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Monday, April 30, 2007

Nats lose defensive struggle to Mets 1-0 OR a game of inches

Lately I've heard several baseball people say that baseball is a game of inches, and never did it resonate more with me than it did yesterday.

Jason Bergmann pitched another gem yesterday, holding the Mets scoreless until Carlos Beltran's solo shot in the 6th inning made the score Mets 1, Nats 0, and that's how it stayed the rest of the afternoon. Micah Bowie and Jesus Colome finished off the game well, only allowing one hit.

The Nats had their chances. They got six hits, several walks and put themselves in position to win several times, but the smothering Mets defense wasn't allowing it. A few longballs were hit, too, only to fall short. This game COULD have gone the other way - a break or two here and there and it would have. Today, the breaks beat the boys. A game of inches.

It was a gorgeous day to be at the ballpark. Sunny skies, high 70's, almost perfect.
It's a shamc to lose such a close one on a day like that. My buddy Myron and I had a really good time, despite the loss. Ate some Red, Hot and Blue pulled-pork platters, had a couple of beers from Howard, it was a great way to spend a sunny Sunday.

Rico the program vendor is now selling some Fuji cameras for $19.95, a pretty smart thing. I'm sure some folks would enjoy the chance to grab some quick photos if they've forgotten to bring their own cameras.

There was a sad moment before the game when it was announced that Cardinals reliever Josh Hancock died earlier that day at the age of 29 in a car accident. The club had a touching moment of silence for him.

Ryan Report: Church went 0 for 2, Zimmerman went 0 for 4. Sigh. At least Church is showing amazing patience at the plate. Over the past two games, I swear they walked him 6 times. That's nice to see.

Now on to sunny San Diego.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Class A base-brawl injures Nats minor leaguers

I noticed this unfortunate item last night:

Two Nationals prospects injured in Class-A brawl

4:50 p.m. April 28, 2007
WASHINGTON – Two Washington Nationals minor leaguers were hospitalized with injuries from a benches-clearing brawl during a game between the Potomac Nationals and the Winston-Salem Warthogs.

Catcher Brian Peacock went on the disabled list Saturday with hairline fractures to vertebrates in his lower back. Right-handed pitcher Clint Everts, the fifth overall pick in the 2002 amateur draft, got a concussion during the fight, which happened Thursday night.

Peacock is expected to be out at least a month. Everts missed his scheduled start for Potomac on Friday, but the team said he's expected to pitch Wednesday.

According to a statement issued by Potomac, the brawl broke out in the Class-A Carolina League game when Winston-Salem second baseman Victor Mercedes threw a punch at Potomac's Matt Rogelstad after Rogelstad slid hard into second trying to break up a double play. Rogelstad was ruled out on runner's interference.

The Warthogs are a Chicago White Sox affiliate.

Nats snatch defeat from jaws of victory OR terrible trouble in twelfth

This was the bitterest of defeats. As "Teddy" says on the Nationals T.V. commercials, "Man, this stinks!"

After outperforming most expectations for 8 2/3 innings, the Nats appeared to be on the verge of winning a home series against the powerhouse New York Mets. Starting pitcher Jerome 'Sherwin" Williams (why "Sherwin"? Because he was painting the corners of the plate all night!) had his BEST start of the season, emerging phoenix-like from his April troubles, to hold the Mets to ONE HIT in 6 innings, throwing 85 pitches with an improbable 40 for strikes. A poor ball/strike ratio, to be sure, and yet somehow Williams made it work. Credit some excellent Nationals defense for that, too, allowing only two Mets hits going into the 9th. They also turned several double-plays, looking really sharp for the most part.

Ronnie Belliard put the Nats on the board with an RBI double in the 6th, and gave them a 2-1 lead with another RBI double in the 8th. Belliard, Michael Restovich, and Jerome Williams all had some long balls that left me repeating the same mantra that I have for the last couple of years, "In any other ballpark, that woulda been a home run...".

For one inning (the 7th) the "Bad News Nats" reared their ugly heads, but quickly transformed back into the Big Play Nats and things looked good.

There were a couple of strange plays which I can only conclude were mental errors. One involved Felipe Lopez in the 3rd, just putting on the brakes while trying to steal second because he misjudged the count, which was 3 and 1. The other involved Jerome Williams falling in love with his own hit in the 6th inning, which ALMOST went for a home run, and it so mesmerized Williams that he only got a single out of it when by all rights, he should have made it to second base easily. I'd hate to hear the earful he's going to get about that move.

Chad Cordero blew the save. Simple as that. After turning a nice double-play in the top of the 9th, the Nats were ONE OUT AWAY from a gratifying win, but then former National Endy Chavez got on base, then Damion Easley hit a little ground ball which Felipe Lopez fired to first JUST missing the out because he took one extra second getting the ball out of his glove - so close! And then that darned Julio Franco, the Mets ageless wonder, who has made another name for himself as a Nats-killer over the past three seasons, did it once again, delivering a clutch RBI single when the Mets needed it the most. The man was hitting right at the Mendoza line, but he managed to hit to right field, and Austin Kearns fired it in like a bullet to Jesus Flores at the plate who came SO CLOSE to tagging Chavez out at the plate, but it was not to be. The game would continue, as the score was now tied. Robert Fick speared a good, run-saving ball at first to end the inning.

The wheels came off of the bus in the 12th. Saul Rivera allowed 3 earned runs on two hits, and Ryan Wagner 1 earned run on 2 hits. I wasn't surprised - the Mets are leading the league in so many offensive categories that I figured if they had enough time, and outlasted enough pitchers, they could grab their win. All boxing matches, if allowed to go for unlimited rounds, eventually change from fights to just endurance contests. The Nats have done well in extra innings this season but tonight they just ran out of gas.

Ryan Report: Church and Zimmerman had interesting games, and to be truly inclusive I must mention another Ryan, Ryan Wagner, as well. Church went 0 for 1, but was walked 4 times. Zimmerman had two AMAZING throws to first for outs in the 4th, real "Sports Center" -worthy throws, both thrown from distances of around 150 feet. Zimmerman is STRONG. He went 1 for 4 and was walked once. Unfortunately, Zimmerman also had a very costly error in the 7th, which allowed the Mets to score on the following at-bat. Wagner pitched one inning in extra innings, giving up two hits and one earned run on 10 pitches in the 12th. He might be the odd man out when Ray King comes back to the roster, and might be on his way to AAA Columbus.

It was a pretty lovely night to be at the ballpark. It looked as though it might rain, but it didn't until a faint misty-rain began falling in the 9th. The temperature was very comfortable, and boy, were there a LOT of Mets fans in attendance. As Bob Carpenter likes to say, we'll happily take their money. Almost 30,000 tickets sold for this one, not bad for late April.

I finally decided to try the hot dogs at the new kiosk on the Terrace Food Court that replaced the Hard Times Café. I went for two chili-cheese dogs and a sweet tea. The chili dogs were okay, but MAN, were they ever the skinniest hot dogs I've ever seen. Looking at what they sold to me, the only thing that I could think of was, there wasn't a lot of "there" there for $7.00. I can get a better deal with the Super-Dogs, or with a nice grilled hot dog or sausage at some of the other stands. I may just wind up sticking with the brisket of beef sandwiches from now on, they seem to be the most satisfying menu item to me in the entire stadium.

I checked in with most of my favorite people at the stadium. Poor Ellie wasn't up at the Press Cafeteria there for the second game in a row due to a family situation, but Rico was back at his program stand, in fine voice as usual.

I sat with my friends, SBF and The African Queen from Nats320 and we were all having a pretty good time, even though we seemed inundated with loud Mets fans. SBF's friend Mick had the line of the night, when the Nats Jesus Colome was pitching, Jesus Flores was catching and the Mets Moises Alou was at the plate: "Jesus is pitching, Jesus is catching and Moses is hitting!" That really made me laugh.

Considering that the Mets Tom Glavine, he of the 293 career wins, was starting tonight and the Nats Jerome Williams had struggled so terribly this month, my hopes were not high going into this game, but by and large I was pleasantly surprised. The Nationals haven't dominated anyone so far this season and the Mets were in second place in the division going into this game. Sure, the Mets lost the previous night's game, but it seemed like a long-shot to make it two in a row. I'm very proud of the Nats, they put up one hell of a fight in this game, and had their chances to win. They made a few mistakes, but unlike some of their error-ridden games earlier this month, they didn't really beat themselves, they just sort-of "handicapped" themselves in this one. I'm very encouraged. Yeah, an "L" is an "L", but if the Nats can go toe-to-toe with a team like the Mets as they have been so far (the season record now stands at 2 and 2, but it could easily have been 4-0 Nationals) then they should feel good about themselves and figure that they can take anyone in their league. Of course, they haven't had to face the Mets Pedro Martinez yet.

