Hello from the snow-covered DC suburbs! I’ve been digging my way out from under the approximately 34 inches of snow that fell in my area in less than a week. That, of course, is in addition to the 31 or so inches of snow that has fallen here since the weekend before Christmas.The “official” total amount of snow for DC so far this winter season is about 55 inches, which, according to a local TV station’s web site, is more snow than has fallen in Chicago (45.1″), Detroit (27.5″), Minneapolis (38.1″), Boston (30.1″), and Fargo (46.0″). Hell, yes, I’m ready for the start of baseball season!
FYI, I will now be focusing primarily on the Nationals in this blog,
rather than splitting my attention between the Nats and the Yankees.
Let’s face it, there are plenty of Yankees blogs — probably even more
now than there were when the 2009 season ended, thanks to the Yankees’
latest World Series triumph — so the disappearance of the Yankees
portion of this blog won’t exactly be a major loss to the Yankees
blogosphere. I do, however, reserve the right to throw in an occasional
comment (or rant) about the Yankees from time to time, since they
remain my second favorite team.
With that said…Nationals pitchers and catchers report to Viera, FL next Friday, the 19th. Nationals position players report on the 24th, and the first full-squad workout is on the 26th. Split-squad games will take place on March 4th, and the Nationals’ home opener at Space Coast Stadium will be March 6th against the Mets.
There have been quite a few changes for the Nationals since the 2009 season ended…some goodbyes and hellos for 2010. Goodbye to Austin Kearns, Saul Rivera, Ron Villone, and Dmitri Young, among others. Hello to Brian Bruney, Matt Capps, Adam Kennedy, Jason Marquis, and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, among others. Yes, the Nats were in the running for Orlando Hudson, and apparently are very much in the running for Chen Ming Wang. We’ll see how the negotiations for CMW go. In addition to personnel changes, the front office has undergone quite a few changes as well, all designed to change the Washington Nationals from the laughingstock of MLB to actual winners. Time will tell if the changes are successful.
For now…the start of spring training is just a week away…opening day for the Nats is in 53 days…and hope springs eternal!
The season is over for the Washington Nationals. In many ways, I agree with this Mets fan about the end of the season finally being here.
It’s been a difficult, frustrating, infuriating, and downright painful season, which began with 7 straight losses. For the second year in a row, the Nationals lost over 100 games. They actually won the same number of games in 2009 as in 2008 (59) but lost one more game (103) this year because their final home game of 2008 was rained out and not rescheduled. (Ironically, the Yankees 2009 regular season record was 103-59.) Needless to say, my prediction of a 75-87 record was way off! So many things went wrong for the Nats in 2009…dreadful pitching (mostly by the bullpen but also by some of the starters)…non-existent offense at times…poor defense and too many errors…even a wardrobe malfunction.
But despite the intense suckitude displayed by the Nationals for most of the 2009 season, there were also some good things that happened this year. In no particular order, some of 2009’s highlights include:
- Bidding adieu to Jim Bowden and Manny Acta. Bowden was a moron; Acta was not. Acta seemed like a very nice guy, but, quite frankly, he sucked as a manager. Granted, he didn’t have a lot to work with, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was horrednous.
- A 33-42 (.440) record under interim manager Jim Riggleman
- Josh Willingham’s 2 grand slams in the 7/27 game vs. Milwaukee.
- Adam Dunn hitting his 300th career home run (I was at that game).
- Drafting, and then signing, Stephen Strasburg…and not breaking the bank in the process.
- Adam Dunn’s surprising improvement at 1B. He’s definitely not gold-glove caliber (and probably never will be), but his defense has improved. And, if nothing else, he’s a big target at first. His defense at first base is certainly better than it was in left field.
- The acquistion of Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett. Morgan (a/k/a Tony Plush) in particular provided a tremendous spark, and his presence in the lineup as well as in center field was greatly missed after he went on the DL.
- Justin Maxwell, who provided two of the greatest moments of the season: stealing a home run away from Baltimore Orioles’ Adam Jones with a phenomenal over-the-wall catch at Nationals Park back in May, and his walk-off home run off of Francisco Rodríguez in the final home game of the season to defeat the Mets, and complete the sweep.
- Jordan Zimmermann’s MLB debut, and first win, in April. I was there…it was a rainy night, and a lot of people left early, so sticking around for the final out and the win was especially fun. (I hope Zimm2 makes a full recovery from Tommy John surgery and comes back stronger than ever.)
