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Archive for May, 2011

This is the slogan for the 2011 Nationals season.  And the more that our season goes down the toilet, as most people expected it would, it makes me begin to think what an odd choice of slogans for the Nats to choose.  For the most part, I think everyone thought that this team would be better, but there were a lot of people who also thought that this Nats team would be no different than what we have grown to expect from D.C. baseball the last few years:  a team that finds ways to lose, and lose in bunches.

In fact, how many of us “expected” this Nats team to do much better than last year?  Well, I did, but I’m always hoping for the best and getting the worst.

In fact, this Nats team recently has been doing a lot of what many people expected it would:  be better at pitching, but have enough question marks to lack consistency in big spots – a.k.a Burnett today who gave up 2 huge runs just after the Nats had homered for the 3rd time against Roy Halliday.

We get enough hitting to keep things interesting – a.k.a the aforementioned triumvirate of  homers off of one of the games best pitchers, but yet we could not get a man over from 3rd base with no outs to tie the game in the 7th inning.   Yesterday we could not get a man over from 2nd base with no outs on three different occasions in a tie game and ultimately lost the game.

We have been leading the major leagues in defense for the last month, but against Milwaukee earlier this week, Wilson Ramos dropped a ball which if he had caught it would have prevented the Brewers from taking the lead after we had built a 4-run lead earlier in the game.

So despite the additions of Werth, LaRoche, Gorzelany, Cora, Hairston, Ankiel and improved play from our young players such as Bernadina, Espinosa, Ramos, Zimmermann, Storen, and Desmond, the Nationals are 9 games under .500 after having played about 1/3 of the season.  Once again D.C. fans are left feeling defensive, embarrassed and little humiliated as the front-running Philly fans come and have a few laughs at our expense and once again we are left shaking our heads at when is the year we are supposed to be contending.  Will I still be alive?

So while I have not watched every minute of the Nats last 10 games during which time they have amassed a 1-9 record, I have come to expect that they will find a way to lose the game and right now it doesn’t feel like any slogan can change that.

Double vision:  I hadn’t watch the D.C. United play in a long time,  but I think it’s time B2BR spends some time with the only team that has won anything in this town in the last twenty years.  It was a big win for the team yesterday and even though I haven’t paid much attention to the team since the days of Eddie Pope and Jaime Moreno, I’m back on board.

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When you are 5 games below .500 as the Nats and everyone watching has that bad feeling inside that a promising first 6 weeks of the season is about to get flushed down the toilet again, you cannot lose when leading 6-3 as late as the 6th inning of a game.  You just can’t.  Our bats went silent and our usually reliable bullpen blew another lead.   Clippard struck out batters, but gave up a 2-run HR and Henry Rodriguez, who throws really hard and makes batters look stupid, walked a man, gave up a hit and got unlucky on a bloop single which landed in no-man’s land which allowed the tying run and winning run to score.  Of course, Ramos was in perfect position to apply the tag on the runner to prevent Milwaukee from taking the lead, BUT…..he dropped the ball.

Then in the 9th inning, the Nats loaded the bases and had Michael Morse, the hero of the game to that point since he had gone 3 for 4 with a single, double and grand slam, up at the plate and he harmlessly flew out to right field.  Can’t blame him, but the whole game just gives you the feeling of impending doom for this Nats season.  No Zimmerman, No Strasburg, No LaRoche and No answers to this bad stretch which now has us sitting at 6 games below .500

Double vision:  The Redskins had another player-organized practice yesterday.  With no football in the horizon, I wonder whether the players will just start charging for these kinds of events.  So on Sept. 11, if there is no football, the Giants can all drive down from New York and we can all go to Howard’s stadium, pay $10 for a ticket and watch the Redskins vs. the Giants.  They can wear blue shirts and we will wear red shirts and we’ll call it a day.  This could happen in every city, reporters would go out and report in the papers the results of the games so fans everywhere could keep track of who won and loss.  We could probably watch away games on some kind of stream and even if we didn’t, we probably could listen on the radio.  And that’s it.  It will save us a ton of money and at least I won’t feel as bad about the Redskins going 7-9 if I spend $100 total on tickets instead of $640.   Hell, maybe I could even be one of the kick-off kids for the home opener against New York and give Eli the bird as I’m running off the field.

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The last posting on my blog from early last week reads:  “The Nats are playing good baseball”.