I hope that Sunday's matchup with Jason Bergmann against John Maine will prove to be an equally compelling game. As always, I hope for the best.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Chico and streaking Nats halt Mets, Perez, 4-3

Well, now, THIS is more like it!

The Nationals have had, to put it lightly, a rough April. They'd gone through their first 22 games without scoring a run in the first inning, a modern National League record, and that tied them with the '52 White Sox for the second longest such streak (the longest stretch without scoring in the first inning belongs to the '48 White Sox, with 28 straight games).

Tonight, against possibly the strongest offense in the National League (certainly the NL East), they demonstrated that they would not quit trying.

Austin Kearns showed some two-out thunder, smashing a 3-run homer to center field. It must have gone 415 feet. Bang, zoom, went the fireworks, as I heard Charlie Slowes shout on the radio. Yes, I wasn't there to see it live, I was on my way to the stadium. My friend Kathryn and I marveled at what we'd just heard, though, and it was interesting entering the stadium with the Nats in the lead for once! Kearns has been one of the Nats best hitters of late, and he only went 1 for 4 tonight, but what a one!

Matt Chico notched only his second win, but considering the hitters he was up against, it was a big one. He also got his first major league hit. One cool tidbit about Matt Chico, as reported by MASN's Debbi Taylor, is that Chico got to know Hall-of-Fame center-fielder Duke Snider when he himself was in high school in California. Snider liked watching Chico pitch, and he counseled him to maintain a cool composure on the mound. Matt certainly did tonight, as he threw 98 pitches in 5 1/3 innings, allowing 9 hits, but only 2 earned runs.

Ryan Report: Church only went 1 for 3, but he had a CRUCIAL RBI, the winning RBI, on what was almost a double. He may have been tagged out at 2nd, but he got Dmitri Young home. He made several great catches in center field, too. Zimmerman went 1 for 4, and he showed some great defense, too.

Saul Rivera pitched a great inning, allowing no hits or runs, but Jon Rauch struggled in his one inning, allowing 2 hits and 1 earned run on 22 pitches. Chad Cordero, the "Chief of Cardiology" was more merciful tonight, closing out the 9th inning and notching his 3rd save of the season on 14 pitches. He seems to have found himself this week, and I hope that he is feeling more comfortable. Perhaps it's the nicer weather.

In short, when the Nats play good, solid defense, have decent pitching and don't beat themselves with errors, they can hang in with the best in their league. This game was very encouraging. I'm not getting my hopes too high, though, as the Nats are about to face several very good starting pitchers the rest of this weekend and into the road trip.

It was great to finally get back to R.F.K., and apparently the Nats were just as glad to get home, too, if only for three brief games. I hated missing that home stand last week, and it was a lovely night to be at the old ballpark. The threat of rain was overstated, the temperature was around 72 at game time, and it felt wonderful to stretch out in my section. I saw Rico, the best program-vendor in the park, and he had been out sick recently, too. I also understand that a flu has been running rampant through the Nats clubhouse, so I guess I was in good company. Didn't see Ellie, perhaps she's fallen victim to this bug as well. Kathryn and I both got some beef brisket, which was tasting well tonight, and I caught back up with my friend Howard, beer vendor supreme. Howard surprised me with an INCREDIBLY nice gift - an old Washington Senators mug! It has the classic pretzel "W" logo on one side and the player in throwing stance in front of the Capitol on the other - VERY cool! I have to post a photo of this when I can, it's an incredibly cool thing for an old Washington boy like myself to have. It's currently in my car (I'm taking it to work) but I think this is the very same mug:

It was a pretty good crowd for a Friday night in April. It sure sounded as though there were a LOT of Mets fans in attendance. Our fans tried mightily to shout them down whenever they cheered loudly for their team. One little kid in my section had his face painted in Nationals colors and kept exhorting fans to start a wave.

"Teddy" motored into a win in the President's Race on a mini-motorcycle, but was disqualified, so "Tom" notched up another win for himself. I think that Teddy will win when he wants to win, there's no other explanation for it.

What a wonderful pleasure it is to end a work week by taking a friend to a ballgame in pretty weather and just relaxing with a beer and watching the home team win a thriller.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Night and Day

I was unmoved to blog about Wednesday night's Nats/Phillies game just by itself. The play was sloppy, another "Bad News Nats" evening, and I just wasn't inspired to deconstruct the 9-3 loss right away.

Until today's Nats 4-2 win over the Phillies in the rubber game. Now, that Wednesday game provides such stark contrast, it's just irresistible not to compare the two and break them both down.

The problem with the 2007 Nationals is, they are like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You never know just which incarnation is going to take the field on any given game day. Wednesday night, it was the brutal Mr. Hyde. Thursday afternoon, it was the sane and intelligent Dr. Jekyll.

First, let's contrast the Nats pitchers: John Patterson, once again, struggled mightily, throwing 101 pitches in 5 1/3 innings, giving up 8 hits and 6 earned runs, striking out three and walking three in the Wednesday loss. On Thursday, Shawn Hill threw 99 economical pitches in 8 innings, giving up only four hits and two earned runs, striking out three and walking two.

I'm beginning to wonder if this is the best we will see from John Patterson. In all seriousness, given his injury history, has his pitching potential already peaked? Keep in mind, I LIKE John Patterson and wish him only the very best, he's a quality guy and I have no doubt that he gives his all out there, but I fear that the John Patterson that we've been waiting upon to "break out" is never going to. This is the best he's got left. If he can improve his technique and mold himself into a Livan Hernandez/Jamie Moyer-type pitcher, perhaps he can pitch for years this way. I'm dying to be proved wrong, though.

Shawn Hill continues to excite on the mound, and we're watching the emergence of a great Nationals pitcher. If he can continue to pitch the way he did today, touching the magic 100-pitch barrier in the 8th inning and spelling the bullpen, then he's truly earned the designation of "Staff Ace", if for no other reason then by default. I felt sorry for Shawn, though, when Manny pulled him in the 9th after allowing a walk. Everyone knows that Manny wanted Shawn to walk away on a positive, and let Chad "The Chief" Cordero put the game to bed, but Shawn Hill looked like he'd just lost his best friend. I think that he REALLY wanted that complete game, and I don't blame him, he'd earned it, but he has nothing to be upset or sorry about, he was superb today.

Speaking of Chad, I swear, he's truly become the "Chief of Cardiology" because he's giving me heart palpitations with almost every pitch. He allowed one run, but two of his pitches almost went yard, one saved because Ryan Church snagged it right at the 400 foot mark (I forget who hit it, Victorino maybe.) At least Chad got himself a save in the process.

In terms of scoring for the Nats, these two games were awfully close. In Wendesday's loss, the Nats had 3 runs on 7 hits and one error. In Thursday's win, they had 4 runs on 8 hits and no errors. What's the major difference? DEFENSE! There were some beautiful catches made today, and the execution was more crisp, if not flawless. I think that mentally, the Nats play better when they establish the lead first. I have to think that it takes some of the pressure off and they can relax and play.

I gotta love Brian Schneider. Has any other player in baseball this season had so many RBI's without hits? His patience at the plate is inspiring, he doesn't just hack at everything.

Austin Kearns continues to hit well, going 2 for 3 with a double. Good things seem to happen when he comes to the plate, and he made a nice "Sports Center" catch, too.

Today's game lasted 2 hours, 24 minutes. That's like a blur in baseball terms, whew!

Ryan Report: Wednesday, Zimmerman went 1 for 4 with a double, Church went 0 for 3 with a walk. Thursday, Zimmerman went 2 for 4, and Church went 1 for 4, but what a 1! He had a bases-loaded double which drove in two badly-needed runs.

This was a great game for the Nats to end their road trip on, a positive note to return home to face the Mets on.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More fun from "The Onion"

MLB Offers Collectible Baseball Signed By Every Player In League

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Admit it - either you are this guy, or you know this guy

Gaze Upon My Baseball Cap Collection And Try To Remain Unmoved

The Onion

Gaze Upon My Baseball Cap Collection And Try To Remain Unmoved

Allow me, with your kind permission, to present to you my pièce de résistance. I must warn you, as one of the select few to have ever witnessed...

So close and yet so far: Nats fail in Philly 6-3

In his post-game conference, Nats manager Manny Acta compared baseball to boxing, saying "I've always felt that baseball was like boxing, if you don't hit the other guy, he's going to hit you." (I may be paraphrasing here, but not by much) Well, for seven innings, the Nats hit the Phillies, but then they essentially stopped, and the Phillies came from behind to tie the ballgame 3-3 and then leaped ahead 6-3, aided by some Nationals errors.

