Woo-hoo…I haven’t laughed at a Strauss this hard since Stanislas “Animal” Kasava danced with Harry “Sugar Lips” Shapiro! #stalaugh17
Joe Strauss @JoeStrauss
District in meltdown. Mention Natitude and it’s as if someone shook the hive. #NotMyMarketingCampaign
Now, this is funny, because apparently a few Nats fans got angry at Strauss or something. And by writing “#NotMyMarketingCampaign,” Strauss here signifies that he did not, in fact, come up with Natitude. Meaning he’s zeroing in on the real target: the sports-marketing employees in the Washington front office who came up with Natitude, employees whose hands could never be washed clean of this villainy merely through the deft use of a hashtag.
Joe Strauss @JoeStrauss
It’s pretty bad when you’re accused of going negative by merely citing a team’s record (34-35) and run diff (-30). #NoRepresentation
Now, I’m going to let you figure out for yourself why this is funny, while I go over and lunge into a cement wall 10 or 20 times, because heaven knows I don’t care what some random person from St. Louis writes about the Nats on Twitter, and you sure don’t care, and he doesn’t care, because no one living in St. Louis could possibly care about the marketing slogan of a Washington baseball team in the middle of June, unless that person were actually drowning in several tons of the gloppy tapioca pudding of despair, so starved for angry human reaction that he must taunt a Twitter account purporting to represent the beard of a D.C. ballplayer late at night, but if that’s the case, then what does it all say about the sportswriter/blogger person from half a continent away who takes the time and energy to recognize and sort of winkingly respond to these comments that no one cared about in the first place, and Oh Mercy it might never end if someone else responds with similar weariness, although that would require an energy level that this debate could not possibly inspire, because it isn’t even a debate. It’s just nothing. A vast expanse of nothingness.
The Big Train to The Karma Train…Washington has it all!
We’re barely into June and the Braves already hold an eight-game lead over the Washington Nationals, the team that had been given the most likely chance to win the National League East and the pennant. This doesn’t guarantee that the Braves are going to win the East. But it does somewhat reaffirm how dumb the Nationals were to all but drop kick a potential World Series season last year.
...The Strasburg effect? Nothing is certain, but given that the Cardinals scored 12, 8 and 9 runs in their three wins in the series, it seems safe to assume Strasburg and the ripple effect of having him in the rotation would’ve made a difference.
For those who believe Washington blew it, this is Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo getting run over by the karma train. His team has come back down to earth. Strasburg just went on the disabled list with a back strain. He joins another starter, Ross Detwiler, on the DL. The Nationals lost to the New York Mets 10-1 Wednesday to fall below .500 (20-30).
They also rank 14th out of 15 in the National League in runs scored with 201, ahead of only Miami. (As a comparison, the Braves have 267 and rank fourth.)
Rules of thumb: Seasons are fragile. Success can’t be assumed. There are injuries and slumps and unexpected occurrences, like, for example, a redefined infield fly rule. Washington had the chance for a special season last year and let arrogance cloud their judgement, believing they would replicate that success again. There are no guarantees.
“Fingers are crossed
Just in case
Walking the dead”
“We deserve to be where we’re at right now,” Adam LaRoche said after today’s loss. “We’ve played like crap, and still not in awful shape. It only goes so far, we’re pretty deep into the season. We’ve got to get it going or else we won’t be there in the end. I don’t sense any panic or anyone stressing over it, but it’d be nice to pick it up a little.”
There are 105 games remaining in the season. That’s plenty of time to overcome the deficit in the division and make a run, for sure. But LaRoche, for one, is starting to get a little antsy, waiting for the Nationals’ best ball to start coming to the surface.
“One hundred-five games is a lot,” LaRoche said. “(But) we’re going to look up and we’ll have 80 games (left) in no time, so I don’t want to take that for granted. Yeah, we’ve got time to make a move, but we need to do it soon.”
...As of this point, while the Nats know they’re playing sub-par ball, they say they’re not at the panicking level yet.
