Some ramblings while I’m watching the game…
A couple of weeks ago, I looked into getting a ticket for this game. Since it was scheduled to be a day game, I thought it would be cool to get a ticket, take an early train up to NY from DC, go to the game, and take the train back home at about 6:30-7:00. That would have gotten me back home sometime between midnight and 1 a.m. But I wasn’t able to find an affordable ticket on the Yankees web site, so I gave up on that idea. Fortunately for me, I didn’t think to check StubHub at that time, where I probably would have been able to find something affordable. Why is that fortunate? Because of the 5-hour 26-minute rain delay! By the time this game got underway at about 6:30, I would have been back at Penn Station, either boarding a train or getting ready to board one soon.
Right now, it’s the bottom of the 7th, and the Nationals are leading 3-0. The Yankees have 2 on with 1 out, and Hideki Matsui is at bat. This will be where the Yankees rally and take the lead…not necessarily this inning, but it’ll happen. This is, after all, the Nationals bullpen we’re talking about.
Update: Tavarez coming into the game? Get ready, Yankees fans…here comes the rally……
Update: OMG…I hope Brett Gardner will be OK. The MASN commentators are talking about his lower back, but it looked to me like hit his head. Ouch!! Hell of a catch too….
Update: I probably shouldn’t be so negative where the Nationals are concerned, but I’m a realist. I know how bad this team — specifically the bullpen — is. It’s the bottom of the 9th, and they only need 3 outs for a win, but they will find a way to blow it…or the defense will blow it. Not that this would be a bad thing, because the Yankees need to win tonight…..
Update: Umm…WHAT?!?! The Nationals won, 3-0? The Nationals WON??
Are you kidding me?!?!?
Once again, the Yankees made a young, unknown pitcher look like Cy Young. Rookie Craig Stammen got his first major league win, pitching a solid 6 and 1/3 innings of shutout baseball, giving up 6 hits with 2 strikeouts. The usually horrendous Nationals bullpen not only protected the lead by not giving up any runs, but Ron Villone, Julian Tavarez, and Joe Biemel didn’t even give up a hit. Mike MacDougal allowed 1 hit. Ryan Zimmerman and Cristian Guzman were 3-5 with 2 and 1 RBI, respectively. Adam Dunn, DH’ing again tonight, was 2-2 with 2 walks. Even the Nationals usually weak defense played well, with a diving catch by Willie Harris that robbed Alex Rodriguez of a hit, and a perfect throw by Austin Kearns from right field to second to get Nick Swisher out.
For the Yankees, Joba Chamberlain surrendered 3 runs in 6 innings, with 6 strikeouts and 3 walks. Alfredo Aceves, Phil Coke, and David Robertson combined to give up just 1 hit and no runs, but the damage was already done. Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher were 2-4; Swisher also grounded into a double play in the 9th inning. Derek Jeter pinch hit for Ramiro Pena with the bases loaded, but the Yankees best threat of the game ended when he grounded into a fielder’s choice. Brett Garner made an excellent catch at the wall to rob Austin Kearns of a hit, crashing into the wall and crumbling to the ground in the process. Considering how his head snapped back and hit the plexiglas wall, he was lucky that he didn’t lose consciousness. I hope he will be OK.
Tonight’s game was the first at Yankee Stadium this season in which no home runs were hit. I guess the baseballs were too wet to leave the park!
I officially suck at making predictions. As I mentioned earlier, I know I shouldn’t be so negative where the Nats are concerned, but I honestly believed that they would not win any of these games. Prior to the series, I thought they might have a slim chance to beat Chien-Ming Wang, but I didn’t expect even two wins, much less a sweep.
(Here goes my split personality again…..)
OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!! I’m freaking out here…I can’t believe the Nationals — the “lowly Nationals” — beat the Yankees TWICE. Going back to the 2006 Yankees/Nationals interleague series, the Nats are 4-2 vs. the Yankees! Chien-Ming Wang is 0-2 vs. the Nationals. WOW!! Unfreakingbelieveable! Maybe this will be a turning point for the team, and they will play more respectably for the rest of the season. If nothing else, it’s got to be a confidence builder!
WTF is wrong with the Yankees?! How is it possible that they lost this series to the worst team in baseball…one of the worst teams EVER?! It’s pathetic. A-Rod was 0-the series. The entire team is in a slump — great timing, to be slumping against a team that hasn’t even won 20 games by mid-June. If the Red Sox win again tonight, the Yankees will fall 4 games back in the division. Hell, the Blue Jays have swept the Phillies, so they’re breathing down our necks. This sucks!!! SNAP OUT OF IT, YANKEES!!