What?  Talk about losing all credibility.  The title of the blog is “Finding ways to win”.

What?  Talk about losing all credibility.

The Nats are finding ways to lose games and while our defense is no longer laughable, we are not playing good baseball.  Yesterday, we went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position and wasted a great effort from Zimmermann who made exactly one mistake yesterday which resulted in a 2-run homerun.  However, the blame for yesterday’s loss as it was the day before and during our two game series against the Mets, was bad hitting.  Awful hitting.

The Nats find a way to start strong and then right about now, hit a swoon which saps the life out of the team.  They are in the swoon right now, a swoon where they are getting a some bad calls go against them (i.e. the double missed call by the umpire at the end of the 2nd Mets game, where not only did Werth beat the throw to the bag, but the 1st baseman’s foot was off the bag), are not getting timely hitting and then explode for 17 runs in one game, only to get 4 runs total during the next two games.  In fact, during the last 5 games, including the 17-run outburst on Friday night, the Nats are averaging 4.2 runs/ game.  Pathetic if you consider that they are not going to get 17 runs again this year.

People usually say that pitching wins and while the Nats are not getting dominant pitching, they are getting good pitching:  they rank 8th in the National League and 15th in the Major League in team ERA.   It’s just that the hitting is so abysmal.

Similarly, we rank 8th in fielding percentage and 9th in errors in the National League. Again, not fantastic, but much better than in recent history.  It’s just that the hitting is SO abysmal.

The Nats are getting increased attention in D.C. Attendance is up, T.V. ratings are up. There were a lot of Nats fans in Baltimore over the weekend, (which I know is not far, but in years past, there would not have been as many red and white jerseys at Camden Yards for this beltway series), but now it’s up to the bats on the Nats to start heating up so we don’t continue sinking.

Double vision:  I’m calling bullshit on Carlos Rogers.  Last week, #22 did a lot of interviews locally talking about his upcoming free-agency.  At one point, he said that he looked forward to playing against the Redskins twice a year – which amounts to nothing less than pure treason, the true spiritual death of a BBR, the real-life Anakin Skywalker.  Desiring to play for an NFC East opponent is worthy of our scorn, bile and hatred.  Then he appeared on 106.7 with the Junkies and said that he loves the fans of D.C., he has a great relationship with D Hall and that he has no problem with returning to the ‘Skins.  It’s just that he gets “a feeling” that the team doesn’t want you back.  During that interview, he also bad-mouthed Hall by saying that HE [Rogers] was not the one who gave up the most TDs or yards allowed last year and hey HE [Rogers] is the one who takes all the blame for the Redskins poor secondary.  And yet, it’s the fans, according to Rogers, who are knowledgeable about football that come up to him on the streets and say that they “love him” [Rogers] and are “going to switch teams” if he leaves the Redskins.

Bullshit!

1st of all, no Redskins fan in the world would switch allegiances if Rogers left aside from his mother.  2nd, while the truth of the matter is that Rogers is a better corner cover than Hall, Hall makes big plays and Rogers doesn’t.  Do people throw the ball more at Hall than Rogers?  Maybe.  But knowledgeable fans like the folks in section in 449, who have seen Mr. Rogers get beat plenty deep know that while you are a good corner, you are not a great corner.  In reality, neither Hall or Rogers are corners on a dominant team, say like the 14-2 Redskins team of 1991.  You know who is a dominant corner Carlos?  Darrell Green.  He covered the best receiver on the other team and got a ton of interceptions and returned them to the house all the time.  He was what you and Hall are combined, except even better.  But you see, Rogers, it’s a little weak to spout out about who is the team’s #1 corner when you have dropped SO many big interceptions, (Divisional Playoffs @ Seattle 2005, Monday Night against Pittsburgh 2008, just to name two) which would have been returned for TDs by most corners and thus in all likelihood have sealed victory for us.  At least Hall responded that it’s not about who’s the #1 corner on this team, it’s about the team and winning games and bringing back a trophy to D.C., which while slightly delusional at this point at least is what fans want to hear.  And now the fans:  you said that you love the fans in D.C., yet earlier this year you talked about how you liked playing better on the road because you didn’t the D.C. fans supported you and the team that much.  Well tell that to me, my old man and my buddy Ryan, who maybe we’re crazy, but we haven’t missed a game of the misery that exemplified the last two years of Redskins football.  We came out in the rain and sleet and snow to watch you and the rest of the ‘Skins compile a total of 10 victories in two years and only 5 home victories out of 16.  And we’re not alone.  So fine, take your bullshit attitude to another city and drop some interceptions in Philly or Dallas.  I used to fear the Redskins losing the the BBRs that we had developed, but something tells me you are as delusional as the Redskins fans, like me, who think we are going to win 8 games this year.  But, I would rather get rid of whiners like you, who don’t tough it out through injuries so they can “put something bad on tape” than tough S.O.B.s who care less about their “tape” and more about winning.