“Your trials, and things like that, that stuff builds character,” Desmond said. “If we can maintain a good clubhouse, if we can keep our clubhouse under control, keep guys tight, when the bad stuff fades away, we’re only going to be better when we’re good. This stuff is just going to make us stronger throughout the season.
“We’re going to hit our stride eventually. I know the fans and everyone else are getting tired of hearing that. But it’s bound to happen. We’re a good ballclub. Obviously we’re weathering this storm. Eventually it’s going to get good and it’s going be real fun. Everyone’s going to be back out wearing their red and cheering Natitude.”
Matt Fortese came 75 miles from Hagerstown to meet Taylor Queen at Camden Yards. She drove more than three hours from Virginia. Their second date was going well, Queen said, until an hour of taunting from two fans boiled over into an altercation that left Fortese fighting for his life.
Fortese, a lifelong Yankees fan who wore his team’s cap to Wednesday’s game, suffered severe head trauma and a skull fracture. He was listed in serious condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center Saturday. Police said they had arrested two men in the incident.
At the hospital, Fortese’s family and Queen recounted the ordeal — and a chance encounter with a childhood friend who they said helped save the 25-year-old man’s life.
By the fifth or sixth inning of the matchup with the Washington Nationals, the couple had endured about an hour of heckling, mostly about Fortese’s hat, from two men sitting a section above them, said Queen, 21. Then one of the men threw a beer that hit the couple, according to police, and when Fortese approached the men and began arguing with them, one punched him in the head.
The blow sent Fortese over a railing and onto the concrete about five feet below.
Two men — Gregory Fleischman, 22, of Jarrettsville, and Michael Bell, 21, of Annapolis — were charged in the attack.
Police said Fleischman punched Fortese.
Fortese’s brother, Jimmy, said the family is devastated.
“It’s very serious,” Jimmy Fortese, 30, said. “They’re not saying he’s out of the woods yet. They tell us we have to wait and see.”
Davey Johnson says he’s giving up his razor until the Washington Nationals find their bats.
The manager apologized for his scraggly appearance before Friday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies, but he said it had a purpose.
“If my facial hair looks bad,’’ he said, “I decided I wouldn’t shave until we started hitting.’‘
The Nationals began the day batting .225, second worst average in the majors. They are a popular favorite to make the World Series, but they were just one game over .500 entering the three-game series against the Phillies. They just returned from a West Coast road trip that included a four-game losing streak, the team’s sixth shutout loss of the season, Bryce Harper’s head-first collision with a wall and a broken hand for Ryan Mattheus after he punched his locker following a rough outing.
While defense, relief pitching and intangibles have cost the Nationals, the lack of hitting has been the most glaring weakness this season. Only two teams have scored fewer than Washington’s 159 runs.
“I figured I couldn’t get any uglier, so what the heck,’’ Johnson said. “Hopefully I can shave soon. I’ve never had a rally goatee. I’m not hairy enough to get one. Now it’s gray, you can’t hardly see it unless you get these close-ups that I get after the game, so I apologize. You can’t change the shape of a watermelon anyway.
“I’ll be like everybody else around here. Maybe I can change the luck.’‘
This brings us back to balls and strikes, and the case of minor league ump—and big league fill-in—John Tumpane.
Tumpane was behind the plate May 12 when the Nationals played the Cubs.
Tumpane is a Triple-A guy who’s called up when a regular ump has a day off. He started getting major league assignments in 2010 when he was only 27 and apparently believes that close enough is good enough.
When a pitch is so far off the plate that the catcher makes no attempt to frame it in the strike zone, it’s clearly a ball.
In the bottom of the third last Sunday with two outs, Ian Desmond took a full-count pitch that Chicago receiver Dioner Navarro had to reach into the lefthanded batter’s box to catch. Desmond took one step toward first before Tumpane punched him out. Strike three. Desmond made a face but didn’t say anything. Later, Kurt Suzuki struck out in the ninth on a called third strike, again a pitch the Cubs’ catcher had to reach outside for. Suzuki squawked and was ejected.