Jeez…what a series.
Busted Steroids Dealer Says He Sold to Caps, Nats
Washington Post, 5/27/2009
A man arrested in Florida yesterday for possession of anabolic steroids bragged to law enforcement officials that he has sold the performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes, including those on the Washington Capitals and Washington Nationals, according to a report from Tampa Bay Online.
The report said investigators aren’t sure if Richard Thomas of Lakeland, Fla., is telling the truth when he claimed he’s central Florida’s biggest steroid provider and sold to Capitals and Nationals players. Thomas did not name specific athletes, the report said.
The arrest of Thomas and his wife, Sandra, was announced last night by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd at a 10 p.m. news conference. Judd said $200,000 in illegal steroids were seized by detectives.
“The only thing he said specifically was he sold to the Washington Capitals and the Washington Nationals,” Judd said. “We asked him because we knew that would create a firestorm on two more occasions because we don’t want to be quoted as saying that. Richard Thomas told us that he sold steroids to ballplayers on those teams. Now, is that one ballplayer? Or is it two ballplayers? We don’t know.”…
I don’t mean to make light of this situation, because, if Thomas’ claims are true, this will be some serious sh*t. But really…if the 13-33 Nats are juicing, then they really should get their money back, because THE ‘ROIDS AREN’T HELPING.
On a more serious note, I would not be surprised if Adam Dunn and/or Elijah Dukes are found to be using steroids. Disappointed yes, surprised no. I would, however, be extremely shocked and disappointed to hear that Ryan Zimmerman was juicing.
One important point to keep in mind is that this drug dealer didn’t happen to mention when he supposedly sold steroids to players for the Nats and Caps. Assuming his claims are true, he could have sold them to players who are no longer with the teams.
Nats’ reactions to this story:
Nats React To Steroid Claims
Washington Post, 5/27/2009
By the time the Nats reported to Citi Field this afternoon, most had read or heard about the Lakeland, Fla., man who claims he sold performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes, including players on the Nationals and Capitals. But even the players who had an interest in the story still didn’t know the specifics.
“It’s just, what else can happen to us?” Adam Dunn said. “It’s just kind of piling on. Again, to me that is the last thing I’m worried about, some guy saying whatever he said about us.”
Mostly, players met the news with a mix of puzzlement and amusement. One quipped that all 25 players recently had dinner at Thomas’s Lakeland home.
“Look at that guy’s arms,” joked Austin Kearns said, motioning to teammate Josh Willingham. “Ask him about the steroids.”
Kearns, turning serious, then said, “I don’t really have a reaction. I don’t know who it is, I don’t know what he’s talking about or who he’s talking about. I just heard about it five minutes ago. I can’t even remember the guy’s name.”
At least a half-dozen former Washington players have been formally connected to performance-enhancing drugs, and current relief pitcher Ron Villone was named in the Mitchell Report. The Nationals are holding off on concern about Thomas’s claims, though, until Major League Baseball’s investigative unit gives them a reason to have any. The team does not plan to conduct an internal investigation, instead yielding to the league itself.
“All we’re going to say is that our own investigators will be looking into it,” MLB spokesman Rich Levin said. Asked if Major League Baseball’s investigators knew of Thomas before his arrest, Levin said, “Not that I’m aware of, no.”
Said Manager Manny Acta: “I know less than you guys know about this. I’m the wrong guy to talk about all this. All I know is what has been said in the paper, and we support Major League Baseball’s testing program. I think it’s good. It’s working. And if there is any truth to it, then it will come out.”
As if this season hasn’t already been crappy enough…now we have to deal with THIS crap.
Is interleague play really necessary anymore? In my opinion, the novelty has worn off. It was fun at first, but it’s just not as interesting as it initially was. This weekend, in particular — with some of the so-called “rivalries” games — was just…well, boring. Was anyone other than the fans of the respective teams really interested in the result of the series between the last place Nationals and the last place Orioles, or the result of the series between the last place A’s and the next-to-last place Diamondbacks? Of course, last place teams in each league do play other last place teams within their own leagues, but those aren’t hyped the way interleague series are hyped.