I have written that the Redskins should try to re-sign you this year for a good deal because we could use someone like you with  decent cover skills and who gets interceptions about 1 out of every 8 times the ball hits your hands, but now I think differently.  I think differently because you have ceased to be a BBR.  You have lost all credibility. The mystical quality you assumed when you were drafted by the Redskins has now turned into the spiritual opposite.   It is indeed sad to see BBRicide.

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The Nats are playing good baseball all of a sudden. Actually, they were playing good baseball during their 3-game losing streak as well – solid defense and good pitching, they just couldn’t get the hitting the go along with it.  Well for the last two days, we got the hitting and our pitching has held up.  Marquis and Lannan both gave up 2 earned runs over the last two days and pitched into the 7th inning setting up things very nicely for the bullpen.   Cole Kimball has really shown some promise the last 3 games and last night he got his 1st win using a dazzling combination of speed, power and great movement on his fastball and slider.  The Nats bullpen continues to show potential to be very strong and really is the part of the team that is most developed to this point in the year.

While Sunday’s game was about the Nats pounding a pitcher early and holding on for a relatively stress-free win, last night was about

Espinosa's blast broke the 2nd baseman out of a slump and drove the Nationals to a 4-2 victory over the Pirates last night at Nationals Park.

getting timely hitting and playing opportunistic defense.  The Pirates could have had a huge 4th inning, but made two huge errors when one of their players tried to run from 1st to 3rd on a hit the center-field.  Bernadina got a quick release and threw a bullet to 3rd which was offline, but close enough for Hairston to make a great play on a sweeping tag.  Then with a man on 3rd and 1 out, the Pirates tried a safety squeeze which the pitcher whiffed on exposing the base-runner to an easy tag.   Later in the game, Werth made a sliding catch which could have been called anyway all of which set the stage for Hairston and Espinosa to each hit a long ball.  Espinosa’s 2-run blast in the 7th provided the winning margin.

Lannan looked doomed in the 4th, but got out of the inning and then settled down and looked excellent for another 2 1/3 innings before a lead-off walk in the 7th sent him packing.

Another win today would send the Nats off right on this upcoming road trip.

Double vision: I went to the Wheaton Mall on Sunday with the family to buy some new sneakers for me and my wife and some clothes for the kids.  On my way, I saw a mini-van that had the following bumper sticker:  “Proud to be a Native-American”.  Just above that bumper sticker, I saw the symbol for the Redskins.  This goes against what many of us believe – that the name Redskins and the figure of a Native-American on the helmet is offensive to Native-Americans.  I have to admit that on many occasions, I have spent time trying to figure out what alternatives to the team name I could come up with since so many people find it offensive.  At my core I do as well, but I guess I’m not prepared to really do anything about it.  But then when I see this bumper sticker and hear from my cousin Peter, who has Native-American blood in his family and who is also a huge Redskins fan, I think that maybe I should reconsider my view on the matter.  On the flip side, is the situation one where some Native-Americans feel comfortable with the word like some Black people comfortable with the “n” word,  but Caucasians such as myself, should not say the word without cringing and hearing others cringe.  I’m just not sure.

What I am sure about though is that unlike last year, no one is buying McNabb jerseys.  All of his jerseys were selling for less than $20 at the athletic shoe store I went to buy my new pumas, pretty good bargain.   The more I hear John Beck pontificate about his desire to lead this team next year and the more I hear his continued delusions of grandeur enter my ear through radio interviews, the more I think that my bizzaro world scenario where the Redskins end up sticking with McNabb is also a delusion of some kind or another.  Beck, who will be 30 when the season starts, has got to be one of the oldest unproven quarterbacks in the league.  It’s hard to say whether he’s the right move, but it is clear that if it doesn’t work and the Redskins lose 10 games or more next year, that the reign of Shanalahan and the Boy Wonder may begin to stand on very shaky ground.