- John Lannan and Craig Stammen beating the Yankees in June. I felt very conflicted about that series at the time, but in retrospect, that series definitely ended up being one of the most memorable series of the season.
- Not getting swept by the Red Sox. It’s the little things that mean a lot in a 103-loss season.
- The 8-game winning streak in August.
- The 7-game winning streak to end the season.
- The emergence of John Lannan as the leader of the Nationals pitching staff. People believed that he would fall apart because he doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts and just isn’t dominant enough. His first few starts of the season weren’t good, and he hit a rough patch in August, but came back for a strong finish in September.
- Ryan Zimmerman — his 30-game hit streak was easily the biggest highlight of the season…despite some throwing issues early in the season, his defense was gold-glove caliber…and signing him to a 5-year deal ensures that the “face of the franchise” will wear a Nationals uniform for a long time.
And now, even though the postseason is in full swing, I’m feeling a bit of sadness and withdrawal. Despite another 100+ loss season and all of the agony that went along with it, I’m sad that the Nationals’ season is over. Maybe it’s just the residual good feelings from the end-of-the-season 7-game winning
streak…or maybe it’s the fact that I upgraded the seats in my season
ticket plan (I’ll be behind home plate instead of near the right field
corner)…or perhaps a combination of both. I attended the Nats’ final home game — in which Justin Maxwell hit the walk-off home run — and it was such an incredible way to end the home schedule. But it left me wanting more…more improvement, more wins. If only the Nationals could have played like that more often during the course of the season and had more incredible comebacks like that.
I am full of hope for next year. The 7-game winning streak at the end of the season was a very exciting way to end a miserable season. Granted, those 7 wins came against an awful Mets team and a deflated Braves team that had just been knocked out of wild card contention…it’s not like we swept the Phillies and the Dodgers. Nevertheless, I am very hopeful that 2010 will be better. I’m hopeful that the Nats can get the starting pitcher that they need. I’m hopeful that the Nationals can settle their situation at second base. I’m hopeful that Ian Desmond can continue his maturation process and become a bona fide MLB shortstop. I’m hopeful that Drew Storen can make a successful leap from the minors to the majors next season to help ease the Nationals’ bullpen woes. I’m hopeful that Stephen Strasburg makes it to the big leagues — sooner rather than later — and lives up to the hype surrounding him. I am looking forward to seeing what moves the Nationals make during the offseason, including who the manager will be. I know that whatever the Nats do, they’re not going to go from worst to first in one season…but I am hopeful that there will be a significant improvement. I have to be hopeful…hope is what will keep me reasonably sane between now and next February.
Speaking of February…when do pitchers and catchers report??
After being shut out by the Braves, 4-0, on Tuesday night, the Yankees then defeated the Braves on Wednesday and Thursday, by the scores of 8-4 and 11-7, respectively. Moving on up to Citi Field, the Yankees have won 2 straight games over the crosstown rival Mets, 9-1 and 5-0.
It figures. Now that interleague play is nearly over, the Yankees are finally playing well against NL teams!
More on the Yankees tomorrow….
The Yankees took 2 out of 3 games from the Mets in the 2009 interleague Subway Series. Andy Pettitte gave up 12 hits and got the loss as the Mets won Saturday’s contest, 6-2.
Also on Saturday, Yankees’ reliever Brian Bruney had a hissy fit against Francisco Rodriguez, publicly expressing his dislike of the Mets’ closer. Rodriguez responded with his own comments; both players pretty much sounded like
However, in game 3 of the series, the Yankees beat the living snot out of Johan Santana, 15-0. The Yankees got 9 runs on 9 hits and chased Santana from the game after just 3 innings. A.J. Burnett, David Robertson, and Phil Hughes combined to shut the Mets down and out, allowing just 6 hits; the Mets left 23 men on base. The Yankees scored 9 of their 15 runs in a very busy 4th inning, which included home runs from Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano, and doubles from Johnny Damon (now decaffinated) and Melky Cabrera.
During batting practice before this game, Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez yelled something at Brian Bruney in left field, continuing the hissy fit of the day before. The two had to be separated by teammates. Just more of
Sheesh. Kids these days!
The Yankees and Nationals had different, but not surprising, results in their respective games tonight.
The Yankees defeated the Mets tonight, 9-8, thanks to an error by Luis Castillo in the 9th inning. This was a crazy game, to say the least…..