There has to be a greater effort made to call the rule-book strike zone. No individual interpretations of that should be permitted.
Didn’t listen to the game…but Scully had to mention Pete Reiser.
Bryce Harper left Monday’s Los Angeles Dodgers-Washington Nationals game after crashing into the right field wall trying to catch a ball during the fifth inning.
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis led off the bottom of the inning with a drive to right, and the Nationals phenom went face-first into the right field scoreboard trying to make the play. He was bleeding from his face/chin after the collision. Harper left the game immediately.
Using Richard Goodwin-Shares…this rates very highly as a political speech.
Johnson is a proven leader, and I’m not referring to his career wins and losses or three World Series championships.
I’m talking about a man who was bold enough at 19 years old to challenge former Texas A&M baseball coach Tom Chandler for telling him he’d get a full four-year ride when the scholarship contract only promised him one guaranteed year at the school.
I’m talking about a man who was savvy enough to create a computer program that allowed him to generate more successful lineup options based on percentage baseball theories as a player for the Baltimore Orioles almost 30 years before Orlando-born Billy Beane and the movie, Moneyball, became Hollywood hits.
I’m talking about a man willing to fight with and for players like he did in shutting down National pitcher Stephen Strasburg early to preserve his and the team’s long-term success.
And I’m talking about a guy who is old enough to remember grabbing drinks with Ted Williams to discuss hitting stances, but young in mind and heart enough to work out with a trainer to keep up with his young team or keep up with the latest emerging technologies in the sport.
A baseball commissioner should have a respect for the sport’s history with an eye toward the future. Particularly, a future that includes engaging more of today’s generation that’s far more interested in football or basketball.
I believe Johnson can do that. Sports commissioners don’t have to rule for 20-plus years. If eight years is enough time for person to run a country, perhaps that term limit is more than enough to run the MLB.
It’s too early in the season to make any hardcore declarations about what Harper is and isn’t doing—these things take time, you know—but we can get some ideas about possible developments from what is there. For one, Harper to this point has cut his strikeout ratio down to 15 percent, or a little less than what he produced in the high minors, rather than last year’s 20 percent of the time. It’s how he was hitting .344 entering action on Wednesday night, despite a batting average on balls in play of “only” .338. That latter figure is a lofty one, 44 points above the current league average BABIP, but unless strikeout figures are high, there tends to be some separation between standard average and BABIP’s version.
In addition, he’s boosted his walk rate from 9.4 percent to 13.1 percent. Like with strikeouts, it’s a bit early to say that he’s going to keep doing that, but you can infer that it’s likely an intentional shift by Harper: he’s seeing 4.16 pitches per plate appearance, up from last year’s already high 3.85. He was already disciplined, and seeing more major-league pitchers (and more importantly, their major-league pitches) is only going to help him improve his selectivity, and by extension, his production, as he waits for pitches he knows he can cause damage with and lays off those he cannot. His P/PA probably won’t stay that high all year, as pitchers might find a weakness and try to exploit it, but if Harper keeps hitting for power, it’s going to be difficult to outright challenge him, too.
That power is unbelievable right now, with Harper already having logged 16 extra-base hits, largely due to nine April homers. He won’t keep going yard on every third ball he hits, but he does have room to grow there: he hit a homer at about half that rate in 2012. You could easily see 30 homers out of him, or more, and you don’t even have to wait for what will likely be his peak years to see it: he’s nearly a third of the way there with over 130 games left on the schedule.
McCatty passionately defended Strasburg this afternoon, saying that the expectations that media members and fans have placed on Strasburg have reached unfair levels, with it getting to the point that Strasburg almost is in a no-win situation.
“You guys put these levels on this guy that are almost unrealistic. You see something so talented, which he is, and when you saw that he was at times so good, you expect it every time,” McCatty said. “... His standards are pretty high. I think your guys’ standards are higher. That’s my own personal opinion. I just want him to be him. I want him to be as good as he can be. Not what you guys expect.
