It’s been a while…over two months, in fact…but I’m back. Real life intruded upon my online time — work issues and personal issues kept my online time limited to just my message board for the most part, but I’m hoping that everything is resolved now, and I’ll be able to make regular contributions to this blog once again.
Let’s see…what has happened since my last blog entry? Well, starting with the Yankees:
With a sweep of the Twins in early July, the Yankees tied the Red Sox for the lead in the AL East for one game, surrendering the lead the very next day with the first of three losses to the Angels. Less than two weeks later, a win over the Orioles pushed the Yankees into another tie for first in the AL East with the Red Sox. The Yankees have been in first place ever since, and despite losing their first eight games against Boston this season, they now hold a 9-game lead over the Red Sox. Since my last blog post, the Yankees have had winning streaks of 7 games three times and an 8 game winning streak, with no losing streaks longer than 3 games.
As for the Nationals:
Suckrahan Hanrahan and Lastings Milledge were traded to the Pirates for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett, giving the Nationals the centerfielder they’ve needed all season. Manager Manny Acta got the boot just before the All-Star game and was replaced by bench coach Jim Riggleman. Shortly thereafter, the Nationals front office sent a “We admit that we suck, but we’re trying not to suck quite so much” email to all season ticket holders and all fans who purchased Nationals tickets or merchandise online. The Nationals were 6-10 in July after Riggleman took over for Acta, and were 14-15 in August, including an 8-game winning streak in early August. The Nats traded Nick Johnson — the last remaining connection to the Montreal Expos — to the Marlins for minor league pitcher Aaron Thompson. Starting pitchers Scott Olsen, Jordan Zimmermann, Craig Stammen, and Collin Balester were lost for the season to injuries (shoulder surgery for Olsen, Tommy John surgery for Zimmernann, arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur int he elbow for Stammen, and an intercostal strain of his left
side for Balester). In need of an innings eater, and/or overtaken by nostalgia, the Nats signed pitcher (and former National) Livan Hernandez after he was released by the Mets. Oh, and the Nationals signed their number 1 draft choice — perhaps you’ve heard of him? — some guy named Stephen Strasburg.
Yep, that about covers it.
The Nationals lost to the Rays on Saturday, 8-3, after giving up 7 runs in the bottom of the 6th inning. With the Nats leading 2-1, Jason Bergmann replaced Jordan Zimmermann. Zimm2 had pitched fairly well after being scratched from his previous start due to minor elbow soreness. But he was on a strict pitch count and had thrown 92 pitches through his 5 innings of work, so in came Bergmann for the 6th inning. 18 pitches and 5 runs (including 2 home runs) later, Bergmann was removed from the game without recording an out and was replaced by Jesus Colome, who then gave up 2 more runs.
Bergmann was “rewarded” for his effort by being sent down to triple A Syracuse. His replacement is Kip Wells, who just came off the DL. I wish the Nats would bring up Tyler Clippard, who has pitched very well in AAA. Pitching well in AAA doesn’t guarantee success in the majors, of course, but he sure as hell couldn’t be any worse than the drek that’s already in the Nats’ bullpen.
Regarding last night’s 5-4 loss to the Rays, completing the sweep in St. Petersburg, the Nationals find all kinds of ways to lose, or at least to suck.
Way #1: Ben Zobrist hit a foul ball in the 8th inning. Willie Harris, playing 3rd base because Ryan Zimmerman was the DH, attempted to make the catch while running towards his bullpen. Unfortunately, the bullpens are in foul territory (I’ve never understood why a Major League ballpark would have its bullpens on the field…but I digress…), and the Nats’ bullpen catcher could not get out of the way fast enough. Harris tripped over him and failed to make the catch. Zobrist ended up striking out, so that mishap ultimately didn’t matter, other than to be one more display of suckitude from the Nationals.
Way #2: Pinch hitter Willie Aybar got a double when a ground ball that appeared to be headed for Harris’ glove at 3rd instead bounced off the base and went into left field. Carlos Pena then scored the go-ahead run.
This kind of crap only happens to the Nationals, who have lot 15-18 of their last 18 games. This was the 7th series in which the Nats have been swept this season.
The big news in Natstown (jeez, I hate that nickname….) is really just a strong rumor so far, which is that manager Manny Acta will be fired very soon. Per a report on foxsprts.com:
Manny Acta’s time as manager of the Washington Nationals is just about over, according to major-league sources.
Acta will be by replaced bench coach Jim Riggleman, as originally reported on FOX Saturday Baseball. The only question is when. It could be a matter of days….
Riggleman has managed for the Padres, Cubs and Mariners….
Riggleman’s record as a manager is 522-652.
