May 2nd, 2011 / Author: admin
Jordan Zimmermann finally got the help he needed, as the Washington Nationals rapped out ten hits at Nationals Park yesterday — and the Nats went on to beat the San Francisco Giants, 5-2. The win brought the Anacostia Nine to within one game of .500, with a final game against the Giants coming this evening.
Zimmermann scattered six hits over six innings, striking out four and walking only two. Zimmermann was followed by Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett and Drew Storen, all of whom held the Giants scoreless. The big hits of the day were registered by Jayson Werth (who went 3-4) and Pudge Rodriguez, who stroked a clutch two run single in the 8th inning to give the Nationals some late-inning extra runs. Zimmermann registered his second win against four hard-luck losses, throwing 107 pitches, 69 of them for strikes.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: sometimes a slump isn’t just a slump — it’s just the way things are. While Jayson Werth finally seems to be getting on track (and has raised his average to .242), the rest of the Nine continue to struggle. In fact, some of those other sluggers in “The Valley of the Lost Bats” seem to be going the other way.
Adam LaRoche always has a slow April, but it’s now May. He’s hitting .189. Rick Ankiel has shown some life, but he might be right where he’s going to stay — at .230. Plus: those young bucks, Desmond and Espinosa, are lucky to be hitting better than their weight. The real sluggers on the team: Wilson Ramos . . . and . . . and Laynce Nix.
December 2nd, 2010 / Author: Mark
The Chicago White Sox will announce tomorrow that they have signed free agent Adam Dunn. The Washington Nationals’ first baseman has made it clear that he does not want to DH, but his signing with the Pale Hose indicates that he is open to the possibility. His signing leaves the Washington Nationals with a void at first base. The current speculation is that the Nationals will now step up their pursuit of Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Carlos Pena, or perhaps D-Back Adam LaRoche. Of course, it’s always possible that the Nats will decide to use Josh Willingham as their first baseman, or perhaps even Michael Morris — no matter how unlikely those two possibilities may now seem. The departure of Dunn brings an end to the Nationals’ front office debate on whether to keep Dunn because of his bat, or to let him walk because of his defensive liabilities. Chicago’s signing of Dunn is not a complete surprise. The White Sox have always been interested in the slugger, and the Nationals and Pale Hose were involved in intense discussions on Dunn prior to this season’s mid-summer trade deadline. Now — with Dunn walking — the Nationals will receive a supplementary first round pick in the first year player draft and Chicago’s 23rd overall pick in next year’s draft. Dunn, it is reliably reported, will sign a deal with Chicago far in excess of anything that he was offered with the Nationals: four years and $56 million. The Nats were reportedly only willing to offer him a three year contract. The signing of either Pena or LaRoche would be a step-up defensively for the Nationals, though Pena hit an anemic .196 for the Rays, while LaRoche (good around the bag, and with a quick glove), hit .261 — with 25 home runs.
October 2nd, 2010 / Author: Mark
Nats pitcher Jordan Zimmermann must be some kind of throwback: he’s from a part of the country – central Wisconsin – that doesn’t usually produce major league pitchers (or major league anythings) and he’s vowed that, once the season is over, he’ll head back home: “where there’s not that much to do.” That’s for sure. Stevens Point, where Zimmermann went to college, is quintessentially small town America, a paper mill town of some 25,000 on the Wisconsin River that is, oddly, currently under water — and that suffers through winters that make what happens in northern Russia look tame.
Zimmermann’s most recent successful outing (a six inning three hitter), the Nats hope, is a sign that the young righty is about to arrive in the big leagues in a big way. That would be a boon for “the Point” – which brags about its college baseball team, the (ah . . .) “Pointers,” which has Zimmermann’s pic prominently displayed on their home page. And why not? Zimmermann is the biggest thing to happen to Central Wisconsin since the immortal Addie Joss migrated from bump-in-the-road Woodland (where his father was a cheezemaker) to the Cleveland Naps (predecessors to the Indians — but you knew that), where he compiled the second best ERA in MLB history. Oh, and hurled his way into the Hall of Fame.