“He’s doing pretty good. Is he going to do better? Yes. Let’s be realistic with the goals we think he should get. That’s just my opinion.”
...“I just want him to understand he’s human,” McCatty said. “... It’s something hopefully he gets better with. He’s pretty tough on himself. I wish that he wouldn’t be that way, but that’s part of his nature, that’s part of what’s made him as good as he is. And he’s going to be better. I think he’s going to be better when he’s able to realize that this is a game that’s built upon failure.
“He’s going to have a lot of successes, but he’s kind of a perfectionist kind of guy, and whatever he’s set his mind to do, he’s pretty much done. Sometimes at the big league level, this is pretty tough to do up here. ... Like I say, (media members) all say he’s struggling. He’s really not that bad. Could it be better? Sure. But it’s really not that bad.”
By now, you’re no doubt familiar with the ongoing controversy roiling Nats Town and attracting national attention, involving pro- and anti-wave forces. Players are largely against it, from what we can tell. A large and vocal faction of fans is also trying to end the wave.
The battle reached a boiling point on Saturday afternoon, when one fan sitting near the back of Section 109 repeatedly attempted to start a wave during later innings — including while the Nats were in the field, an ever bigger sin than usual, as the wave theoretically could distract the home team’s pitcher.
Now, I should say that I only have one side of this story. That being said, here is the story. This account has been slightly edited for clarity and length.
“He was not having much success,” said Andrew Shields, a 34-year-old season ticket holder and wave opponent who attended nearly 70 home games last season. “We were heckling back toward him — Stop, what are you doing, you’re ridiculous, this isn’t going to happen, this is Pier 109, The Wave Stops Here.
Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg turned in a quality start against the rival Braves on Monday night, but now he’s receiving treatment for forearm tightness. MASN’s Dan Kolko tweets that Strasburg is receiving medication and being examined by team doctors. Manager Davey Johnson told reporters it’s too early to know whether Strasburg will be able to make his next start. Consider the situation to be developing.
While there’s no indication that this is anything serious, it of course bears mentioning that Strasburg underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2010. Last season—his first full season since the procedure—Strasburg was handled carefully and even shut down well in advance of the postseason.
Bryce: No longer a fractal landscape…but a full season in.
Because the season started a little later last year, the past calendar year includes more than 162 games for a few guys, but Harper is right at 162 after yesterday. And in those 162 games, he’s been one of the ten best players in baseball. Some fun facts from Harper’s first full season.
Over the last year, he has a .234 ISO. Prince Fielder has a .233 ISO.
Harper is still learning how to hit lefties, which isn’t unusual for a guy who just turned 20. Against right-handers, though, his career line: .308/.382/.569, good for a .406 wOBA and 159 wRC+.
Harper has elite pull power, but he’s not just a pull power guy. For his career, he’s hit .363 and slugged .548 when going to the opposite field.
Think Harper just hits fastballs and can be exploited by good breaking stuff? Think again. Bryce Harper has been an above average hitter against every pitch type he’s been thrown.
Don’t let Bryce Harper elevate the baseball – he has a .583 wOBA on balls in the air, 100 points higher than the league average.
With 31 home runs, Bryce Harper is already tied with Ted Williams for 5th all time in home runs through his age-20 season. His age-20 season has five months left to go. He’s 11 home runs away from tying Mel Ott for most HRs before his age-21 season. I’m guessing he’ll get there.
No letter on catcher/non-eye catcher, Andy Etchebarren. And that’s a damn shame.
Another part of it is that Johnson learned that former Dodgers and Cardinals GM Branch Rickey - a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and famously known for being the guy to sign Jackie Robinson - liked Johnson when he was a prospect in the Orioles organization.