The Yankees jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 2nd inning on Robinson Cano’s home run.
The Mets came right back in the 3rd inning to regain the lead, 2-1
The Yankees took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 3rd.
The Mets jumped out to a 6-3 in the top of the 5th inning.
The Yankees scored a run in the bottom of the 5th.
The Yankees regained the lead in the 6th inning, 7-6.
Then the Mets tied the game in the 7th.
The Mets took the lead, 8-7, in the 8th inning.
And then, finally, the Yankees scored two runs in the bottom of the inning, when Luis Castillo dropped a 2 out pop-up off the bat of Alex Rodriguez, allowing Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira to score the tying and winning runs, respectively. The final score was 9-8.
Whew…it was exhausting just typing all of that. I can’t imagine how tiring it must have been to watch the game in person, much less to play in it!
Postscript to the Yankees/Red Sox series: the last Yankees pitcher to win a game against the Red Sox was Mike Mussina. It was his 20th win of the season last year.
And then, there were the Nationals, who lost to the Rays tonight, 4-3. Pitching into the 6th inning, starter Craig Stammen, did a decent job, putting his team into a position to win. But the 3 runs that the Nats scored in the 1st inning were all they could manage. And then, with 2 outs in the 8th, Nick Johnson misplayed a pop-up in foul territory. Instead of the inning coming to an end, Gabe Kapler stepped up to the plate and hit the home run that won the game for the Rays.
SSDD…same stuff, different day. Another day, another loss.
I apologize to my readers — all 4 of you! — for being AWOL for more than a week. My roommate had surgery last Monday, so I’ve been visiting her most evenings. Between being busy at work and the stress of the hospital visits (hospitals creep me out), I just haven’t had the energy to post anything here.
To catch up a bit, since my last post, the Yankees have 5 wins and 3 losses. Some notable games:
The June 1st game vs. the Indians featured another attack of the midges, but the bugs didn’t bug starter Joba Chamberlain too much this time. The Yankees set a new MLB record of 18 error-free games, breaking the record that the Red Sox set in 2006, and they beat the Indians 5-2.
In the June 2nd game vs. the Rangers, there was an exceptional amount of testosterone flying through the air, after Mark Texeira was hit by pitches from Vicente Padilla in the 2nd and 4th innings. Tex then slid into Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus at 2nd base in the 4th. Inspired by Tex’s display of manliness, the Yankees scored 7 runs in that inning. A.J. Burnett sent a message of his own in the 5th inning, throwing a pitch over the head of Nelson Cruz. That display of testosterone drew a warning from the home plate umpire to both dugouts. It also drew a fine, as well as a 6 game suspension two days later. (Padilla was also fined.) Burnett’s appeal of the fine will allow him to play until a hearing takes place.
Tex’s comments about being hit by those pitches:
“There’s really no reason for it in baseball. You know, if you can’t get a guy out, don’t hit him. You know, if you don’t want to pitch to a guy, then, you know, put four fingers out there and walk him,” Teixeira said.
I agree, Tex. As I mentioned here, I think the pitcher and hitter should just drop their pants, let everyone see who is bigger, and then tuck it back in and get on with the game.
Unfortunately, the Yankees errorless innings streak ended in this game. Oh well, at least they set a new record and won the game, 12-3.
The June 4th game vs. the Rangers featured Chien-Ming Wang’s return to the starting rotation. Unfortunately, he was not particularly effective, giving up 5 runs on 7 hits, including a home run, in 4.2 innings. But the Yankees rallied in the 8th inning, overcoming a 5-1 deficit to win the game, 8-6.
In the June 5th game vs. the Rays, Mariano Rivera blew his first save of the season and got his second loss, when Joe Dillon broke a 5-5 tie with a single in the 9th inning. The Rays scored 4 runs (3 earned) off Rivera in the 9th for the win.
I watched the Yankees beat the Rays tonight (Monday), 5-3. Andy Pettitte got the win, Mariano Rivera got the save; it was the 59th time the two have combined for a win and a save. Pettitte and Rivera are the all-time MLB winner-closer combo leaders, with two more wins/saves than Oakland’s Bob Welch and Dennis Eckersley.