Joss was an interesting guy: a 6-3 beanpole with a rising fastball, a 12-6 curve and what he called “a slow pitch” –- essentially a change-up. Joss was a real-deal Roy Hobbs, throwing pitches through tires and taking on traveling pros and striking them out in fields where stalks of corn had once stood. On October 2, 1908 Joss pitched his best game – a perfecto against another great, the Pale Hose’s Eddie Walsh. It was the first of two perfect games that Joss would pitch, both against the White Sox, the only time that has been done in baseball history.
Sadly, the Joss story does not have a happy ending –- the career of the Woodland, Wisconsin native was cut short when he was diagnosed with tubercular meningitis and his death, at the age of 31 shocked the baseball world. The first All Star game was played in his memory, with the proceeds dedicated to helping his family. Of course, fans of J-Zimm wince at such comparisons (considering the Joss legacy), but outside of being natives of northern Wisconsin, the two have this in common – a rising fastball, a good hook (perhaps j-Zimm should give up his very average slider) and a “slow pitch.” Nats fans can only hope that the two are alike in one other way: in 1907, at the age of 27, Joss had 27 wins to lead all of baseball.
Well, we can hope.
September 8th, 2010 / Author: Mark
Yunesky Maya is an acquired taste: after a rocky first inning (in which Mets’ first baseman Ike Davis hit one of the longest home runs in the short history of Nationals’ Park), the highly touted Cuban righthander settled down and pitched steadily through the 5th. But (as nearly every print journalist — and Jim Riggleman), said after the Nats lost 4-1 to the Mets, it was too late. Maya gave up three runs in the first and one in the second, and Mets rookie righty Dillon Gee shut down the Nats, pitching a no-hitter until Willie Harris put a dinger into the right field seats. “I gave up four runs. I just wanted to hold them there to give the team a chance to win the game,” Maya said after his first outing in a Nats’ uniform. “I didn’t want them to score any more runs on me. I just felt more comfortable [after] that first inning. I was hitting my spots. When I do well, that’s what I do. I’m ahead of the hitters, and I can do what I want after that.”
Despite the shaky start (Maya admitted that he was nervous), Maya’s curve and smarts make him a contender for a spot in the Nats’ starting rotation in 2011. This is good news for Washington G.M. Mike Rizzo, who signed the Cuban veteran to a four year $6 million contract in July. The “book” on Maya is that, while he does not have overwhelming stuff, he is a smart veteran pitcher with enough experience to make an impact on the club — adding a much-needed savvy arm (to go with that of Livan Hernandez and Jason Marquis) to a group of youngsters. And despite the early shakiness, Maya’s Nats’ teammates were impressed with what they saw. Maya’s steady start was the talk of the Nationals’ club house following the game — but the new Cuban finesse artist took a distinct second spot in the headlines to Mets’ rookie Dillon Gee.
Gee, a 27th round draft pick of the Mets in 2007, shut down the Nats — even though, like Maya, he did not have overpowering stuff. But Gee’s mix of pitches was enough to impress Nats’ reserve Willie Harris, whose command of Gee provided the modest Washington crowd with a sigh of relief. “The one thing I noticed was that he was pretty aggressive in the strike zone early,” Harris said following the game. “He was going fastball early, and then he was going to his breaking pitch. Once he started guys off with breaking pitches and got behind in the count, he would come after them with fastballs.” Gee’s arrival is good news for the Mets, who are in desperate need of starting pitching as they attempt to salvage something from a disappointing season. The addition of Gee could be just what the Mets front office ordered — the New Yorkers have few top-notch pitching prospects in their minor league system and have made puzzling mistakes in judging their mound talent (Oliver Perez) over the last several years. Gee, as he showed on Tuesday, is the welcome exception.