Nats starter Jason Bergmann had another outstanding mound performance, throwing only 87 pitches and allowing only one run in six innings, but he hadn't felt well all day and Manny Acta wanted to bring him out of the game on a positive note, which he certainly did. Bergmann gave the Nats every chance and his performances continue to assure that he will be a stalwart starter for some time to come.

Unfortunately, the bullpen didn't get the job done this time, allowing four hits and three earned runs.

The Phillies "Old Man" Moyer did a solid job, but allowed three runs. He didn't dominate the Nats as he had last week. I gotta like Moyer, though, because there are so few players in baseball who are older than I am, I find it encouraging somehow. On the radio on my way home from work, I heard Charlie and Dave discussing how many father-son combinations that Moyer had thrown against over the years of his career. I don't remember them in detail, but it was a pretty extensive list. Jamie Moyer has had an impressive career indeed.

I think that Austin Kearns got his 500th career hit last night, but I await official confirmation. If so, congratulations, Austin! He had a double and a stand-up triple, and is on a 9 game hitting streak, I believe. Ray Knight recently compared Kearns (his favorite player on the team, because he knew him in Cincinnati) to Detroit Hall-of-Famer Al Kaline.

Ryan Report: Nothing earth-shattering here. Church went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI. He's hitting .306. Zimmerman had three at-bats, and was walked once, he's hitting .233.

Round two of this three-round bout (to exhaust Manny Acta's boxing metaphor) takes place tonight with John Patterson still in pursuit of his first win of the season, against the Phillies Jon Lieber.

The Nats are close, really close, to putting everything together and stringing together some wins. Perhaps they need the return of several starters from Opening Day - Ray King, Nook Logan and Christian Guzman. Maybe they need the outstanding setup services of Luis Ayala, who is due back any time now, perhaps even in time for the Mets series this weekend at R.F.K. Who knows? The ensuing juggling act will be interesting to watch. When Ray King comes back, who will be the odd man out? Speigner won't be because he is Rule 5, Micah Bowie won't because he's their lefty workhorse, Wagner is less likely, too, so the most likely candidate will be Saul Rivera. Watch this space.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ryan Zimmerman - baseball's next 250 million dollar man?

(Attention Mark Lerner and Stan Kasten: you might want to have some Alka-Seltzer handy before you consider this one.)

I ran across this interesting item over at Beyond the Boxscore. The writer asks the question, who will be MLB's next quarter-million-dollar player, and then analyzes five potential candidates, of which our own Ryan Zimmerman is one.

Might take a few All-Star appearances and a Gold Glove or two before anyone has to worrk about that, but still, it's nice to think that our man Z will join such elite company one day.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Thoughts and observations on an off-day

According to this interesting article, the new Nationals ballpark will be LEED certified. From the article, "The new Nationals stadium takes going green to another level. The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission plans to make the ballpark the first major pro sports venue in the country to earn LEED certification — which means it has to accumulate at least 26 points on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design scorecard compiled by the U.S. Green Building Council". Pretty cool, eh?

It would appear that Florida's Wes Obermueller loves pitching against the Nationals, since they are the only team he's beaten at the major league level. Bob Carpenter mentioned this during yesterday's broadcast, and today's Post confirms it: "
Did recently recalled Florida starter Wes Obermueller look familiar? He's the same Wes Obermueller who two-hit the Nationals over eight innings on May 17, 2005, for Milwaukee -- Obermueller's last previous major league win."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

No Church on Sunday, but errors galore.

What a sorry, sorry game this was. The "Bad News Nats" were in rare form in Miami today. They had no consistency in their 12-6 loss to the Marlins.

Starter Jerome Williams struggled like a man drowning out on the mound today. Out of 115 pitches, he threw only 3 more strikes than balls. Unbelievable. And he gave up nine runs on nine hits. Yikes.

The offense struggled, too. 7 hits, sure, but too little, too late. At least catcher Jesus Flores, got hit fist major league hit - he went 2 for three. He did well behind the plate, too, giving Brian Schneider a much-appreciated rest, I'm sure.

Ryan Report: The most intriguing question of the day was, why did Ryan Church get pulled from the game so early, after only one at-bat? The answer came from Manny Acta in his press conference: because Church didn't run a ball out. Gotta give Acta props for sticking to his guns. Church was obviously embarrassed, he knew what he did wrong, and he'll probably never allow that to happen again. It certainly wasn't intentional on his part, and I'm sure than Acta knows that, too, but the point had to be made. The good news is, in the 9th inning, Ryan Zimmerman got his first career Grand Slam, as well as his first home run of the season. Thanks to that G/S, the Nats avoided the ignominious distinction of having more errors (4) for the game than runs (2, up until that point). If memory serves, that's only the second Grand Slam in Nationals history, the other one coming from Brad Wilkerson late in the 2005 season*. Too bad this one didn't truly impact the game, but maybe it breaks Zimmerman out of his slump. I hope someone retrieved the ball for him, though, it seemed to land in a pretty empty area of the stadium.

Maybe a nice Monday off will recharge their batteries a bit and they can wail upon the Phillies on Tuesday in the City of Brotherly Love (motto: "We'll love you within an inch of your life.") We can only hope.

*EDIT: Some memory I have. Last season, Alphonso Soriano hit a Grand Slam for the Nationals in Milwaukee, on June 4th. I don't know how I managed to forget that one. According to the Washington Post, this breaks a streak of 123 games the team has gone without one, the longest streak in the majors.

*EDIT 2: Where would I be without my eagle-eyed readers to keep me honest? My main hustlin' man, Ryan Church belted a Grand Slam against Philly on April 18th of last year, too. José Vidro, Nick Johnson and Marlon Byrd all scored. I'm SO ashamed that I could forget something like that. Mea culpa, and apologies to Ryan for such neglect on my part.

Marlins pull Matt out from under Nats in 9-3 loss

There is one word to sum up the Nats performance last night in Florida: "sloppy".

On Nats Xtra, Ray Knight summed it up in two words: "brutal execution".

Starter Matt Chico walked seven men, including the pitcher twice, and threw an outrageously high 112 pitches in 4 2/3 innings. One of those pitches was so wild, it wound up in the stands.

The Marlins weren't much better, but they didn't need to be, all they had to do was feed upon the Nats pitchers, which they did, going yard a few times. They got out of their losing streak, but they definitely had help.

I was worried that, after going 14 innings the night before, that the entire team would be gassed. Certainly the bullpen was, and they needed Chico to try and last 6 or 7 innings to give them a break and some breathing room. He didn't, and it cost them.

Time to forget about this one and hope for better things on Sunday.

Ryan Report: Some good news here. Church and Zimmerman each went 2 for 4.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Nats rescue victory from Marlins in marathon 14-inning battle

They might be Marlins, but they were as tenacious as Great White Sharks tonight. To further belabor the fishing metaphor, they were like the shark in "Jaws", which just kept fighting even when, by any measure, it should have rolled over and died. ("He can't stay down with three barrels on him, not with three barrels he can't.")

I had to work overtime tonight, and when I left work, the score was 5-0 Nats in the 6th inning. I got home in time to see them fail to deliver the coup de grace in the 7th when they had the bases loaded with no outs and things just went downhill from there as the Marlins just kept getting runs.

Poor Chad. Manny Acta brought him in early, in the 8th inning to rescue a faltering Jon Rauch and put things away, but he blew the save in the 9th.

But who got the winning RBI, after exactly four and a half hours of grueling play? You guessed it - CHRIS SNELLING! Even Restovich went 2 for 4 with an RBI. Despite leaving what seemed like a battalion of men on base, the Nationals once again showed guts, determination and character in outlasting an equally determined opponent into late frames. That's twice in three days. Say what you will about these 2007 Nats, they are tough!

Ryan Report: The most exciting Nationals defensive play of the evening. In the 8th inning, Ryan Church putting absolutely everything into a throw to third base where the ball bounced once and right into Ryan Zimmerman's glove to get Aaron Boone out by a hair. That was "Sports Center"-type stuff. Church went 2 for 6 with an RBI, Zimmerman went 2 for 7. Church even had an incredibly stylish RBI when he beat a juggled tag at the plate and got the plate with a back-door, sliding touch. Oh, and he also stole a base.

Shawn Hill seemed to give another high-quality outing, throwing only 88 pitches, because he sprained his shoulder on a bizarre play in the 5th when the bases were loaded and he was on 3rd, and a passed-ball bounced off of the backstop, right back to the catcher, and Hill froze while trying to run home and got caught in a rundown.

The bullpen gets kudos for stamina. This was a group effort. Jesus Colome pitched almost half a games worth of pitches, I think. Micah Bowie, Ryan Wagner, and Saul Rivera (who gets the win) did a great job.