Interesting comments from Nationals Team President Stan Kasten in the Washington Post’s Nationals Journal:
Hours before Saturday’s game against Tampa, a Fox Sports report, citing major league sources, suggested that Acta will be fired by week’s end and replaced with bench coach Jim Riggleman. Team president Stan Kasten neither confirmed nor denied the report, saying, “I would never talk about personnel, because I don’t. I’ve been asked a variation of that question (about Acta’s job security) — from some media outlet — almost every day since the first week of the season. And if I had a policy to talk about personnel, I’d have to do that story every single day.
“Having said that, I can’t tell you how perplexed I am by this season and this team and the things that are going on. And our record is, you know, very troubling for me every single day ….. So yeah, I’m troubled by everything. We continue to look for solutions. Have I thought about every possible recourse? I have. As has [acting general manager] Mike [Rizzo], as have our owners. We’re certainly not satisfied with our record; far from it. We’re distraught over it and we’re going to consider everything we need to do to make it better.”
One would assume that Mr. Kasten would defend his manager and vehemently deny the Acta-to-be-fired rumors if those rumors were not true. So…the Acta watch continues.
I stated here that that I thought it was time for Acta to go. For the most part, I still believe this, because I believe that a change is desperately needed. However, someone posted a comment on the above item in Nationals Journal, pointing out that the Nats record isn’t entirely Acta’s fault — “Casey Stengel couldn’t manage this team to a .500 record.” He has a point. This team just flat out stinks. Firing the pitching coach has made little difference. Firing Acta may just be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Whatever happens, I wish it would happen soon. Leaving Acta to twist in the wind is unfair to him (as well as the team), and it also feeds the notion of complete ineptitude on the part of the Nationals front office.
According to SI.com, the Nationals are supposedly considering Bobby Valentine as a replacement for Acta. Bobby Valentine?! Oh my. Too bad such a change couldn’t be made in time for the Nationals/Yankees series. Bobby Valentine vs. Joe Girardi would be highly entertaining!
Phillies 5, Nationals 4
Despite taking an early 1-0 lead over the Phillies on Josh Willingham’s solo home run in the second inning, the Nationals lost their 34th game of the season, 5-4, on Friday night. Ross Detweiler had a rough night, giving up 5 runs on 10 hits in 4 innings. To their credit (and my shock!), the 5 members of the Nationals bullpen who pitched in relief of Detweiler did not give up any additional runs. Too bad Detweiler himself happened to pitch like crap.
A lot of Nationals fans have complained in blogs and on message boards that manager Manny Acta doesn’t care about winning…that losing doesn’t seem to bother him. I’m not a mind-reader, so I can’t get into his head to know what he’s really thinking. I’m sure the losing bothers him…he just doesn’t show it. I wish he would show it…I wish he’d get angry now and then. I’m not talking about an Earl Weaver-esque rant or rampage, but just show some fire. Maybe the team might pick up on it and show some fire themselves.
Frankly, even if Acta does start to show some fire and sparks, it will be too little, too late. The time has come for Acta to go. I realize that it’s not Acta who is leaving those runners on base, giving up those walks and home runs, and committing those errors. But the entire team cannot be fired, so someone has to take the blame when a team performs as poorly as the Nationals have performed. Unfortunately, the manager is the one to take the blame.
The Diamondbacks fired Bob Melvin on May 7th, when their record was 12-17. After they had played 29 games, the Nationals record was 10-19. The Rockies fired Clint Hurdle yesterday, when their record was 18-28. After they had played 46 games, the Nationals record was 13-33. I’m guessing that the only reason why Acta still has a job is because the Nationals still just have an acting GM. And I’ve heard talk on Nationals blogs and message boards that the Nats will not make a decision about their GM until after the June draft. So for the near future, we Nationals fans will just have to continue dealing with Acta’s mismanagement of his pitching staff and bullpen, and his seemingly lackidasical attitude towards all of the errors, poor pitching, and losing.
Yankees 3, Indians 1
On the other hand, the Yankees defeated the Indians yesterday, 3-1. The good news is that the win moved the Yankees into sole posession of first place in the AL East; the bad news is that Andy Pettitte was taken out of the game in the 6th inning because of a strained back. It doesn’t appear to be anything serious, and he’ll probably be able to make his next start. But Andy isn’t as young as he used to be, and those aches and pains do come along more easily and more often.
Jorge Posada came off the DL and re-joined the Yankees lineup. He was 2-3 with a walk and a strikeout. Hip hip Jorge!
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.
OK, for the time being, I will refrain from referring to Joel Hanrahan as Joel Suckrahan. He actually got a save tonight as the Nationals avoided a second straight 4-game sweep by beating the Pirates, 5-4.Not that
Suckrahan Hanrahan pitched well — he did not — but he somehow managed to keep the Pirates from scoring in the 9th inning.