(above: AP photo of Yuniesky Maya; below, Dillon Gee, AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
September 6th, 2010 / Author: Mark
Rookie sensation Danny Espinosa
continued his late-season surge through the pitching rotations of the National League, victimizing the New York Mets by going 4-5, with two home runs and six RBIs. The Espinosa attack, which included an inside the pole homer to left field and a grand slam off the facade in right field, led the Nationals to a 13-3 pasting of the Mets
. MASN commenter Ray Knight called Espinosa’s Labor Day outing “a career game,” in this, Espinosa’s fifth game in the majors. Espinosa is hitting .563 with three doubles, three home runs, ten RBIs and four runs scored in just five games since being called to the majors on September 1. With their 60th win of the season, the Nationals passed their wins total for the 2009 campaign, which stood at 59. Washington has now won seven of its last 11 games. The Nats recent winning ways have been powered by their work at the plate: the team has scored 74 runs in the last ten games.
The game’s other hero was Pudge Rodriguez who, after suffering through a season of puzzling and unpredictable slumps, has batted in seven runs over the last two tilts
. The game also resulted in a win for lefty Scott Olsen, who grumbled about being relegated to the bullpen in this morning’s Washington Post
. Olsen pitched four solid innings in relief of starter Jordan Zimmermann, taming the Mets’ batting order, while striking out three and walking none. Olsen upped his season total to 4-8, while lowering his ERA to 5.58. Recently recalled Collin Balester pitched the 9th inning, striking out two. But the game was truly “all-Espinosa,” who was rewarded with a curtain call after his grand slam, and a whipped cream pie in the face by Nats John Lannan during his post-game interview. “It was a great day,” Espinosa told reporters after the game. “I had so much fun.”
September 6th, 2010 / Author: Mark
Ryan Zimmerman accounted for four of the Nats runs with four RBIs, righty Jason Marquis pitched a solid six innings and slugger Adam Dunn hit a long home run into the left field seats as the Washington Nationals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-1 on Sunday. The win marked the first time that the Nats had won a road series since May, as the Anacostia Nine took two of three on the road against the Ahoys. “Start-by-start I feel like I’m getting to where I need to be,” Marquis sai following his outing. “Obviously early on I was hurting, and since the surgery I feel like Jason Marquis more day-by-day. The last four starts have been right where I want to be, although I’d like to go a little deeper into games, but I’ve just got to minimize my pitch count and that will happen.”
Fear And Trembling In San Diego: You don’t have to listen too closely to hear the concern in the voices of the radio announcers for the San Diego Padres. It was obvious in the bottom of the 9th inning on Sunday, with the Colorado Rockies about to sweep their three game series with the Friars — sending the Pads to their tenth loss in a row. “Well,” color analyst Jerry Coleman said, “the Padres have three outs to turn this thing around. You have to wonder.” The frustration of the broadcast team of “double X 1090” had been growing throughout the game, ever since the Padres had tied the Rockies in the 6th, only to see the Heltons climb back by scoring two in the top of the seventh. “It’s like we’re snake bit,” Coleman said. The Padres skid is their worst since May of 1994 and the worst for a first place team since the 1932 Pirates. “We’re in games,” Padres manger Bud Black explained after Sunday’s loss. “We’re just not generating the big hit, we’re not generating the offense to get us over the top. We’re just not executing the pitch, making the play that changes the course of a game.”
If San Diego doesn’t do something soon, they’re in danger of drawing comparisons with the 1969 Cubs, who were in first place in August, but then let the Mets catch them, or the 1964 Phillies — whose late-season collapse remains legion. It’s hard to determine what ails the Pads: there haven’t been any blow-outs during the skid, but the team seems incapable of winning the close ones. In many ways, the Sunday tilt against the Rockies was typical: the pitching was solid (but not solid enough) and the Padres hit (but not exactly when they need to), and the team took the early lead — but couldn’t hold it. With the exception of a 5-0 skunking at the hands of the Phillies back on August 29 and an 11-5 disaster against the Diamondbacks (that started the meltdown) the Friars have been in nearly every game.