Here's the sort of thing that annoys the heck out of me, though. The Washington Post Game-Day feature seemed to conk-out after 12 innings, and then, rather bizarrely, it went from registering a 5-5 game to awarding Florida a run and the FINAL, when in actual game time, the game was still tied (!!!!) take a look for yourself:
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A sad notice

My friend Myron, who was an usher the past two seasons at R.F.K. just sent me an email this morning alerting me to some very sad news.

He received an email from someone he used to work with there, informing him of the tragic death of an usher over the weekend, a fellow known to him only as Lawrence. Lawrence was an usher in the 200 and 300 levels near section 126-127. He was killed in a hit and run accident about a block from his house last Saturday night.

I regret that I don't know more details at this moment, especially Lawrence's full name, but I'll try to find out and report back.

For many season ticket holders and stadium regulars, the ushers are not faceless entities who exist merely to check your tickets in the seating area, they are friendly fixtures who become very well-known to the people in their sections, and all the ones I've met (a handful at best) are wonderful ambassadors for the team, courteous and polite despite having to deal with the occasional drunk and/or unruly fan.

I'm sure that all of us wish his family the best during this sad and difficult time.

Some Friday thoughts

William Yurasko notes today a USA Today item which contends that Washington is tied with Baltimore, Cleveland and Kansas City for the cheapest hot dogs in the majors at $2.50, and then he wonders, quite correctly, just where those $2.50 hot dogs are, having only seen $4 ones.

Perhaps they are an R.F.K. "urban legend" in the making, an intriguing rumor conjured up by sneaky Nationals fans to foist upon visiting fans from Philadelphia and New York and designed to frustrate them (Innocent Mets Fan: "Excuse me, I understand that there are $2.50 hot dogs here, could you please tell me where those are?" Crafty Nats Fan: "Oh, the $2.50 hot dogs? You know about those? Listen, you didn't hear it from me, but they are behind section 456, but they're only available for one half inning after the President's Race has been run, but the good news is, if Teddy wins, you can get two for the price of one!") Oh, man, temptation is a terrible thing...

Am I the only one who thinks that Mike Restovich looks like a young Albert Pujols? The guy is 6'4" and looks like he could crush a fastball out of R.F.K. I'm looking forward to seeing more at-bats from him soon. He went 2 for 2 in that 13 inning marathon the other night, both very timely, so it would appear that pressure doesn't get to him.

In all the fuss after that game, I neglected to note that it was
Levale Speigner's first major league win. Congratulations, Levale!

Nats win streak ends at 1 OR cheesesteak indigestion

I neither got to attend or see yesterday's afternoon game between the Nats and the Phillies, a 4-2 loss, but it doesn't appear that I missed much, unfortunately.

Poor John Patterson got behind early, and the Nats never really threatened until a 9th inning rally.

I'm not going to say that the Nats spent all of their emotion and energy on the field Wednesday night. Instead, I'll say that Phillies starter, 44 year-old Jamie Moyer was on top of his game, throwing 111 pitches through 8 innings and showed just why he's racked up 218 wins in his career. Good pitching always beats good hitting (and vice-versa).

Now they get to play in warm weather at last, in Florida, ironically just as the warm weather is arriving here in D.C.

Ryan Report: Church 1 for 4, Zimmerman 1 for 3 with a double.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The first game with extra frames OR 11th hour win in 13

CHRIS SNELLING! My favorite new position player scored the winning run on a Felipe Lopez fly-out to left-field in the 13th inning, putting a nice ending to four hours and sixteen minutes worth of pretty evenly-matched baseball.

Oh, and welcome to Washington, D.C. Michael Restovich! The rookie right-fielder made it to town in time to contribute a couple of big base hits and an important defensive play in right field. Due to a blunder on the part of the Phillies in the 7th inning (which will be better explained by more knowledgeable bloggers than myself) Restovich was available in the later innings when he should not have been, and I'll bet the Philadelphia press will be howling mad about that. I sure wouldn't want to have to talk to Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel about that tonight. It was, at least as implied by Ray Knight on "Nats Xtra" a blunder of impatience, for if Manuel had waited a moment longer at that point in the 7th inning before announcing his pitching change, Restovich (who was in the on-deck circle) would have been "burned", or wasted by the Nats. Instead, he was available later and it cost the Phillies dearly.

The man who should NOT be overlooked in tonight's victory is Jason Bergmann. Sadly, he doesn't get the win, but everyone knows that he deserves it. He did an outstanding job in his 6 1/3 innings throwing 108 pitches and allowing only 5 hits. He gave the Nats every opportunity to stay in the game.

The "Sports Center" moment came courtesy of Brian Schneider, who shot the Nats ahead of the Phillies with his 3-run homer, going 2 for 6.

The unsung slugger of the Nats tonight was Austin Kearns, who went 3 for 6 with a run and he made a great catch at the wall (practically IN the wall). "Bluegrass" is easy for the casual fan to overlook because he isn't "flashy", he just plays his position really well.

Not everything was sunshine and blue skies for the Nats, though. They stranded a LOT of guys on base and blew plenty of chances to really put the game away. Closer Chad Cordero was not on form tonight and the only explanation that I can glean is that he's got rust, he hasn't had to pitch as much as he probably should, and he's from Southern California and been forced to pitch in mostly pretty cold weather the last couple of weeks. He'll deny that it makes any difference, but I'm willing to bet that once the temperatures heat up, then so will Chad. If he keeps letting guys get on base the way that he has been, I don't know if my heart can take it. I'll have to petition the team to change his nickname to "The Chief...of Cardiology"

Bob Carpenter finally put voice to something that I'd been thinking for over a week now, namely that Micah Bowie is our new Mike Stanton. A game just isn't "official" until Micah Bowie comes into the game. He continues to impress.

Jon Rauch positively bamboozled the Phillies hitters in his one inning pitched. I'm telling you, other teams really ought to be fearing the idea of seeing him on the mound in the 7th or 8th inning. The way he struck out Ryan Howard was a thing of beauty.

I think that everyone will agree that the only thing worse than having to play so many extra innings is when you lose such a game. A win forgives many sins.

Ryan Report: Zimmerman 1 for 6, Church 0 for 5. "Calling Dr. Page, calling Dr. Page...."

I'm probably forgetting all sorts of interesting details, but at this point I don't care because I'm too tired and need to go to bed. Goodnight!

*EDIT: One last thing - I believe this was an R.F.K. first: a SECOND President's Race! George won the first one, but in the 13th inning, they ran a second one, which was won by Tom. Tom will thereby carry an asterisk ("*") to designate an additional win so as to not throw-off anyone keeping score (such as myself). If they do this again, I'll have to improvise.

Updates and miscellaneous thoughts

So I've been trying my best to blog my way back to health and in the process I've added many new links to my Links & Resources section. Have I missed a good Nats site, or good general baseball site? Please let me know, and I'll try to add it.

I realize that the L&R list might be a bit unwieldy, so I'm giving some serious thought to breaking it down into strictly Nats sites, sites which include Nats info, and general baseball sites.

By the way, did anyone else happen to catch John Smoltz's meltdown in the Braves dugout last night? It was right after he was taken out (if I remember correctly, I was still feverish after all) and all of a sudden, Smoltz was throwing stuff off of a table. The cameras only caught it for a moment, as they were already cutting to a commercial, but I think that Bob Carpenter mentioned it on air. There was something perversely pleasurable in watching that.

The newest description (insult?) for Phillies fans? Call them "New York wanna-bees". MASN's Bob Carpenter said that he heard that phrase more than a couple of times today. Perfect!

All-Star balloting begins

Maybe I just don't pay enough attention to these things, but I noticed this afternoon that All-Star Game balloting has begun.

I don't know enough about how this really works, because it seems to me that, if you're going to vote THIS early, then you're really basing your votes on how the player did last year, unless their 2007 is off to a roaring start.

For example, Ryan Zimmerman had an awesome 2006 and, in my completely unbiased opinion (whistles innocently to self...) should have been the NL Rookie of the Year. But so far, his 2007 is off to a slow start, which is okay, but not All-Star-team-worthy (but will I still vote for him? Does "Teddy" have a big head?)

And on the other hand, Ryan Church had a disappointing 2006 (given what we've seen of his potential), yet for 2007 so far, he is en fuego! If he keeps this up, all of baseball will take note and he SHOULD be an All-Star. That would be awesome.

I know, I know, it's basically a big popularity contest. I don't mean to denigrate the honorees, hey, if you make the All-Star team you've accomplished a lot, no question, but I have to think that the odds are tilted towards the larger market teams.

Remember, vote early and vote often, both online and at the stadium.

"Who's on first?"

Because every baseball fans needs to be acquainted with this, and I'm sure that most of you are.