In better news, the Redskins are going to hold another informal 3-day practice session this week while our foes the Eagles have yet to have had any practice and the Giants held one that only had 7 players.  What could the Cowboys have done with Tony Romo out there trying to qualify for golf tournaments.  Yes folks, just like in ’82 and ’87, we are the symbol once again of professional team unity.

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The Nats have followed two excellent series victories against the Braves and Marlins to almost overcome being swept by the Phillies.  All the same, finishing such a tough road trip 4-5 is nothing to hang your head for.  Then we turned around and lost two tough 1-run games to the Marlins.  In both games, we had runners in scoring position to either win or tie the game and in both cases, we were not able to get the situational hitting we needed to push those runs across.    It would be hard for anyone to say that at this point in the year that the Nats are not a better team than last year, but we are now 3 games below .500 and are facing another tough road trip after three more games at home.  It’s hard  to say that any baseball has to win 3 games in a row and so I won’t say it, but we if the Nats want to prevent themselves from being anything other than just a 70 win team this year, they really have to put some home wins together and build off of their momentum they created recently on the road.

Last night, the Nats ultimately failed because LaRoche could not squeeze a left-handed junk pitcher with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th.  Not to mention that  Clippard gave up another big hit, this time a home-run.  Since I started following baseball when the Nats came to town, one thing I have noticed is that bullpens are rarely consistent, and even though the Nats’ bullpen has been pretty good this year, aside from Storen, no one has been excellent.

Today, the bullpen was fine, it was Hernandez who made one mistake and it’s kinda sad that the Nats couldn’t overcome 1 mistake.  But it happens.  Espinosa cannot swing  with Bernadina on base without at least giving him a chance to steal in the 8th.  Then  In the bottom of the 9th, with men on the corners, Ramos cannot chase the 1st pitch like he did today which ended up in a harmless pop-fly which could not score Werth from 3rd.  Isn’t that what a hitting coach is supposed to do?  We are leading the major leagues in strike outs and now are showing examples of bad decision making at the plate.  Should Eckstein be fired?

Tough loss after another tough one last night in extra innings.  Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

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Open-minded

I really like the new Wizards uniform.  I like the colors (of course) and the design.  I love the “dc” which is on the shorts and I love the fact that hands are shooting out of the top of the ‘d’.  It’s overall a great look and one that is long overdue.  What is really strange though is that my wife says that she likes the Wizards teal better.  I guess that’s why people say you never really know what is deep down inside someone else’s soul.  I also like the fact that John Wall and Jordan Crawford were the models.  Jordan Crawford has a bright future in this league and he may be almost as important as Wall is in getting this team back to respectability and high level of performance sooner rather than later.

Double vision: The Nats almost blew it last night and wasted an excellent outing from Jason Marquis.  Our bats came alive with a couple of huge hits by Werth and Nyx who both homered to drive in 3 runs.  The Nats were the better defensive team by far last night and it’s not often you can say that when they are playing against the Braves.

I think Bernadina really should be given a chance to bat lead-off for a while.  His defense in centerfield has been very good. (Last night he had an amazing throw to get an out on a ball that should have been an easy double for Atlanta).  He has the speed you want at that position and his on-base percentage is getting better.  The team needs a lead-off batter and it just seems like he fits really well.  Let him grow into the position and put Ankiel someplace else when he returns from injury.

So far the Nats are 3-4 on this really tough road trip.  One more win would make it quite satisfactory.  I’m not going to think about 2 more wins because that would mean we sweep the Braves.  Yes, let’s just focus on getting one more.

Triple vision: While I don’t like to speculate on legal matters, I’m going to speculate on legal matters and say that our old friend Haynsie is taking a big risk in letting this sexual harassment/assault trial with this waitress go to trial.  Maybe Haynsie is totally innocent, but he doesn’t have a lot of good faith in the public on which he can draw during tough times like this.  He may have been on his way out of here already, but now the Redskins really need to get rid of him. The problem is for him and us is that no one will want to take him because he may be going to jail for a while.  The whole thing is a mess brought on by his idiocy and arrogance.  Haynsie has made a lot of money in his career, but it seems like he doesn’t have much left and it seems like it’s going to be really hard for him to make much of anything from here on out.