Since my last blog post here, the Nationals have 5 losses and 2 wins. It’s really quite astonishing that they have those two wins in 7 games! Some notable games:
On June 2nd, the Nationals had a surprising 10-6 win against the Giants and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. The Giants were leading 5-2 when the rally began with the Nats scoring 2 runs at the bottom of the 6th. The Nats offense exploded for 6 runs in the 8th inning. Joel
Suckrahan Hanrahan gave up a run in the 9th inning, but managed to finish the inning and the game without any further damage. Prior to that win, the Nationals had lost 6 straight games.
On June 3rd, the Giants’ Randy Johnson was supposed to be going for his 300th career win, but Mother Nature did not cooperate. The start of the game was delayed for over 3-1/2 hours as MLB hoped the game could be played and history could be made. Now, I understand the historical significance of the game, with Stretch trying for career win #300. But come on… a 3-1/2 hour delay?! That’s ridiculous!! At 10:46, the game was finally postponed and rescheduled for the following evening.
Stretch did get his 300th win on the 4th, in the first game of a doubleheader, as the Giants beat the Nats 5-1. Ironically, the start of this game was also delayed by about an hour because of rain. Too bad so few people actually saw this historic game; attendance was so low that the attendance stats weren’t even listed in the box score. Perhaps the 16,787 attendance figure for the second game was actually a combination of attendance for both games? Anyway, some of the Nationals commentators, members of the media, and Nats fans have fussed about a called strike against Adam Dunn on a 3-2 count to end the 8th inning, which preserved the Giants 2-1 lead with the bases loaded. The call was a bad one — it was definitely NOT a strike — but hey, those are the breaks. Lots of bad calls have been made against the Nationals this season…and against the 29 other MLB teams as well. Bad calls happen. I saw comments on one particular Nats message board which hinted that the umpire had intentionally called a strike to prevent a run from being walked in to tie the game…that, of course, would have given Stretch a no-decision. OK, so in a split second, when the pitch is thrown and caught, the umpire was thinking, “If I call this a ball, then a run will score, and that means that Randy Johnson will end up with a no-decision instead of getting his 300th win tonight, so I should call this a strike even though the pitch was a ball….” Riiiiiiiiight. [SARCASM] I’m sure that’s exactly what that umpire was thinking at that moment. [/SARCASM] This, of course, was the second time the Nationals were involved in a history-making game. In August of 2007, former Nats pitcher Mike Bacsik gave up Baroids Bonds’ 756th career home run.
After the Nats 3-1 loss to the Mets on June 5th, Joel Hanrahan went back to being Joel Suckrahan as far as I’m concerned. With the game tied at 1 in the 10th inning, Suckrahan gave up a single to Luis Castillo, a walk to Carlos Beltrán, and a double to David Wright which scored Castillo and Beltrán. And that was that. The loss caused Suckrahan to lose his job as the closer for the second time this season.
The June 6th game vs. the Mets was another surprising win for the Nationals. John Lannan pitched the first complete game of his career, allowing just 1 run and 4 hits in a 7-1 win. He even hit a single in the 5th inning and scored a run on Nick Johnson’s home run. Adam Dunn and Elijah Dukes also hit home runs in the game, which lasted exactly 2 hours.
The Nationals reverted back to their usual form on the 7th, losing to the Mets 7-0. Just more of the same suckitude.
At least the Nationals didn’t lose tonight…they didn’t play tonight…….
Gosh, I wonder which of my teams got the loss tonight?!
Mets 7, Nationals 4. *sigh* The Nats offense was unable to capitalize on and injury depleted Mets lineup, and a 6-walk performance from Johan Santana tonight…probably because Santana also had 11 strikeouts! And there was another disputed home run that was reviewed, and once again, the review went in favor of the Mets. A ball that dropped into right field and initially (and correctly) was not ruled a home run, but after reviewing the play, the umpires reversed their call. I guess when a team displays as much suckitude as the Nationals have displayed this season, calls will just automatically go against them…whether or not those calls are actually correct. The lone bright spot in the game for the Nats was Adam Dunn’s 465 foot home run.
On the other hand, the Yankees defeated the Rangers tonight, 9-2. A.J. Burnett gave the Yankees 6 innings of shutout ball, allowing just 3 hits. He walked 4 and struck out 7. Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano each had a home run, and Hideki Matsui hit two. The Yankees have won have won 12 of their last 15 games, and tonight’s win, coupled with the Red Sox’ loss to the Twins, puts them in a tie for first place with Boston!
Yep, another jump for joy! 😀
It should be noted that Chien-Ming Wang made another relief appearance and was perfect for the final two innings, with two strikeouts.