Another reason why I’m no longer a big fan of interleague play is because it creates a major, and possibly dangerous, disadvantage for AL teams when they play in NL ballparks. Thanks to the lack of a DH in the AL, pitchers don’t normally have to bat, and therefore aren’t used to running the bases. At best, they risk tiring sooner than they normally would; at worst, they risk injury. Remember, it was during interleague play last year when Chien-Ming Wang’s season ended due to a foot injury suffered while running the bases.
Fans generally still seem to enjoy interleague play, as evidenced by the fact that attendence rises for it. I googled “interleague play” tonight out of curiosity, and I found an article showing that ballplayers apparently are far less fond of interleague play than fans. According to Jayson Stark at ESPN.com:
Players we surveyed this week told Rumblings they would estimate the number of players who dislike interleague play is somewhere in the neighborhood of 70-75 percent.
Stark mentions several of the players’ complaints regarding interleague play, most of which make a lot of sense, IMO.
One suggestion made by a ballplayer caught my attention in that ESPN.com article.
Phillies pitcher Chad Durbin proposed an idea we’ve campaigned for forever: “Use the visiting team’s league rules,” he said. “Show the fans something unique.”
I think that’s pretty interesting. It would definitely be unique.
What do you think? Do you still find interleague play fun and/or interesting?
Yankees vs. Phillies
The home run total at the Bronx Bandbox increased by 12 during the weekend interleague series between the Yankees and the Phillies — 6 by each team — as the Yankees lost 2 of 3 games to the Phillies. There have been 87 home runs already at Yankee Stadium, and it’s not even at the end of May. Just imagine how the home runs will be flying out of the park once the temperature and humidity go up later in the season!
Friday: the Yankees lost, 7-3, in a game that included a total of 7 home runs. The testosterone level on the field skyrocketed on the field in the 1st inning when Brett Myers threw a pitch behind Derek Jeter, in obvious retaliation after A.J. Burnett hit Chase Utley in the shoulder. The plate umpire then warned both dugouts. Personally, I think it’s ridiculous to throw a pitch at a batter. If you hit him, you give the opposing team a baserunner, and you risk injuring him. Why not just have the pitcher and hitter drop their pants, whip it out to see which one is bigger, and then get on with the game.
Chien-Ming Wang was activated before the game, replaced Burnett in the 7th inning. He threw 51 pitches, giving up 2 runs (including a home run) on 6 hits. His pitches had more velocity, but his location was off a bit. Maybe he’s just rusty?
Saturday: the Yankees were victorious in a 5-4 come from behind win. Those 9th inning comebacks seem to be becoming a Yankees trademark this season. Oh, and “only” 4 home runs were hit in that game.
Sunday: the Yankees lost, 4-3, in 11 innings, before a crowd of 46,986. That’s the largest Yankee Stadium crowd since opening day. Melky Cabrera did his best to be the hero for the second night in a row, hitting a game-tying single in the 9th inning. But it wasn’t meant to be…no wild celebration for the Yankees after this game. CC Sabathia pitched very well, allowing just 3 runs on 9 hits over 8 innings. But with two outs and the score tied in the 11th inning, Brett Tomko walked Chase Utley, and after Utley stole second, Carlos Ruiz doubled to score Utley. The Yankees were unable to score in the bottom of the 11th.
Interleague play resumes for the Yankees on June 12th, vs. the Mets at Yankee Stadium.
Nationals vs. Orioles
The Battle of the Beltways — i.e., the interleague series between the Nationals and the Orioles — wasn’t quite as much of a snoozer as I thought it would be. Yes, both teams stink, and the games probably held very little interest for anyone other than Nats or O’s fans. But the Nationals starting pitchers had very good games on Friday and Saturday, although the usually prolific offense fell asleep on those nights in losses to the Orioles. However, the offense woke up in time to bail out a less than spectacular effort from Sunday’s starter to prevent a sweep.
Friday: the Nationals lost, 4-2 in 12 innings. Jordan Zimmermann had the longest start of his young career, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits over 7 innings. Zimm2 walked 1, struck out 7, and gave up a home run. But the Nationals offense took the night off, scoring just 2 runs (on Ryan Zimmerman’s 4th inning homer, with Nick Johnson on 1st). It would be easy to blame the bullpen again for this loss…but if the offense had not fallen asleep, the game’s outcome might have been different.