The Padres’ problem is what we always thought it would be — hitting. The Friars have scored just 23 runs in their ten game skid and have found it nearly impossible to hit with runners in scoring position, plating one run for every five chances. Ryan Ludwick was supposed to help solve the team’s RBI production problems but, after a solid start in his new digs, he just hasn’t done it. The right fielder, who the Padres picked up in a three-way swap with the Cardinals and Indians at the trade deadline, is known for his nose-in-the-dirt play and ability to compete in close games, but he’s hit .194 over the losing streak — a fall-off in production as sudden as it is unexplained. And don’t look now, but young hurler Wade LeBlanc (a solid starter to go with the likes of Mat Latos, Clayton Richard, Jon Garland and Kevin Correia) is in a free-fall. In ten starts since mid-July, LeBlanc has seen his ERA fall from 3.30 to 4.15. Ugh.
There’s a bright side, of course. The Padres are still in first place, the team’s starters are still “the best in the West” (and maybe in the entire National League), Bud Black is one of the savviest managers in the majors — and it ain’t over until it’s over. But the Padres have to be worried: they face the surging McCoveys seven times over the next four weeks (including a four game set this coming weekend) and the Rockies seem to have their number, having won 11 of 15 in their last meetings. The Padres face Colorado in a three game set in Denver starting next Monday — having just been swept by them in San Diego. “We’ll be fine — trust me,” Padres’ second sacker David Eckstein said in the midst of this most recent skid. And, you know, maybe he’s right. But in the sprint to the poll, and with the Giants and Rockies in their rear view mirror, the Padres need to start hitting.
(above: Ryan Zimmerman, AP Photo/Keith Srakocic. Below: David Eckstein in San Diego AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
September 5th, 2010 / Author: Mark
The hitting of Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez and the stellas pitching of John Lannan paced the Washington Nationals to a 9-2 victory over the Pirates at PNC Park on Saturday. Rodriguez led the Nats’ fifteen hit attack, with an opposite field home run, while John Lannan pitched seven complete — giving up only five hits. It was his best outing of the year and solidified his place in the rotation for 2011. “Pudge and I did a great job just mixing it up on both sides of the plate,” Lannan said after the game. “I threw some [four-seam fastballs] inside to righties and some [two-seam fastballs] into lefties. I had my changeup working again, and that’s been the pitch I’ve gone to if I was getting behind hitters. It kept them off-balance a little bit. You get a little more comfortable out there when your team puts up that many runs.”
Desmond Makes His Case: Washington Nationals’ rookie shortstop Ian Desmond is making a strong case for being considered as the N.L.’s premier rookie. But two obstacles stand in his way — he makes too many errors (31! — including two last night), and the competition is stiff. The early betting was that Atlanta’s Jason Heyward would win the award, and for a time it looked like he would. Heyward set the baseball world chattering through April and May, but his production fell off through the summer. Still: .282 with 16 home runs (and he’s only 20) could find him shoehorned into the top spot. The betting now seems to be that Buster Posey will get the nod — despite the fact that he started the season late. Tim Dierkes over at MLB Trade Rumors posted a list in April that included all of the good guesses, which included Heyward and Desmond, as well as Florida’s Gaby Sanchez, San Francisco’s Buster Posey, Chicago’s Starlin Castro, Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez, Washington’s Drew Storen (and Stephen Strasburg), and Cincinnati’s Mike Leake. That leaves out Cubbie Tyler Colvin, who’s having a tremendous year — he’s stroked 19 home runs.
You can make a strong case for Desmond, who has raised his batting average over the last month from the so-so mid-.260s to .287 — an unforeseen spike that, if it continues, could see the 24-year-old ending the season near .300. And Desmond has unpredicted power, line-driving nine home runs. That number could easily increase in 2011. Desmond’s long-ball potential is a plus for the Nats, who would gladly take a .280 batting average with a handful of home runs each year — but 20? 25? Desmond says that he patterns his play on the model provided by Empire glove man Derek Jeter and his numbers show it. While Jeter seems to be struggling for homers as he ages, the pinstriper once hit 24, a number well within reach of his younger apprentice. But Jeter’s value is his day-in-and-day-out crusade in the middle of the Yankees infield, his ability to play virtually injury free and his steady glove-work. Ah, and he has a .314 lifetime BA — which Desmond might find difficult to equal. Desmond is right to emulate his hero, but he has a long way to go to reach his level (cutting down on the errors would be the way to start). It’s the fielding stats that will likely doom Desmond in any final voting for the Jackie Robinson Award, which means that Giants workhorse Buster Posey will get the nod. It’s hard to argue with that choice — with a .328 batting average, he deserves it.