As you can see in this letter found in the Library in Congress (and put online by Twitter user bettilupi), Rickey recommended to the Cardinals’ personnel guys that they make sure to include Johnson in any trade that they might make with the Orioles. Johnson was told about the letter earlier today.
Quick: name the shortstop who led the major leagues in home runs last year. I’ll give you a hint: he also led in OPS+, posted an above-average defensive season per Ultimate Zone Rating, and held down the position for the team with the National League’s best record. And he’s only 27, suggesting his best days are just ahead of him.
Hopefully, you know I’m referring to Ian Desmond, shortstop for the Washington Nationals. But while serious baseball fans have heard of Desmond, many casual ones still haven’t. And it’s kind of shocking that what was just recently baseball’s glamor position, home to Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra, somehow has failed to generate the same kind of national enthusiasm for Desmond’s work.
Desmond is the power-hitting shortstop for what most people expect will be the National League’s best team in 2013, playing in an awfully large media market. So why is he failing to get the kind of recognition of, for instance, Rey Ordonez, Alex Gonzalez and Edgar Renteria?
...At first, Desmond appeared to dispel those doubts with a strong September debut, hitting 280/.318/.561 in 89 plate appearances. However, pitchers stopped throwing him strikes, and Desmond, intent upon improving his plate discipline, he says, instead failed to hit or walk, dropping to an 89 OPS+ in 2010 and then just 80 in 2011. On a .500 team, that was good for worst OPS+ of anyone in the everyday lineup.
So 2012 represented quite a jump for Desmond, whose 127 OPS+ was second only to Adam LaRoche’s 129 among the Nationals’ everyday players. He was more aggressive in his approach, and it paid off. He was named to the All Star team, his first, but an oblique injury kept him from playing in the game, and revealing his talent to a national audience. It’s as if he suddenly developed into a star, hidden in plain sight.
After tonight’s 2-0 loss to the Cardinals, the Nats have now lost eight of their last 11 games, and Johnson is starting to get fed up with what he’s seeing.
“I’m usually pretty patient, but I’m getting to my rope’s end,” Johnson said. “The effort’s there, but we’re just not getting it done. We’ve got the players who can get it done, we’re just not getting it done. It’s time to get a little mad.
“I mean, you’ve got to tip your hat to (Adam) Wainwright, he pitched a heck of a ballgame, but we’re not centering up, we’re not giving as good of at-bats as we’re capable of. What’s it been, about a week. We’ve been real quiet offensively.”
...Expect Steve Lombardozzi to find his way into the lineup in the series finale against the Cardinals. With a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning tonight, Lombardozzi improved his average to .357 (10-for-28) this season and he’s now 3-for-5 in pinch-hit opportunities.
Adam LaRoche is one of the Nats struggling most right now. Mired in an 0-for-10 slump that includes seven strikeouts (four of which came tonight, giving LaRoche the dreaded “Golden Sombrero”), LaRoche is hitting .172 on the season. Second baseman Danny Espinosa went 0-for-3 tonight, dropping his average to .167.
“When it rains, it pours,” Johnson said. “When you sometimes go into a little funk, it’s magnified. And the way I read this ballclub, it’s probably more everybody’s trying to do something, trying to do maybe a little too much instead of just doing what’s there. Hitting the ball hard somewhere. Get on base. Get some momentum going. But it’s frustrating.”
Suddenly 11 baserunners per 9 innings is Porcello-bad.
In a game like baseball, patience pays. It’s not a good idea to jump to a conclusion too quickly or base a decision on too few facts. I offer this bit of advice based on developments in this season’s four-start performance of Stephen Strasburg.
After his first start, in which he pitched seven shutout innings and permitted three hits, USA Today called it “the first step in vindication for general manager Mike Rizzo, who took much of the heat for shutting down the right-hander in the year after elbow surgery.”
I don’t know what Strasburg’s subsequent three starts mean in terms of Rizzo’s shutdown – I don’t know that they mean anything, any more than the first start did—but Strasburg lost all three starts.