By the way, is it just me or is John Beck’s name popping up everywhere?  He’s at the Redskins informal, player-only mini-camp leading drills and throwing the ball to Anthony Armstrong and Malcolm Kelly.  He’s appearing on the radio.  He’s reaching out to our BBRs, most notably, our blog favorite Evan Royster.  Maybe it is time for the John Beck era.  The DC Bog has this great series of quotations from him where he sounds like he possesses the leadership to be the next Bart Starr.  Maybe we should be more open-minded?

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Life goes on

I bet the Nats slightly feel like the ugly stepchildren in town as their ratings went up over the weekend.  I bet many DC sports fans, while keeping an eye on the Nats during the Caps abbreviated playoff run, did not fully turn their attention to our baseball team until this past Thursday night, the night after it all ended.  But life moves on and so shall this blog.

What should we make of the Nats after having played a little more than 20% of their season?  2 games under .500 is not bad although it’s hard to project that out over the rest of the season.   Looking at the big picture, I think we can say that the Nats are improved defensively and that their starting pitching is better than expected. More on that to come later.

Their hitting, globally speaking, has been worse than expected.  Proving this would be the fact that the Nats are one from dead last in hitting percentage in the National League and actually one from dead last in the entire Major Leagues.     Now, in defense of Mike Rizzo, who put together this team, no one would have expected Werth and LaRoche to hit as badly as they have to this point, (although they both have made strong contributions in the field) and we could not have expected Zimmerman to be hurt for as long as he had.  That being said, it seems to me that baseball, I guess like most sports, is putting players in spots where they can succeed.  And it seems to me that while the big bats of the line-up have not started producing consistently, the bigger problem lies in the construction of the line-up.  I have said from the beginning of the year that Espinosa and Desmond should be playing at the top of the lineup and I don’t really understand, slumps aside, why they aren’t.  They both have not hit as well as anyone would have liked, but they both are still developing and ultimately, their ability to fill the need for speedy, athletic guys who can get on base that this team desperately needs, will determine how quickly the Nats progress into a contender.  Let them stay up there for a while and see what they do.  On the other hand, Bernadina is someone who fits the bill athletically and we saw what a strong impact he had over the weekend on Saturday in the lead-off spot.  It seems with the whole Rizzo left at the beginning of the year in center-field by not bringing in anyone who could truly replace Morgan, that Bernadina should be given every chance to win the spot.  Playing Ankiel, who is hurt now anyway, is a classic safety move when someone is trying to “win-now”, but doesn’t really foster long-term team success.  So, if Espinosa is too young to play at the top for now, let Bernadina bast 1st followed by Desmond.  Ultimately, you want the 3-5 spots to be filled by Zimmerman, Harper and Werth so I would play Werth in the 5th spot for now to let him get used to what he did for such a long time in Philly.  Have some combination of Nix and Morse in 3 and 4 until Zimmerman gets back and bat Ramos 4th when he is in the lineup of LaRoche in clean-up when Rodriguez is playing.

The bullpen has been a source of strength all year for the team and while Clippard’s 6 consecutive strike-outs on Saturday night were spectacular, they were also indicative of how steady he has been as a set-up man for Burnett and Storen.  As a staff, we rank 9th in the National League, but I would bet that our bullpen is near the top.  I think Marquis is pitching like we hoped he would last year – steady, but not necessarily spectacular outside of his complete game win against the Giants from last week.  Gorzelanny has been a really nice surprise having had two excellent outings in a row.  Zimmermann is still finding his way although he pitched very well against the Giants and Marlins in two consecutive wins.  Hernandez has been good and bad and does not seem to have the magic of last year to this point in the season.   Lannan has been beaten twice badly by the Phillies and his ERA reflects that.  Let’s give him a chance to get it together for another 5 starts to see if there is any improvement.   Rizzo tried to bring in a top-of-the-rotation guy over the summer, but couldn’t.  And while the Nats starters have been rather good, (only once not having gone at least 5 innings in the all 34 games this year), there is no ace as of yet.

The Nats are far from being the best fielding team in the National League, but they are no longer the worst and the additions of Werth, LaRocher and Espinosa to the regular lineup has made a huge difference to this team.  Once center-field get resolved and Zimmerman returns, I expect this to become an even stronger part of our team’s identity.  Espinosa was spectacular over the weekend against Florida and Desmond seems to be getting over some of his early-season erratic play.

Big series against the Braves starts tomorrow.

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