September 4th, 2010 / Author: Mark
Nationals fans got a glimpse of the team’s future double play combination on Friday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, as Danny Espinosa got the starting nod at second base. After spending most of three years in the minors (with stints in Vermont, Potomac, Harrisburg and Syracuse), Espinosa cashed in on his early-September call up by launching his first home run (in the top of the third inning) into the right field seats at PNC Park and turning a seamless double play at a position that he will play well into the future. The Desmond-Espinosa combo is likely to be the opening day up-the-middle defense for the Nats in 2011. Espinosa’s exposure at second base was the only piece of good news for the Nats on Friday night, however, as the Pirates beat up on steady starter Livan Hernandez, touching up the right hander for eight earned runs in just 4.1 innings. Hernandez was philosophical about his outing: “It’s not happening sometimes,” he said. “When it’s not your day, it’s not your day.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: We had plenty of responses from readers on our posting on Albert Pujols and Lou Gehrig, including complaints that we are “N.L.-centric” and that we purposely left out “the one guy who puts Albert to shame.” The reader went on a screed, saying that “Alex Rodriguez has better numbers, plays for a better team, has more awards and plays a more difficult position” than Pujols. “Pujols is a very, very good player,” the reader said. “But he’s no Alex Rodriguez.” So we checked the numbers. Rodriguez has 604 home runs in 17 seasons (Pujols has 401 in ten), has a career BA of .303 (Pujols is at .332), has a career OBP of .387 (Pujols is at .425) and has won three MVPs — the same number as Pujols. Albert doesn’t play for the Empire, but he’s played in two World Series, while Rodriguez has played in one. Pujols lags behind Albert in games played (of course), but all that this means is that Pujols (who’s played in 1530) has about 700 games (Rodriguez has played in 2278) to catch the pride of the Gothams in career home runs — and at this rate (of about 33 per year) he will. By our reckoning (and at the current rate), when Pujols has played in 2200 games, he will have hit just over 610 homers. The reader is right: Alex Rodriguez is a great player. In fact, he’s the second best player in baseball today.
September 3rd, 2010 / Author: Mark
You know your team is in trouble when the title articles on its official website talk about next year as if it’s already here. So it is with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are not only mired in last place in the N.L. Central (again) — but contending for honors as the worst team in baseball with the likes of the Birds and Mariners. Hence: “Craving experience, young Bucs welcome Nats,” is actually a stand-in wink and nod to Pirates fans that means “Come to the ballpark — because we actually might be able to beat these guys.” In truth, while Pirates’ pundits go on and on about how the two teams have a lot in common (“two teams that are trying to squeeze some positives out of a marathon season”), Nationals fans can take comfort in the fact that while the Anacostia Nine are bad, they’re not as bad as this year’s version of the Stargells — who are 44-89. 44-89? That puts the Pittsburgers several games back of the Ripkins for MLB last place honors.
It’s not as if Bucs fans don’t know it. Just yesterday, Raise the Jolly Roger (the most acerbic critic of the Pirates’ front office), actually celebrated the Pirates 5-3 loss to the Cubs by noting that “at least they looked like a team that knew what it was doing.” Rum Bunter (a whiz with photoshop), is (if anything), even more outraged; he painfully chronicles the fall of the 2010 Pirates by listing the five reasons they “suck” — and (surprise, surprise) four of the five have to do with pitching. Bucs Dugout, meanwhile, notes that while the Pirates have been terrible, they actually haven’t been terrible enough. Which is to say: being next-to-last in baseball means that they’ve missed out on the very best prospects (including Stephan Strasburg), while picking up talent that hasn’t panned out. So, if you want to look at it this way, being last in baseball this year might be just what the doctor ordered for a team with nowhere to go but up.
