gonzo.

But then it was said that if Wayne was serrious about defence he had to get JR out of CF. He did. Jr started in RF yesterday and it appears will stay there.

Now, he woln't be "doing the right thing" until Freel is out of CF.

What will be the next demand of Wayne to show his "serriousness" about defense if he were to platoon Freel and Jr ?

Highlifeman21
04-03-2007, 10:16 AM
It was said that if Wayne wanted to be serrious about defense he had to improve the situation at short stop. He did. Brought in Gonzo.

But then it was said that if Wayne was serrious about defence he had to get JR out of CF. He did. Jr started in RF yesterday and it appears will stay there.

Now, he woln't be "doing the right thing" until Freel is out of CF.

What will be the next demand of Wayne to show his "serriousness" about defense if he were to platoon Freel and Jr ?

Josh Hamilton is far superior defensively to Ryan Freel.

With Chris Denorfia out for 6 months, Josh Hamilton is now the de facto best defensive OF we have on our roster.

Why wouldn't we want our best defensive option in CF?

I fully believe that given the same PAs, Josh Hamilton would put up similar numbers to Ryan Freel. I also thought the same thing about Chris Denorfia. If he had the same PAs as Ryan Freel, you'd see similar numbers. The advantage Hamilton and Denorfia have over Freel is their defense.

-------

If you platoon Freel and Griffey in RF, I don't see a drop offensively if Josh Hamilton is the everyday CF. I know he's unproven, but offensively Ryan Freel can be a bit of a liability on the base paths. Once he's there, he needs to stay there and then get driven in. He needs to cut down the caught stealings and the pick offs.

-------

I agree, if Griffey's in CF, the ball Freel caught in the gap, that's a double last year. If Josh Hamilton or Chris Denorfia are in CF, that ball is caught with them having both feet on the ground. Freel definitely pulled a Jim Edmonds on that play, and I don't want Freel thinking that he can "make up" for a ridiculous play and then throwing error by later on diving when it's completely unnecessary.

westofyou
04-03-2007, 10:24 AM
Why wouldn't we want our best defensive option in CF?

Probably because they don't play in a pasture, Freel also gets on base and steals.

The man will have to lose the job, that will also involve his bat.

But this isn't just a job for Harry Craft in this park.

westofyou
04-03-2007, 10:25 AM
Speaking of Defense


Shortstop Cristian Guzman, who hit .413 in spring training, strained his right hamstring running out a grounder and left the game. He may be out awhile. The Nats could need a new shortstop. Acta said Felipe Lopez might move back to shortstop so veteran Ronnie Belliard could play second. But Lopez indicated he wasn't planning any relocation. They'll probably work it out.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/02/AR2007040201761.html