Posts Tagged ‘Jason Bergman’

The Silence of the Lambs

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Livan Hernandez pitched his perfectly predictable and steady six innings on Wednesday, but like lambs to slaughter, the Nats’s were sheared by Philadelphia hitters in a 6-1 loss. The bullpen was once again the problem: while Hernandez pitched six innings of seven hit ball, and kept the Anacostia Nine in the game, the normally competent Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett and Jason Bergman could not master the Phillies’ order. As always, Nats’ killer Jayson Werth proved a difficult out. In the bottom on the seventh, Werth put a Bergman pitch into the seats in left center that put the Nats down by five. “I made a mistake,” Bergmann said. “I threw the wrong pitch in the wrong spot. I was ahead of him. I should have thrown my pitch. I was trying to throw a bouncing slider down and away. We all know it was not a down-and-away slider. It was a hanger. I threw him one before that and he had a look at it. He could see it coming.”

But the problem was not so much Werth as it was (yet again) the lack of timely Nats hitting; or rather, the lack of any kind of hitting at all. The team’s biggest hitters are struggling, flailing at the plate at pitches out of the zone. Worse still, the hitting drought (which has reached epic proportions over the last five games), has built an environment of clubhouse frustration. Ryan Zimmerman, though not normally so talkative, summarily and glumly waved away reporter requests for post-game interviews. Zimmerman had good reason for being frustrated — but so do Nats fans: the middle of the Washington line-up have been mimes in Philly, though last night’s drama was the worst yet. Guzman, Dunn, Zimmerman and Willingham (who might normally strike terror into the hearts of opposing pitchers) bleated their way to a pathetic 0 for 15 on the night.  

Zimmerman’s uncharacteristic frustration followed a team lecture by interim manager Jim Riggleman, whose own irritation was much more public: “We have a good ballclub, and this good ballclub just found ways to shoot itself in the foot and lose a ballgame, which adds to the record, the negativity and allows people to write those [negative] things,” Riggleman said. “Our record does not indicate the quality we have. That ballgame did not indicate the ballgame that it was. It’s 2-0 for a long time, and now it ends up 6-1, and it looks like the worst team in baseball again. I’m just reminding our players that when you make those many mistakes in a ballgame, you are going to allow those things to be said, and we have to be accountable for that.”

Albert’s Walk Off… and “Buck’s Plan”

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

albert-pujols

John Lannan’s stellar eight inning performance on Friday night — which should have led to a Nats’ win — was reversed with one swing of Albert Pujols’ bat in the ninth inning, as our Anacostia Nine lost to the St Louis Cardinals 3-2. But after the game, it wasn’t Pujols’ walk-off home run, given up by Jason Bergman, that Lannan regretted, but his own eighth inning pitch that pinch hitter Khalil Greene muscled out of Busch Stadium that tied the game at two. Greene, who has struggled all season (and is hitting near the Mendoza line) came to the plate with Lannan clearly in control, but lifted a Lannan pitch that was up in the zone into the Busch Stadium bleachers. The homer shocked Lannan as much as it energized the St. Louis crowd. Without that homer, Lannan speculated, he might have made it into the ninth: and the Nats’ loss might easily have counted as a win.

Lannan was nearly spectacular: reversing a series of indifferent outings. He threw only 91 pitches, more than two-thirds of them for strikes. “That was more like what we saw earlier in the year,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said of Lannan’s performance. “He was outstanding against a good hitting ballclub. He got a lot of ground balls. He pitched a great ballgame. He got behind on Khalil Greene, and Khalil has a little power. And he had to put one in there, and Khalil took advantage of it. That was the big blow.” In fact, the big blow came one inning later, against Jason Bergman, who served up a classic in-the-wheelhouse pitch to Pujols, who rarely misses. Bergman’s third pitch of the night was his last, as Pujols’ jacked just one under the second deck in left field.

Down On Half Street: Last Monday, “Baseball Tonight’s” Buck Showalter presented his plan to realign major league baseball, arguing that the “integrity of the MLB schedule could use an overhaul.” The way to do that, Showalter argued, is to get rid of two weak teams (the Ray and Marlins), do something about the DH (either keep it or get rid of it) and realign the league into four divisions of seven teams each. The divisions would be renamed for Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Roberto Clemente and Jackie Robinson. Each team would play every other team exactly six times: three home and three away and because the teams are geographically aligned, the economic savings would be obvious. Not bad. It’s a compelling idea and shouldn’t dismissed. So watch the video, it’s entertaining. The former Rangers’ skipper is right about baseball’s current problems: the schedule is badly unbalanced, attendance is weak in at least four markets and it makes no sense for (say) the Red Sox and Yankees to play each other eighteen times.

There’s been a lot of comment about Showalter’s plan, most of it negative. Umpbump points out that Showalter’s plan worsens the problem it’s intended to solve: “None of the alleged benefits of these new divisions that Buck and [Steve] Berthiaume spend so much time praising will come to pass at all if each team plays every other team exactly 6 times. Teams will have to fly farther, more often, fans will have even more games outside their time zone they’ll have to stay up late for, and regional rivalries will be much reduced because the fans will only see that rival team three times a year.” Bleacher Report, meanwhile, rightly reports the obvious: “Some of the teams who don’t win now would go out of the frying pan and into the fire. The Nationals would not only still have to compete with the Mets and Phils, but they would pick up the Yanks and Red Sox as division rivals.” The Fair Ball notes that convincing the owners in Tampa and Miami that they should cash it in for the good of baseball is probably not going to work. (Truth is, if I had my way, I’d get rid of the Toronto Blue Jays, but only because I can’t stand them.)