Doesn’t anyone have anything good to say about this team? Well . . . no. But there is some hope. Pittsburgh’s bloggers are abuzz with talk about Jose Tabata, a hot-hitting left fielder and former prospect in the Yankees organization, which signed him which he was just “16.” Tabata is hitting the cover off the ball, though it took him time to get started: he only arrived in the show in early June, and had trouble stringing together a good run. But now Tabata is the talk of Pittsburgh, and being mentioned in the same breath as other N.L. rookies: Florida’s Gaby Sanchez, Washington’s Ian Desmond, Atlanta’s Jason Heyward, and Chicago duo Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro. Of course (there’s always an “of course” when it comes to the Pirates), the celebration over the arrival of the young rookie (the “centerpiece” of a trade that sent Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady to the Empire), could be premature.
The rap on Tabata, an apparent leftover from yakkers in the Yankees’ minor league system, is that while the young Venezuelan has oodles and oodles of talent, he was lazy and had a bad attitude. That would have killed any thought of him playing in the Nats organization (Mike Rizzo hates the word “lazy”) but it didn’t matter to rehab specialist and Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington — who ignored the warnings, believing they were overstated. It appears the gamble has worked out. Tabata is now a featured sparkplug in the middle of a play-em-young-or-bust Pittsburgh philosophy. Yet. Yet, at the end of July a correspondent for Bleacher Report cited rumors circulating in Pittsburgh that the young phenom might not actually be that young. That instead of being 22 (his birthday is August 12) he might actually be all of 25 . . . or 26. Or, as BR says: “This is actually very important news as far as the Pirates and Tabata’s future development are concerned. If Tabata turns 22 on August 12th, he’s a hell of prospect, given his past minor performance, even if he isn’t much of a major league left-fielder today. On the other hand, if Tabata turns 25 on August 12th, he isn’t much of a prospect at all.”
A controversy? A scandal? Not for Pirates’ GM and resident player therapist Neal Huntington (insert snide comment about Nyjer Morgan here), who responded to the reports by issuing a non-clarification: Huntington said he has documentation showing that Tabata was born when he says he was born (take that!), but that even if the reports are true (ahem) it doesn’t matter. Or more pertinently: “Apart from unfounded speculation, there is nothing to indicate his age any different than reported,” Huntington said. “My point is that while we have reason to doubt his reported age, it is a non-issue to us.” Roughly translated: the only number we care about is the one in the column marked “BA.” Pirates fans would undoubtedly agree, as they have had little to cheer about this year, or last … or the year before that …
We can take a closer look tonight, when the Stargells begin a three game set against your Washington Nationals in Pittsburgh.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Letters and cards pored in from all over the globe, as our millions of worldwide readers were justly irritated that they couldn’t get on the site over the last 18 hours or so. Our board of directors (you remember our board of directors — right?) “instructed” (that is, demanded) that our crack technical team (and here they are) clean us up a tad bit, and so they did. It won’t happen again (of course it will, but never mind), but apologies nonetheless.
September 3rd, 2010 / Author: Mark
ESPN is reporting that Major League Baseball has suspended Nyjer Morgan for eight games for three separate incidents: for unnecessarily running into St. Louis catcher Bryan Anderson at home plate during a game in Washington, for directing ” inappropriate comments” towards fans in Florida on August 31 in Florida, and for charging the mound in the top of the 6th inning during that same game. The disciplinary action is in addition to a seven game suspension meted out to Morgan (which he is appealing) for throwing a baseball into the stands during a Nationals’ game at Philadelphia. The Nationals have had no immediate comment on the reported MLB action.
The MLB also reportedly handed down a six game suspension to Marlins’ pitcher Chris Volstad, a five game suspension to pitcher Alex Sanabia, a three game suspension to Gaby Sanchez and has fined Marlins’ pitcher Jose Veras. Nationals’ pitcher Doug Slaten was also suspended (for three games), as was skipper Jim Riggleman (two games, with a fine). Nationals’ third base coach Pat Listach was suspended (and fined) for three games, as was Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez (for three games –with a fine). Jim Riggleman will reportedly begin serving his suspension tonight, when the Nationals face off against the Pirates in Pitttsburgh.