I was at tonight’s game. Not only did the Nats win, but for just the second time this season, I didn’t have to deal with a rain delay. In fact, the weather was perfect!
Tonight’s game marked the major league debut of Craig Stammen, whose performance was actually better than his line indicates. Stammen pitched into the 7th inning, giving up 4 runs on 4 hits (including a home run), with a walk and 3 strikeouts. He was perfect through 4 innings before finally giving up a hit, and eventually a run, in the 5th. Things fell apart for Stammen in the 7th inning when he began to tire, and the Pirates took the lead. Manny Acta probably left him in the game a couple of pitchers too long, but considering how horrendous our bullpen is, I really can’t blame him for being hesitant to take Stammen out. Despite that 7th inning, Stammen was very impressive…he worked fast and threw strikes. That’s not something that can be said about any of Daniel Cabrera’s efforts this season.
I was ready to leave the game after the 7th inning. I had witnessed Stammen’s debut, so I was pleased. But the Pirates had taken the lead, and Stammen was out of the game, and I had little faith that the bullpen would prevent any additional scoring. I went to the bathroom and was on my way to the gate when someone with a funnel cake walked by me. I loooooooove funnel cakes (yes, I know they are bad for me…they are nothing but fried fat covered with sugar…but they are soooo gooooood…..). Seeing that funnel cake made me want one, so I did get a funnel cake. I sat at one of the picnic tables behind section 142 (or thereabouts) to eat it while watching the game. But then the Nats took the lead once more, so I ended up sticking around until the end of the game.
It was nice to see the Nats battle back in the 8th inning to regain the lead. Ryan Zimmerman’s single scored Cristian Guzman, and Adam Dunn got it done with a single that scored Nick Johnson. And I have to mention the nice catch Zimm made in foul territory for the first out in the 6th inning. He leaned over the rail and grabbed a ball that otherwise would have dropped into the front row of seats. I checked out the video of it when I got home from the game…a fan in the front row looked like he was going to try to catch the ball but pulled back at the last moment, allowing Zimm to make the catch. After he caught the ball, Zimm gestured towards the fan to thank him for not interferring. That was pretty funny!
And then came the 9th inning and Joel
Suckrahan Hanrahan. Adam LaRoche hit a fly ball to deep center, driving Willie Harris all the way to the wall to make the catch (whew…thanks, Willie!), and then Brandon Moss singled. Pretty much everyone in the ballpark figured that was it…Joel was about to blow another one. But he got the final two K’s, much to the crowd’s delight, and the Nationals were finally winners. The seven game losing streak is history.
Next up…interleague play with the Orioles coming to DC, in the Battle of the Beltways. Two crappy, last place teams…[sarcasm] boy oh boy, this should be an exciting series! [/end sarcasm]
Crap…apparently, I jinxed Julian Tavarez.
When responding to Julia’s comment about him HERE, I said that he didn’t suck as much as the rest of the Nats’ relievers. And then he gave up 5 runs (2 earned) in the 9th inning of last night’s loss to the Cardinals. Of course, the damage wouldn’t have been so bad if Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman had been able to catch the balls hit in their direction and if Jesus Flores hadn’t dropped Cristian Guzman’s throw home. *sigh*
And then, to rub salt into the wound, Joel Suckrahan replaced Tavarez and balked a run home and gave up the final run on a sacrifice fly.
After the game, Manny Acta stated the following (per yahoo.com):
“They just walked themselves into trouble. They walked themselves into losing the ballgame. Walks allowed them to tie. Walks allowed them to take a lead. I mean, they didn’t hit the ball hard in the last inning and they ended up scoring five runs. … It’s unacceptable,” Acta said.
Acta, who overhauled his bullpen two weeks ago, isn’t sure how to fix the wildness.
“Walking guys after 0-2 counts, walking guys at the bottom of the order–I don’t know why,” Acta said. “You shouldn’t be afraid. … You’re pitching for a last-place team in a half-empty stadium. What can you be intimidated (by) right now?”
And he’s right. They all seem to be pitching scared now. It’s ridiculous!!
I don’t know whether to scream or cry at this point.
Win # 5 that is…that’s what the Nationals got tonight — a 4-1 win over the Phillies. That’s their second win on the road, and it’s the first time the Nats have won in Philly since August 21st of last year.
When I saw Garrett Mock enter the game, I nearly threw my remote control at my TV. I guess manager Manny Acta felt like Mock needed to get back out there and get some outs, after giving up three runs on Monday night. I guess tonight was a confidence builder for Mock (and for Kip Wells and Julian Tavarez too, for that matter).
Nice effort from Scott Olsen tonight. I’m glad the bullpen didn’t blow the lead/game again so he could get a much deserved win.
And…not trying to jinx anything…but…there’s a player for the Nationals who has a streak going…and I’m very pleased to see him doing so well!