Buck

Realignment in baseball is worth doing, but radical realignment isn’ possible — and it isn’t necessary. It’s time to kick the Brewers back into the American League (to help resolve the problems caused by the unbalanced schedule), get rid of the D.H. (add an extra player to each team’s roster in five years, to satisfy the players’ union), work with weak franchises to ensure the building of new stadiums (like Tampa), negotiate an increase in the luxury tax on high salary teams (and require recipients of the tax to spend it on player development) and allow teams to trade draft picks in the first year player draft. These are fairly modest proposals and they’ve been heard before: their chief elegance is that they’re actually doable.  

Still, there’s something about the Showalter proposal that is oddly compelling. It keeps you awake at night, thinking about the possibilities. Is it true that putting the Nats in “The Babe Ruth Division” consigns them to interminable mediocrity, with little hope of ever seeing the postseason? I wondered this last night, eyes staring at the ceiling, as I heard St. Louis fans cheer as Albert Pujols circled the bases. And I began to think about what the Nats might do in “The Babe Ruth Division,” say, next year. And it occurred to me. It might not be so bad. So instead of grouping the teams alphabetically (as Showalter had done in his presentation), I ranked them in order of predicted finish for the 2010 season.

So. Whaddayathink?

The Babe Ruth Division: 2010 Season

1. New York Yankees
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. New York Mets
4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. Washington Nationals

6. Baltimore Orioles
7. Boston Red Sox

Pretty good prediction, eh?

Friars Sizzle Nats

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

The San Diego Padres capitalized on four Washington Nationals’ errors Friday night to take the first of a three-game set from our Anacostia Boys, 6-2. After taking two of three from the Mets, the Nats reverted to the sloppy defense that had characterized the first part of their season: two errant throws to first base, a dropped pop-up in foul territory and the misplay of a rolling double in the left field corner. That’s one error on Garrett Mock, one on Jason Bergman, one error on catcher Josh Bard and one on left fielder Adam Dunn. “It was just a bad effort,” interim Manager Jim Riggleman said after the game.

Trade Winds: The St. Louis Cardinals got their man, trading three prospects to the Oakland A’s for outfielder Matt Holliday. The key to the trade for Oakland was the acquistion of third baseman Brett Wallace, who may eventually end up at first for the white elephants. The former Rockie, Holliday paid immediate dividends for the Redbirds, going four for five with one RBI in the Cardinals 8-1 win over the Phillies. Beset by uncertainty over their own financial situation — and with ownership of the ballclub undetermined — the Cubs will have difficulty matching the Cardinals’ upgrade. The Holliday trade reflects the kind of mid-season moves that both the Cards and Cubs are noted for: needing a big bat in May of last year, the Cubs signed free agent Jim Edmonds — a move that fueled their run to the NL Central flag. This year, it’s the Astros who need the bat, particularly after it was announced that Astros’ first baseman Lance Berkman was being sent to the DL for a calf strain.

 

New Redbird Matt Holliday Went 4-5 Friday (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

New Redbird Matt Holliday Went 4-5 Friday (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

The news in the NL Central will have an immediate impact on the Nats: it effectively takes the Cardinals out of the running for Adam Dunn (whose availability they reportedly inquired about this last week), while Berkman’s injury puts Nick Johnson on the table for the Astros. Houston called up Edwin Maysonet from triple-A Round Rock to take Berkman’s place, but he’s not the answer at first. The regular first base backup is Darin Erstad, but he’s also injured. Johnson seems a perfect fit for the Astros, with his high OBP and good glove. Astros’ players say they will “step up” to replace Berkman, but it will be difficult to replicate his numbers. “I’ll just say Lance, being honest and sincere, is a piece of our team that is going to be difficult to replace,” Astros’ outfielder Carlos Lee, who leads the team in RBIs, said. “The quality of player and what he means to this lineup, it’s going to be difficult to replace Lance. I think we’ll have to get it together and carry all the weight.”

Trade rumors involving Nationals’ players have escalated over the last week: the Phillies are said to be interested in Josh Willingham, the Tigers in Willingham and Dunn and, most recently, the Rangers have reportedly sent scouts to look at Nationals’ hitters. The Nats are said to be looking for “prospects” — primarily pitchers. The trade of Willingham to the Phillies becomes less likely if the Phuzzies pony up a handful of their best prospects (and pitcher J.A. Happ) to Toronto for Roy Halladay. And shipping Dunn or Willingham to Detroit (where the Nats are said to be scouting the Tigers’ double-A affiliate) seems perverse — trading players who are actually performing for a bunch of 21-year-olds who might (or might not) turn into major league players. That we got. Then too, a trade of Willingham to either Philly or Detroit means that we will be forced to watch a struggling Austin “Mendoza” Kearns (.198) learn how to hit. A good decision — but only if you want to drive what’s left of your fanbase out of the ballpark.