Although Bud Abbott and Lou Costello rarely ever did this routine the same way every single time that they performed it, this version, from their 1945 film "The Naughty Nineties" is widely considered their most "classic" version, at least of those which was ever captured on film or recorded.


Federal Baseball already did a good job of posting about this, but since the Comcast folks also approached me, I thought that I'd alert my readers to this:


Special Programming Series Features Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox and Orioles’ Hall of Fame Induction Speeches and Ultimate Road Trip Viewer Promotion

PHILADELPHIA (April 9, 2007) – Travel ‘round the bases and down baseball’s memory lane with the Dodge Grand Slam Getaway, airing Monday, April 23 through Friday, April 27 at 7 p.m. on “Out of Bounds” on CN8, The Comcast Network. The series spotlights regional stars’ National Baseball Hall of Fame induction speeches and offers viewers a chance to win a whirlwind tour of four East Coast stadiums, culminating with a visit to the Hall of Fame.

Each night, “Out of Bounds” host Gregg Murphy features the special moments when New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and Baltimore Orioles players were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Viewers can then visit to answer questions, based on the speeches, for a chance to win a trip to New York’s Shea Stadium, Boston’s Fenway Park, Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, Washington D.C.’s RFK Stadium and the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

“The Dodge Grand Slam Getaway celebrates baseball history and pays homage to this all-American summer sport and some of the best teams in CN8’s East Coast footprint,” says Murphy. “I am confident our on-air series and special viewer promotion will be a home run.”

The Dodge Grand Slam Getaway schedule on CN8’s “Out of Bounds” is as follows. Following their broadcast, programs will also be available ON DEMAND to Comcast Digital Cable subscribers until Friday, May 4. Select Sports and Fitness > CN8 Sports > Out of Bounds to access the special series.

New York Yankee Dave Winfield Monday, April 23, 7 p.m.

Left fielder Winfield was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001. He also played for the San Diego Padres, the California Angels, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians.

Boston Red Sox Carl Yastrzemski Tuesday, April 24, 7 p.m.

Inducted in 1989, Yastrzemski, a left fielder, played 23 seasons in Boston and was the all-time Red Sox leader in eight major categories, including games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, total bases, RBI and extra base hits.

Philadelphia Phillie Jim Bunning Wednesday, April 25, 7 p.m.

Pitcher Bunning was inducted in 1996 after playing consistently during his 17-year career. He was the first pitcher to record 100 wins and 1,000 strikeouts in both the American and National leagues.

Baltimore Oriole Brooks Robinson Thursday, April 26, 7 p.m.

“The Human Vacuum Cleaner," third-baseman Robinson was inducted in 1983. He played 23 seasons for the Orioles, and set major league career records for games, putouts, assists, chances, double plays and fielding percentage.

Recap Friday, April 27, 7 p.m.

Get caught up on all of the Dodge Grand Slam Getaway features as Murphy reviews the week’s broadcasts.

CN8’s Dodge Grand Slam Getaway will send one lucky viewer and a companion on a route that begins Thursday, July 12, and includes the following games and tours:
  • New York Mets vs. Cincinnati Reds at Shea Stadium (July 12)
  • Boston Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park (July 13)
  • Philadelphia Phillies vs. St. Louis Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park (July 14)
  • Washington Nationals vs. Houston Astros at RFK Stadium (July 16)
  • Tour of National Baseball Hall of Fame
Transportation courtesy of Amtrak, and lodging courtesy of CN8 will be provided.

About CN8, The Comcast Network

CN8, The Comcast Network provides more than 9 million Comcast cable viewers with a unique brand of live, interactive television delivered over its own fiber-optic network to 12 states and 20 television markets stretching from Maine to Virginia and Washington, D.C. CN8 was founded in 1996 and has quickly grown to become the nation's leading regional cable network, airing more than 90 hours a week of original programming from its six studios in the Baltimore, Boston, Delaware, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. areas. CN8 provides in-depth coverage and analysis of special events and important news that broadcast networks often ignore. Since its inception, CN8 has delivered on its mission to continually reshape and revolutionize regional television and its relevance to local, regional and national viewers. CN8's programming and hosts have been honored by the industry with more than 314 regional Emmy Award nominations.

Please note, there's nothing in this for me, I don't even get Comcast (I have DirecTV) but I thought that this might be of interest to some readers. It does sound like a fun contest.

A neglected thought about last night's game

In my fevered-delirium, I neglected one of last night's most exciting plays, namely Chris Snelling's triple. He hit that ball so perfectly into the right-field corner and it ricocheted around a bit, making it difficult for Jeff Francoeur to field and when he DID field it, he dropped it! Very exciting, and just confirms what I said earlier about how Chris Snelling is my favorite new position player to watch. He seems to make things happen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Nats rally falls short OR Braves almost beat selves

Despite losing to the Braves 6-4, the Nats actually had some chances tonight, mostly gifts in the form of errors by the Braves, but they did rally in the 7th.

The biggest problem they had was getting down so early behind the shaky pitching of Jerome Williams. He settled down, but the damage was done.

I liked the bullpen outings of Bowie, Wagner and Colome. Jon Rauch, alas, allowed the back-breaking run.

Ryan Report: Not much to say. Zimmerman went 1-4, Church went 0-4.

Lots of errors and some late inning drama, which ultimately proved insufficient, but I'm not discouraged. I think that the Nats are proving to be really scrappy. I'll bet that they take at least one from the Phillies.

WIlliams off to sad start against the Braves

Early observations from tonight's contest:

The reason I'm not there is that I'm still feverish. No, I'm not happy about it.

Nice to see the Virginia Tech caps being worn by the Nationals, courtesy of the Alexandria Sports Authority. Very classy touch. (I'll bet Ryan "Cavalier" Zimmerman never dreamed he'd wear one of those, though)

Nats starter Jerome Williams doesn't seem at all comfortable on the mound. In just 4 innings so far he's given up 7 hits, plus he had that balk, on 85 pitches.

Time to get a rally going, Nats!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Chico is "The Man" OR Braves hopes for extending road wins "Gone with the Wind"

Well, looks like an extra day off didn't do Matt Chico or the Nats any harm, did it?

Chico and the bullpen torched the Braves 5-1 to get their second home win, but now they have won three of their last 4. They're on a streak, I tells ya.

"Da Meat Hook" wore Jackie Robinson's #42 and had a good night with his bat, too, going 3 for 4.

This team really seems to be playing with a new level of confidence, and the parts seem to be falling into place.

Nice to see Matt Chico get his first Major League win and nice to finally see Saul Rivera this season, too. Jon Rauch wasted no time in his outing and "The Chief" seems to have returned to form, needing only 16 pitches to close out the game.

Ryan Report: Zimmerman's bat finally woke up a little, going 2 for 4, and Church continues to show excellent patience at the plate, getting to base on a walk. His hitting streak ends at 11 games, though.

The Braves were the only team which was undefeated on the road going into tonight's game.

100.2 and "flu-like symptoms"

I wasn't feeling 100% yesterday, but I thought it was just allergies. Took my temperature before bed last night: 98.6. This morning? 100.2, and I have a cough.

When you work in retail, you try to take steps to ensure that you don't get sick, because you're seeing a lot of different people and handling cash (which gets my vote for "filthiest item that most of us handle on a daily basis"). To make matters worse, I'm in a doctor's building, so a lot of the customers I see aren't feeling 100% themselves. So, I wash my hands more often (but not to the point of obsessive-compulsive disorder) and I make the best of it, but every so often, I know that I'm going to get sick, no matter what I do. Fortunately, it doesn't happen to me but maybe once or twice per year.

So, this means I'm going to miss my second home game tonight, which might be just as well, assuming that the game will even be played, because the weather is completely lousy. 60 mph winds, and it isn't going to get over about 48 degrees, so by game time it will be really cold again.

Wish me luck. I don't want to miss another one because of this.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Robert Fick: The hidden power in the Nats clubhouse?

During Saturday's Nats/Mets broadcast, I heard Bob Carpenter make a rather interesting observation with regards to catcher Robert Fick.

The seventh inning had just ended and there was some speculation that, even with 97 pitches thrown so far during the game, that starter Shawn Hill would remain in when the 8th inning came. The camera showed a shot of Hill being embraced by Robert Fick for his outstanding pitching performance. MASN play-by-play man Bob Carpenter announced, "When Robert Fick kisses you on the cheek, you are usually finished." (For the record, Hill was done for the day.)

This conjures up some incredible imagery for me and throws a whole new light on the Nats leadership dynamic in their clubhouse. Is this how things truly are?
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Robert Fick, Nationals Power-broker and Capo Regime! He's "the straw that stirs the drink", the guy behind the guy behind the guy. Who knew?