No doubt the stats zealots can explain why those losses weren’t Strasburg’s fault, and I suppose if wins are no longer important, as some of my critics tell me, losses don’t matter anymore either. In fact, with a 1-3 won-loss record and a ratio of 11 baserunners per 9 innings, Strasburg very likely is an early leader in the Cy Young race.
But everyone might want to slow down and let Strasburg play out his season. Maybe he’ll win his remaining 29 starts – if he gets to make them all – and then we can applaud the person or people who deserve applause, once we know who they are and what they did.
The Nationals took the field two weeks ago for the start of the most-anticipated season in club history brimming with confidence. They had a potent and balanced lineup, they had one of baseball’s most-dominant rotations, they had a ridiculously deep bullpen and they had a talented bench more than capable of plugging any holes that developed along the way.
They also had a swagger, starting with their manager, that suggested a ballclub with no fear and every reason to believe it could live up to the lofty expectations placed upon it.
That may still all prove true in the end, and the Nationals are by no means in shambles at the moment, still sitting two games above .500 with as talented a roster as there is in the sport. But there’s no question that swagger has diminished some during the season’s first two weeks, especially in the case of a couple of veteran players with strong track records who suddenly find themselves struggling unlike either ever has before.
The Nationals’ 8-2 loss to the Marlins on Tuesday night—their fourth loss in five days—became reality after a mid-game meltdown precipitated by mistakes made by Ryan Zimmerman and Dan Haren.
...Thus concluded Haren’s latest laborious start as a member of the Nationals. He has now made three starts, and he’s yet to reach the sixth inning. He’s allowed 23 hits (five of them homers) in only 13 1/3 innings, and he’s taking full responsibility for all of it.
“Something’s got to change on my part,” the 32-year-old right-hander said. “I’ve got to start getting guys out. It’s not this hard. I’ve done it for 10, 11 years. You know, I feel good enough to get guys out. I just made a few mistakes. I’m just giving up way too many hits and letting way too many runners on base.”
Some of the Nationals feel that left fielder Bryce Harper plays with a chip on his shoulder, as if he has something to prove.
“To myself, yes,” Harper says. “To everyone else, I could care less.”
Another theory among certain Nats is that Harper is hell-bent on proving that he is better than the Angels’ Mike Trout, with whom he shared headlines last season as Trout won AL Rookie of the Year while Harper took NL honors.
“We made it to the playoffs last year — that’s all I’ll say about that one,” Harper said.
“I don’t want everybody to just see the baseball side of me,” Harper said, embracing the stardom that brings screaming fans (young, old, male, female) to every ballpark.
“I want everybody to see the other side of me, too — that I can be on a magazine with jeans and a T-shirt on and my hair done and things like that. I don’t want just me in my baseball hat all the time just the boring, old, ‘Look it’s Bryce Harper with eye black on again.’ I like people seeing the other side.”
...On the Nationals’ first off day this spring, Harper made the 67-mile drive west from Viera, Fla., to Disney World. He never goes unrecognized when he is out in the District; people are usually exceedingly nice and often apologetic for bothering him.
So when a boy no more than 14 or 15 approached him at the Magic Kingdom and asked for a photo, Harper obliged and threw his arm around the teen’s shoulder.
“I’m a Braves fan,” the boy said to Harper. “[Expletive] the Nationals.”
“My face in the picture is probably like [so confused],” Harper said, chuckling as he told the story. “I was thinking, ‘What? You just said that to me and you’re taking a picture with me?’ I was dumbfounded. I walked away and I go, ‘I don’t know what just happened right there. Happiest place on Earth.’”
The topic was Johnson’s stance on plate collisions between runners and catchers, and whether he felt baseball’s rules needed to be amended to take away the inherent injury risk associated with such violent clashes of irresistible forces and immovable objects.
Johnson’s take on the subject was pretty simple. He called runners ramming catchers blocking the plate “clean, hard-nosed baseball” and placed himself squarely in the old-school camp of baseball lifers who see no reason to change rules that really don’t need changing.