Saturday: I was at this game, a 2-1 loss, getting to see Ross Detweiler for myself. He did not disappoint, with a 6 inning, 1 hit and 1 run performance. Justin Maxwell sparkled on defense with an outstanding catch above and over the wall in centerfield, robbing Brian Roberts of a home run. Julian Tavarez gave up a run in the 7th to give the Orioles a lead that they never lost. The Nats’ normally porous bullpen prevented the Orioles from scoring additional runs, but for the second night in a row, the Nationals offense took the night off. Another game…another loss. Ho hum.
Sunday: I was at this game as well, an 8-5 victory to avoid the sweep. Shairon Martis did not have his A-game, but his offense finally woke up and let him off the hook. His defense helped him out as well…in particular, a leaping catch in front of the out-of-town scoreboard in right field by Austin Kearns, robbing Nick Markakis of a hit in the first inning. Martis also helped himself out with an RBI single in the 5th inning, scoring Wil Nieves to tie the score at 3. Adam Dunn got it done with 2 homers, including a grand slam in the 7th inning after the Orioles intentionally walked Ryan Zimmerman to get to Dunn. Anderson Hernandez added to the defensive highlights with a spectacular diving catch of a Brian Roberts line drive in the 8th inning. Wonder of wonders, Ron Villone, Joe Beimel, and Joel Hanrahan combined to shut down the Orioles over the last 3 innings — no hits, no walks, no runs. Amazing!!
Interleague play resumes for the Nationals on June 12th at Tampa Bay.
Yep, baseball’s worst team beat baseball’s best team. (I know…I can’t belive it either!)
One way to keep the Nationals dreadful bullpen from giving away a lead and a game is for the starter to pitch a complete game. That’s exactly what Shairon Martis did on Saturday, and the Nationals defeated the Cardinals, 6-1. In fact, Martis took a no-hitter into the 5 inning, until Yadier Molina singled. Until this game, the 22 year old Martis had never pitched more than 6 1/3 innings. He struck out 6 and did not allow a walk in his 110-pitch effort. This game was the first complete-game win for a Nationals pitcher since 8/15/2006, when Pedro Astacio beat the Braves.
An assist, so to speak, should be given to Cardinals first baseman Chris Duncan, who dropped what would have been out #3 of the 5th inning. With the Nats leading 1-0 and Cristian Guzman on first, Ryan Zimmerman popped up into foul territory. Instead of being the final out of the inning, he got one more chance at bat when Duncan dropped the ball. Zimm made the Cardinals pay for that error by hitting a single. Adam Dunn then hit a 3-run home run into the upper deck in right field, above the Nationals bullpen. The Nationals added two more runs in the 8th inning when Elijah Dukes scored on an Austin Kearns triple and Kearns scored on and Anderson Hernandez single.
Speaking of Hernandez, he had the #1 web gem on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight…an incredible diving catch in the first inning. That catch was also #4 of the top plays on ESPN’s Sports Center. (Simeon Varlamov’s save in the Capitals’ win over the Penguins was #1 — see below.)
I was lucky enough to be at this game…it was a great one! What a performance by Martis! And the scattered showers that had been in the forecast for the afternoon did not materialize, which was nice for a change.
Of course, I have tickets for Sunday’s game as well, and there is once again rain in the forecast for the afternoon. The chance of rain is 70% for “later in the day”…so I hope that means the rain will wait until after the game is over.
Gotta give a shout out to the Washington Capitals, who won defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-2, in Game 1 of the NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals. GO CAPS!!!!
One more thing. As a lifelong Washington Redskins fan, I absolutely despise the Dallas
Cowchips Cowboys. But I was relieved to hear that no one was critically injured (or worse) when the roof of the Cowboys practice facility collapsed on Saturday afternoon during a storm. Several injuries do sound serious — including the broken vertebrae suffered by special teams coach Joe DeCamillis — but the reports about the incident say that everyone is expected to recover. I wish everyone who was injured in the incident a speedy and complete recovery.
The Nationals will be a better team in 2009 than they were in 2008. Of course, after losing more games than any team in the majors last year and finishing the season 32.5 games out of first place in the NL East, with a 59-102 record (the final game was rained out), they couldn’t get much worse…they almost have to be better. If the Nats can gain an additional 11 wins over last year, they would finish 2009 with a 70-92 record…certainly not enough to put the team into contention for a pennant, but still an improvement. The Nationals have a long way to go before they will be in a position to challenge their division rivals for the pennant. The baby steps will begin this season.