Take note, Nats pitchers, the "Kiss of Fick" means your day is over. You heard it here first. ;-)

Bob Matthews: Not a Nats fan

In the interest of trying to provide some out-of-market perspective on our team, I've decided to include writings from Nationals detractors, just to help round out some of the current thinking about the club.

Bob Matthews, of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, would appear to be a Nationals detractor.

In this column, which appeared on April 15th, Matthews headlined the column very simply:

Nationals one of the worst teams ever"

I guess he won't be getting a fruit basket from Stan Kasten anytime soon.

I wonder if 'ol Bob wrote that before Saturday's 6-2 drubbing of the Mets?

Read his column anyway, he writes well and it will be fun to see the Nats prove him wrong.

My favorite play from yesterday's game

The situation: Top of the 4th inning, with the Nats leading 2-1, with a 3-1 count and 2 outs, Snelling on second, Schneider on third, El Duque pitches to Belliard who bloops it up the third base line, David Wright scoops it up and SHOULD throw it to first to kill the run, but instead he's distracted by Snelling who almost mows him down on his way to third and has to retreat towards second, so Schneider scores in time before the inning is officially over. That was CRUCIAL!

The funny thing is, though, Wright doesn't see it that way. He might be trying to save face, but I think that he's being disingenuous:

On the flip side, however, during yesterday’s loss to the Nationals, with two outs and runners at second and third, Wright scooped up a ground-ball by Nats SS Felipe Lopez, but didn't throw it to first. Instead, he chased down Nats OF Chris Snelling, who was heading toward him on route to third base. Snelling wisely backed up towards second base, but before Wright could apply the tag, Nats C Brian Schneider scored to extend his team’s lead.

Willie Randolph, regarding the play, told reporters the following after the game…

“It’s an obvious mental mistake, I’m sure after it happened it he knew what he did wrong.”

Wright, talking with reporters after last night’s game…

“I looked over there and didn’t think I could get him at first, so I tagged him out…I was very cognizant of the fact the run would score, but I thought getting the out and getting out of that inning was a little bigger than trying to make a play that I didn't think we had at first base.”

…in other words, wright does not think he was wrong, so maybe willie should talk to him, because in a game like yesterday, when every run is going to count, wright goofed up…"


Wright didn't think he could get Belliard at first? Belliard hasn't exactly got Carl Lewis speed (but, to be fair, he isn't Jabba the Hutt, either), by which I mean to say that Belliard has hustle, but I still think that Wright had a good chance at nailing him at first. Wright can say whatever he wants, I still think that Snelling got the equivalent of an assist by distracting Wright and giving Schneider time to score.

Snelling just might be my new favorite position player to watch. Number 8 seems to have a future here, and I'm looking forward to seeing him develop as a Major Leaguer.

Keeping score

For those of you who are still looking to buy an official Nationals edition of the Bob Carpenter Scorebook, they are supposed to be available in the R.F.K. Team Store in time for tomorrow's homestand.

If you require a less-official and elegant, yet still-functional (and free!) scoring mechanism, give this one a try, courtesy of the good folks at

See you around the ballpark!

Because it's raining today and this is just too funny not to mention

Please forgive me, but this just made me laugh out loud. The funny folks at The Onion have done it again:

The Onion

Jeff Kent To Wear No. 42 To Honor Mariano Rivera

LOS ANGELES—Though all the players on the Los Angeles Dodger roster will be wearing No. 42 on April 15 to commemorate the anniversary of...

LOS ANGELES—Though all the players on the Los Angeles Dodger roster will be wearing No. 42 on April 15 to commemorate the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier, Dodger second-baseman Jeff Kent told reporters yesterday that he will wear the much-celebrated number to honor Yankee great and future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. "Mariano is easily my favorite pitcher, and I think it's wonderful that I finally have the opportunity to show how much he has meant to both me and to the game of baseball," said Kent, adding that Rivera is "the greatest player to ever don the No. 42 jersey." "Most important, he made it possible for Panamanians everywhere not to be afraid to chase their dreams." Kent added that he hoped Major League Baseball would eventually "get their act together" and retire No. 42 for good, which he feels would be the ultimate tribute to Rivera.

Jacke Robinson Day 2007 - 60th anniversary of baseball and civil rights history

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Today, all of baseball takes notice of the 60th anniversary of the integration of the major leagues by the Brooklyn Dodgers' Jackie Robinson. It took great courage on the part of Brooklyn's President and General Manager Branch Rickey, who also had the financial acumen to figure that the Negro Leagues had many excellent players and whichever Major League team integrated first would have the pick of the best players at reasonable prices. But it took even greater courage by Robinson to be "the first" and have to live with all of the celebrity glare that such a distinction would provide.

It is, indeed, a much different era today than in 1947, and it seems almost unimaginable to many Americans born in the past thirty years or so that such institutionalized racial discrimination was commonplace back then, but Jackie Robinson handled his fame with class, dignity and honor, and his success at the Major League level blew open the door of opportunity for every other African-American player who followed him. If Robinson had wilted in such circumstances and failed as a player with the Dodgers, who knows what impact that would have had on the progress of integration in baseball and in society in general?

Baseball back in the '40's was a daily part of the lives of so many Americans, who were starved for entertainment and distraction in the post-war era. Radio was king, television was just about to really get off the ground and challenge radio for dominance in the living rooms of America, and Jackie Robinson was a true baseball star, not just a "token" player or novelty. His acceptance by right-minded baseball fans helped advance the cause of civil rights in America, and it is a rare occurrence indeed when a baseball player's off-field contributions are as great (or greater than) his on-field accomplishments. He became the most positive of role-models, and was cut down much too young by diabetes. His great legacy however, will live forever.

It is always proper to take notice of how far we've come as a society on days such as this.
Number 42 deserves to be number one on April 15th, now and always.

Hill handily masters Mets OR Sound shelling at Shea!

Holy mackerel! Talk about bouncing back from a tough loss!

At Shea Stadium yesterday afternoon, Nats pitcher Shawn Hill was simply masterful, throwing 97 pitches through 7 innings on his way to out-dueling Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez and the defending NL East champions New York Mets, winning 6-2 in the Nationals third, and most commanding, win of the young season. It was Hill's first road-win in his major league career, and what a place to get it.

Having lost a very close 3-2 game to the Mets the previous evening, where the Nats pitching, batting and fielding were showing signs of greater discipline, yesterday's game seemed to come out of, well, left-field.

In yesterday's broadcast, MASN's Bob Carpenter quoted legendary St. Louis Cardinals Manager, Whitey Herzog, who once said, "I can wait for offense, I can't wait for defense." and the Nationals defense deserves tremendous credit for keeping the Nats in the game, with Jon Rauch and Austin Kearns and Brian Schneider making key plays.

But the offense had their best game so far this April, too, getting three home runs from Ryan Church (who extended his hitting streak to 11 games), Matt Snelling and Dmitri Young.

You know who I am most happy for? Well, of course, I'm happy for Shawn Hill, but I'm most happy for Manager Manny Acta. For him to come home to Shea Stadium and beat his previous team and boss Willie Randolph, must have been incredibly satisfying.

What a shame that today's rubber game is canceled due to weather, I'm sure that Manny Acta would MUCH prefer to go right into the next game immediately with their new level of confidence and emotions running high. It's almost enough to make you wish for a domed stadium, but let's not get carried away.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Hey, the Nats even beat the Hawks in Atlanta!

Because UPI is never wrong, correct?

"NBA: Washington 98, Atlanta 85
ATLANTA (UPI) -- DeShawn Stevenson scored 25 points Friday night as the Washington Nationals beat Atlanta, 98-85, to break a six-game losing streak.

The game was not as close as the final score indicated. Washington took a 49-35 halftime advantage after a 13-3 Atlanta run early in the second.

Washington led by as many as 20 points for much of the second half.

Jarvis Hayes had 20 points and six assists, Antonio Daniels had 16 points and 12 assists, and Darius Songaila had 16 points and four rebounds for the Wizards, who are the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, two games ahead of New Jersey.

Marvin Williams led Atlanta with 24 points and seven rebounds. Tyronn Lue had 16 points and 10 assists, while Shelden Williams added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Hawks, who have dropped nine of their last 11 games.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International"

The Nationals are JUST that awesome!

Nationals poll voters on who should be the starting catcher

Tell me they're kidding.

I just saw the current poll being offered on, and it is ludicrous. I can't believe that anyone would question the catcher position right now!

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Oh, sure, most voters sensibly chose starter Brian Schneider, but why on Earth would this even come up?

With all due respect to Mr. Frick and Mr. Flores, both of whom I respect and have full confidence in behind the plate, the idea that either one of them should be starting ahead of Brian Schneider at this point in time is extremely odd.

While they are at it, why don't they just poll Nationals fans on who the starting third baseman should be? Or who our closer should be?