“Shoot, take it too far,” Johnson said disdainfully. “Now guys are wearing padding. Now the halfback (in football) can’t lower his head and run over the defensive back. When are you going to stop it? Sometimes, things happen. We don’t need any more rules as far as I’m concerned.”
...“It’s part of baseball,” he said. “I ran over two catchers - more than two catchers - but they messed me up more than I messed them up. I had to have my labrum repaired for a guy named Duane Josephson and then a guy named Larry Cox ducked and there went a couple ruptured discs. So, in reality, I’m not really worried about the catcher. Seems like the other end of it gets it (worse).”
...“There’s always a few guys that get a reputation, a la Mike Scioscia that comes to mind from my era, who had a reputation for blocking the plate whether they had the ball or not,” Johnson said. “But guys are getting a little bigger and it’s a little more dangerous. A guy coming 20 mph hits you and it could be your ankle. But if you’re in proper position and going hard, the chances of getting hurt are slim and none. You usually get hurt when you’re trying to do something and not in position.”
Not that there was any uncertainty about it, but Davey Johnson made it official nonetheless this morning: Stephen Strasburg will start Opening Day for the Nationals.
“I guess you want me to say it,” the 70-year-old manager said. “He’s going to be my Opening Day starter. You drug it out of me.”
Johnson’s selection of Strasburg is hardly a surprise. The right-hander got the Opening Day nod last season in Chicago, then went 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA and 197 strikeouts before his much-debated shutdown in early September after 159 1/3 innings.
But in a rotation that also boasts a 21-game winner (Gio Gonzalez), a top-10 ERA finisher (Jordan Zimmermann) and a three-time All-Star (Dan Haren), Johnson certainly had other viable options if he chose to go in another direction.
“That’s a great honor,” the manager said. “There’s a lot of great starters in my rotation.”
Two players, Mantle and Ott, took big steps forward. Conigliaro hit more homers but his overall production fell off, and Cedeno dropped to a below-average offensive player. Playing major league baseball at age 19 is a tremendous accomplishment, but even that isn’t a gold ticket to immediate superstardom.
Even with the admittedly nebulous nature involved in projecting Harper, projection systems can help show us a range of possibilities. But while projection systems can cut through human biases, they can also miss specifics that a good scout will catch and take into account*.
Keith Law is a senior baseball analyst for ESPN in charge of scouting. He said he thinks Harper “will be an impact player in the middle of a lineup for a very long time, the kind of player who hits 40 homers in a few seasons, wins an MVP award or two, and at worst ends up garnering some Hall of Fame discussion.”
...The reason why, according to Law, is Harper’s “unusual combination of overall athleticism and baseball-specific skills.” It’s that package that makes Harper unique, or at minimum, extremely difficult to project. For his part, Law feels Harper is one of a kind. “Has there been a player like him specifically? No, I tend to think most high-end players like Harper or Mike Trout are unique. Stars tend to have very specific skill sets that we haven’t seen before.”
People learn by experience. But when something comes along that we haven’t encountered before, it’s hard to know what to make of it. Harper represents those uncharted waters.
I remember when Googie’s Go-Go bar pulled their karaoke machine and lost a ton of biz (plus Nipples Nagurski taking her speculumbago act to NYC didn’t help).
Perhaps less noticeable—though not less notable—were the departures of two well-respected veterans: Mark DeRosa and Michael Gonzalez.
DeRosa may not have appeared on the field much last season while batting various injuries, but the 37-year-old utilityman held considerable influence within the clubhouse. Serving almost as an extra coach before, during and after games, DeRosa took several teammates under his wing, kept things loose with his karaoke machine and sharp wit and even helped inspire the Nationals to victory in Game 4 of the NLDS after reading a passage from Teddy Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” speech.
Gonzalez may not have held as much sway across the clubhouse, but he did hold a significant position within the Nationals bullpen, a seasoned lefty who helped set an example for others and was always available for advice and counseling.