One of highlights of the Nationals spring training was the departure of embattled general manager Jim Bowden. His departure has enabled the team to focus on baseball, rather than the negative publicity that surrounded the Nats in general and Bowden in particular. Two other spring training highlights were the overall performaces by rookies Shairon Martis and Jordan Zimmermann, who earned the 4th and 5th spots, respectively, in the starting rotation based on their strong showings this spring.
The starting rotation will be…well, an adventure. John Lannan pitched pretty well for the Nationals last season, considering the overall performance of the team. He has pitched well this spring and was named as the opening day starter. I like John Lannan…he’s a tough kid, nothing seems to faze him. He was one cool customer during his rookie season in 2007 when facing Barry Bonds, who had yet to hit his record breaking home run. That was enough of a reason to make me a fan. I like the fact that he bounces right back after poor starts, not allowing them to bother him. That said, Lannan is the team’s #1 starter pretty much by default…the Nationals simply don’t have anyone who’s better just yet. I’ve seen some local baseball writers refer to Lannan as the Nationals’ “ace” — he is absolutely not an ace. On a stronger team, he would be a 4th or 5th starter. As for the rest of the staff, newcomer and fellow lefty Scott Olsen’s numbers last year with the Marlins were similar to Lannan’s, so he, too, should be adequate. His strength is the fact that he’s an innings eater, which, if that trend continues, should help the bullpen. Olsen hasn’t had a particularly impressive spring, so I must admit that I’m a bit concerned how he’ll perform once the games start to count. Former Baltimore Oriole Daniel Cabrera, the elder statesman of the starting rotation at age 27, will be a wild card, with the emphasis on “wild.” He’s a hard thrower who gives up too many walks; there’s a reason why the Orioles gave up on him. He’s had an unimpressive spring training; Nats fans will just have to cross our fingers and hope for the best when Cabrera is on the mound. The really interesting part of the Nationals rotation this year will be the performances of Martis and Zimmermann, who both could end up being future aces for the team. They both were very impressive during spring training, which is what got them into the starting rotation in Washington rather than in Syracuse.
The bullpen got a boost when acting GM Mike Rizzo acquired lefty Joe Beimel from the Dodgers. Beimel is a welcome addition to a weak bullpen. he should be a good set-up man for closer Joel Hanrahan. Speaking of which, Hanrahan became the closer by default last year after Chad Cordero was injured and John Rauch was traded and pitched well enough in the closer role to retain that job this season. How he will perform over an entire season remains to be seen. He’ll probably be effective, but Mariano Rivera he is not.
The offense last year was horrendous, because of injuries and just flat out poor hitting. Adam Dunn, the Nationals’ biggest offseason acquisition, will improve the starting lineup, as will/should Nick Johnson, who appears to be fully recovered from the wrist injury he suffered last season. If the injury prone Johnson can remain healthy, he’ll provide a big boost to the team, both offensively and defensively. But that is a HUGE if and, in my opinion, a huge gamble. The rest of the lineup, with the exception of Cristian Guzman (who hit .316 last year) needs to step up their performances and score some runs for the offense to improve significantly.
The outfield may end up looking like a game of musical chairs, with a surplus of outfielders. Five players — Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, and Josh Willingham — are vying for three outfield spots and for at-bats. And Willie Harris will be in the mix at times as well. It should make for an interesting season.
Unless the other teams in the NL East completely fall apart, the Nationals will not be contenders this year, and probably not next year either. But there will be some interesting things for Nats fans to keep our eyes on:
* The development and maturation of Jordan Zimmermann and Shairon Martis. Will their spring training success continue through the regular season? Will either (or both) of them evolve into a bonafide ace for the Nationals?
* Adam Dunn’s home run production. For the last 5 straight years, Dunn has hit at least 40 home runs. Will that streak continue?
* Ryan Zimmerman. Will this finally be the year that the so-called “face of the franchise” Ryan Zimmerman finally earns that title, by proving that he is a great player rather than just a good one? And will Zimmerman’s defense finally be dazzling enough to earn him a gold glove?
* Overall team health. Nationals Park resembled a hospital ward last season. Nearly all of the Nats key offensive players, including Johnson, Zimmerman, and Dukes, spent time on the disabled list. Will the Nationals remain healthy this year?
I wish I could say that I think the Nationals will improve enough to climb out of the NL East cellar in 2009. But, realistically speaking, I don’t think that will happen. I think the Nationals record will be 75-87, a huge improvement over last year, but not enough to avoid finishing in last place again.