This team might not be perfect, but there are some aspects of the 2007 Nationals which aren't broken, and should not be meddled with.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday the 13th proves unlucky for Nats in loss, OR TriskaMETSaphobia

TriskaMETSaphobia: The fear of losing to the New York Mets on Friday the 13th.

I'm a sufferer, a victim, even. Please donate generously to wipe this scourge from the psyches of Nationals fans everywhere.

I wasn't expecting miracles, I knew this was going to be a tough game. I worried that John Patterson might still be developing slowly on the mound this season and feared that he'd be rocked by the hard-hitting Mets bats.

You know something? I'm proud of the way the Nats played in tonight's 3-2 loss. They had more hits than the Mets, they had no errors, and John Patterson pitched VERY well, looking like the John Patterson of old. I'm not sure why he was pulled so early, after only 5 1/3 innings and 76 pitches. I hope he wasn't feeling poorly. I'm hoping that Manny Acta simply wanted to put in Micah Bowie, a southpaw, for the situation that Bowie was to face. I'll be anxious to read about that.

I had to work very late, but my boss was kind enough to put on his little T.V. to WDCA so we could follow the action, and I had the MLB GameDay function running on my computer so I could stay on top of all of the aspects of the game.

I'm pleased that the Nats played the Mets tough, and gave themselves lots of chances to win. I'm grateful that the Nats didn't beat themselves with errors or sloppy play. The Mets are no pushovers, and there's no shame in a loss like this. It stinks, but at least there's no shame. Goodness knows, I'd rather they lose a close one like this game, which features good play and stays competitive right down to the wire, than watching them get the snot beaten out of them and has them trailing early.

My boss is so hyper-competitive that he gets blinded by such losses as these and can't seem to take any good results out of them - "It's still a big 'L' in the boxscore!" I disagree. If you play your best and still lose, if you don't beat yourself and give yourself chances to win, then that should provide some solace because you can keep working hard to improve and it's easier to believe in yourself after a loss like this. If you are simply manhandled, gobsmacked if you will, by the other team, then it's difficult to think that you are still doing the right things.

Still, I can't stand losing to the Mets, and I'm sick that, once again, Julio Franco manages to hurt the Nats at the worst possible moment. It's annoying as all hell. Why isn't this man lounging about in Del Boca Vista, Florida, waiting for his pension checks to clear? [Homer Simpson voice:] "Lousy Franco..." (shakes fist at T.V....)

I'm excited to see what Shawn Hill is going to do tomorrow afternoon against these Mets, I really am. It's a pity that I'll be at work, but perhaps I can tune in to Charlie and Dave and fire up the 'Net to stay on top of game developments.

Actual exchange in my workplace today

I actually had the following exchange with someone in my place of business today:

Them: "I wonder why it's turned so cold?"

Me: "I don't know. Just one of those fluky things, I guess."

Them: "Speaking of fluky things, your Nats won last night, didn't they? Hey, maybe they won because Hell froze over and that's why it's turned so cold here!"

Me: "[Expletives deleted]!!"

Everyone's a comedian. I was happy all day, though.

Nats flamethrower burns Atlanta OR Bergmann takes Smoltz to the...,, aw, you know!

"Look away, look away, look away, Dixie-Land!"

Wow, what a way to avoid a sweep and emerge from Atlanta with pride and dignity intact! Jason Bergmann may not have chalked up a win for himself statistically, but morally he has scaled some great heights. Battling the great Atlanta pitching legend John Smoltz, Bergmann mastered such Nats-killers as Chipper and Andruw Jones through six innings to keep the Braves scoreless, then the bullpen took over, with Jesus Colome and Jon Rauch setting up "The Chief", Chad Cordero, for his first save of the season. A two-hit shutout! Who'd a-thunk it after the last two nights?

Is it fair to call this game Jason Bergmann's "coming-out"? It's not his MLB debut, of course, but is this the game that makes the MLB world take a little closer notice of this young pitcher? To carve up such great veteran hitters as Jeff Francoeur, Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones is no small accomplishment, especially given what the Atlanta hitters did to the Nats on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ryan Church continues his hitting streak, and very good defense. At one point, Church went deep after a John Smoltz shot which looked for a moment like it might be a home run, and Church went right up to the wall, got his bearings and made a very good catch. This is no small consideration, every time Church heads towards a wall, I get worried that he'll sacrifice his body again as he did in that game in 2005 where he hurt himself and derailed his Rookie-of-the-Year bid.

This is the sort of game that builds confidence. And going into Shea Stadium for the weekend, the Nats are going to need it, and a little bit of luck, on Friday the 13th.

Poll results: 30.8% of respondents correctly predicted that the Nats would take 1 of 3 from the Braves. Congratulations, and thank you for participating.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

If you can't beat 'em, get 'em to join you?

I'm sure that I'm not the only one intrigued by the scenario put forth by Thom Loverro in today's Washington Times, about the possibility of the Nationals trying to sign Atlanta's Andruw Jones in the forthcoming offseason, as Jones will be a free agent. It makes you think, but let's face it, if the Chicago Cubs were willing to give Alphonso Soriano the 4th richest contract in MLB history, just what kind of money will Jones require, especially to leave Atlanta, where he has established roots? It might make Soriano's $138 million look like chicken feed.

I don't see the Nationals doing it, despite Stan Kasten's relationship with Jones. It just doesn't fit in with "The Plan", at least not at this stage. Anything is possible, but I just don't see them spending that kind of money on a 30 year-old, no matter how great a player he is, when they could take the same money and go after pitchers and continue to build the farm system.

I heard a joke recently about
U.S. space tourist Charles Simonyi, who paid $25 million dollars to ride a Russian space shot to the International Space Station. It was something along the lines of how his view from the I.S.S. was beautiful, and how he could see dozens of countries from up there that could really use $25 million dollars. Well, that's kind of like the Nationals, the impoverished nation that is better off spending millions of dollars on infrastructure and basic needs while others are crying for them to spend that money developing a nuclear weapons (or space) program.

The Lerners aren't going to allow the Nationals to become the North Korea of the National League.

If this period of club development seems like The Great Depression, then think of "The Plan" as being akin to The New Deal. The Depression didn't end overnight and, yeah, I know, the Second World War had a lot to do with bringing the country out of it, but I still think that it's a good metaphor.

The Lerners build things. That's what they do. Building something right takes time. "Rome wasn't built in a day", and all that. We waited over 30 years to even get a team, I think we can wait a few more for them to become the Atlanta Braves/St. Louis Cardinals/New York Mets all rolled into one.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

You can rest easy, the good news is..... wasn't Screech.

Bald Eagle Struck By Vehicle In Stafford

Bird Expected To Survive

A bald eagle is expected to recover after being struck by a car in Stafford County on Wednesday, police said.The eagle was apparently swooping down to grab some roadkill when it was hit on U.S. Highway 17 near Hartwood.The bird was taken to an animal hospital in Hartwood with a broken left wing, officials said.

(Notice I managed to get another post with the word "roadkill" in it this week? I'm not proud.)

I'm very glad that the poor bird is expected to survive, lest the wags start laying odds on which would be buried first, the eagle or the Nats. And some of you probably thought that even Screech couldn't take it anymore and was trying to take the easy way out. For shame, oh ye of little faith. Screech is the the most die-hard of Nats believers, a fine-feathered fan. It will take more than a little losing streak to shake Screech's confidence. He'll be waiting for us on Monday, in high spirits, ready to rally the Nats faithful against the visiting Braves, assuming that we make it that long.

Nats bats still cold in Atlanta OR Where is William Tecumseh Sherman when we really need him?

In the 8th inning of tonight's 8-3 Nats loss to the Atlanta Braves, the Nats began to show some real life. Entering that inning, the Nats were behind 5-0, but by the middle of that inning they were only down 5-3. Suddenly, they had a game on their hands. But the Braves continued their mastery of the Nationals and racked up three more runs to put themselves safely into the "W" column for the second consecutive evening.

I had begun to think that the only way that the Nationals' bats would catch fire is if General Sherman returned from the grave for another Atlanta barbecue.

Ryan Church had another good evening, though. He went 3 for 4, had a double, too. If he is, indeed, suffering from flu-like symptoms, then I wish that he'd sneeze on every single one of his teammates, except perhaps Belliard and Kearns.

One more night in Hot-lanta, one more night to try and get the better of the Jones Boys, before heading off to Queens. Can Jason Bergmann take John Smoltz to the cleaners? (Bergmann. Cleaners. Get it? Well, I wish I'd thought of it first...) Find out tomorrow at 7:35 EDT.

Unlikely trade rumor

MLBtraderumors reports that the Phillies are having bullpen problems which need fixing immediately. One of the scenarios that alarms me the most was reported as:

Chad Cordero, while not a dominant closer, is certainly better than anyone the Phillies have. Top prospect Carlos Carrasco would get Jim Bowden's ear, and Michael Bourn would fit nicely at the top of Washington's lineup. Those are the two I think Bowden would want for Cordero. Jon Rauch or Luis Ayala would be nice additions as well."

While I don't personally believe that Chad Cordero is going anywhere (and no, I don't have any inside information, this is my uninformed gut feeling) these sorts of discussions always unnerve me a little bit. I love Chad as a player and a person, I don't want to see him go anywhere, and Jon Rauch is already improving over his good 2006 season, I feel really good when he takes the mound, and I'm dying to see Luis Ayala back in action and returning to his 2005 form. I just don't think that it is going to happen because Jim Bowden isn't going to give up anyone unless the Nats get great value in return. I've already heard some rumors about Chad on the 'Net, and I just believe that Jim Bowden would want the Moon in return and no one is prepared to give him that at this particular moment. If a team in playoff contention in August or September suddenly lost their closer, and were willing to mortgage their farm system, then I wouldn't consider such a scenario to be far-fetched. I just hope that it doesn't happen!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The first shutout.

For four innings this evening, the Nats were competitive against the Braves in Atlanta. Pitcher Matt Chico was keeping the game close until the wheels fell off of the bus.

Problems with defense and quiet bats doomed the Nats tonight.

I had to work late, though I followed the game on my computer and then in my car, listening to Charlie and Dave on the way home to listen to Bob & Don call things on T.V.

The first shutout. It had to happen eventually, I suppose, as the laws of baseball probability are so stacked against this team. At least it happened on the road.


In defense of T.R.

Thanks to William Yurasko for alerting me to this Examiner item about the disparity between "Teddy's" on-field performance and the real Theodore Roosevelt, who was an amazing physical specimen, athlete and competitor, especially for his time.

This has bothered me since last season, and I'm glad to see that others are as bothered by this as I am. Theodore Roosevelt wasn't made a part of Mount Rushmore because of his good looks, it is because he was a truly great president, the most popular and famous American of his time, and an evangelical proponent of living a strenuous life of vigor and exercise. He was a fierce competitor and sportsman. So I find it somewhat painful that his image is consistently relegated to ridicule.

Oh, sure, it has been somewhat perversely fun to shout, "Run, Teddy, RUN!" during the President's Race, and to see the constant variations upon how he will lose, but the parody gets a little mean-spirited when the club has him "cheating" to try and win and being disqualified. T.R. was, above all things, an intensely honorable man who would take great umbrage at the idea of cheating to win. His sportsman's code of honor and high moral character wouldn't have allowed it.

Still, I'm hoping very much that the club decides to put him in Rough Rider regalia, complete with cavalry saber, and has him charge in on horseback. That would be awesome, and it's an idea that I've suggested to the team (though I believe that the horse angle has already been considered, so if this ever does happen, I certainly don't deserve any credit). I think that they could get a Park Service mounted police officer, or other local law enforcement mounted division officer to wear the costume, or perhaps a professional stuntman. Wouldn't that be cool? Because after that rappelling entrance that "Teddy" made on Opening Day, I have to wonder just how they can keep this thing going. What next, parachuting (or paragliding?) into the stadium? I'll bet that would be terrifying for the person in the costume. Perhaps an army jetpack entrance? A motorcycle drive-through, sponsored by Harley-Davidson? The possibilities are intriguing.

Sooner or later, they have to let him win, though. They have to. They must. Could they possibly be waiting for Opening Day next year? That means 77 more losses for poor old "Teddy". I'm not sure which is a more depressing thought, 77 more losses by "Teddy" or by the Nationals. At least when they are on the field, the Nationals have a better chance for victory.

*EDIT* Okay, I just had a little epiphany about the whole "Teddy" phenomenon. I posted it in some comments on Nats320 blog, and I'll re-print them here:

"Alright, I posted about this, but one aspect that I neglected to include is this: The one problem with Teddy always losing is that it takes some of the drama (however contrived) out of the equation. It's become a 3 man race, not 4. I thought that the whole Teddy-losing shtick was done for the 2006 season, so where does it end? I've guessed that he wins when the new stadium opens.

Is Teddy supposed to be a metaphor for the Nationals? "Hey, just like Teddy, we might lose all the time, but aren't we still fun to watch?" I don't really believe this, but it's a theory.

Perhaps "Teddy" is supposed to lose just as Charlie Brown was never destined to kick that football from Lucy in the "Peanuts" strips. Even after over 40 years of drawing Charlie Brown, it would have been pandering on the part of artist Charles Schulz to allow him to ever kick that football. The whole point was, he never was going to kick it, so what became important was HOW HE DEALT WITH IT."

This is how one manages to love a team with a losing record. If you are obsessed with the W/L column, you will live and die a thousand deaths, but if you simply enjoy what the team has to offer, then you can transcend the gut-wrenching lows of defeats and keep the flickering flames of hope burning in your heart.

I love the Washington Nationals. Win or lose. True love doesn't embrace the box scores.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Random thoughts on an off-day

With the team traveling to Atlanta and taking a day of rest, I thought I'd take time to post a few observations.

Holliday on holiday? OR "Wherrrrrrrreeesss, Johnny?" - Where is Johnny Holliday on MASN's Nats Extra? He's been missing and replaced by an amiable fellow named Byron Kerr. Is Johnny just on vacation, or could he simply not take having to deal with another Nats loss and it was too much for him to bear? Come on back, Johnny, you're in this up to your neck with the rest of us.

MASN2 getting it together - The other day, when the first Nats game was broadcast on the new MASN2 channel, DirecTV still listed the channel as "RSN Alternate", meaning "Regional Sports Network Alternate". I couldn't even record the game because the programming wasn't even set yet. Now DirecTV's channel 671 reads "MASN2" and it is behaving like MASN did two seasons ago, nothing on it until a Nats (or O's) game, the rest of the time it is either dark or has music playing.

New MLB catalog - When I came home the other night, I noticed the new MLB catalog in my mail. After paging through it, I've noticed an alarming lack of Nationals merchandise. Oh, sure, pretty much anything in the catalog has "All MLB teams available" but it would be nice to see more Nats representation in there. The first item I noticed as on page #22, a doormat which reads "Nationals" on it. (A doormat? Ouch, baby, VERY ouch....). The only other item was car mats, of all things. If I'm looking for Nationals merchandise outside of the R.F.K. team store, there are plenty of good sites on the Internet to find them, including eBay (I've personally found good Nationals leather wallets there, which I like). Also, as anyone with season tickets can attest, the backs of each season ticket have a $10 coupon on them for a discount at Modell's, good all season long.

What I enjoyed about the first homestand - Number one? The fact that the season is here! That was a long off-season, and I'm just happy to have baseball back. It's renewal, it's the herald of summer coming (if noticeably absent these past few days), it's box scores, it's passionate arguments. Every day brings interesting news and possibilities.

I loved how Ryan Church played this past week. Those total bases of his, the doubles, the homeruns, the sliding "Sports Center"-esque catches.

I enjoyed getting to meet some new friends at the stadium. You know who you are.

I enjoyed catching up with old friends.

I enjoyed Screech and the "Rushmores" and all of their silly antics. They always bring a smile to my face, and it's fun to see the little kids get so excited about them.

I enjoyed the seventh-inning stretches, watching the bullpen work, and Shawn Hill develop on the mound.

The fireworks.

Shouting myself hoarse in the 9th inning on Wednesday, on the way to Manny Acta's first win.

The terrible anxiety of having men on base and hoping that they'll score some runs.

Recording the game and Nats Extra to see what Ray Knight and Bob Carpenter and Don Sutton have to say as they analyze the game later.

But I'm kind of glad for the day off and time to catch up on some personal business.

I'm not a sunny optimist by nature, but neither am I a doom-and-gloom pessimist. I generally like to believe that things will work out for the best more often than not. Since the inception of the Nationals, I've wanted to believe only good things and I AM a believer in what has been called "The Plan" as put forth by team President, Stan Kasten. I am generally patient, too, so I can take some solace in the notion that behind the scenes, Stan Kasten and General Manager Jim Bowden and all the good folks at the Nationals are working to improve things. I know that some have criticized the club and accused them of basically "giving up" on different aspects of the fan experience this season. I disagree. I think that the club is doing the best that they can with an almost-50 year-old stadium that they don't even own, and which wasn't built specifically for baseball. They've put lipstick on a beloved old pig, but the fact remains that R.F.K. is substandard for today's modern baseball experience. Who can blame the team for hyping the new ballpark, it's going to be the ballpark of our dreams.

Song of the moment - Celebrating the longest homestand of the season

Survey of the Moment