Saturday, July 19, 2014
“I don’t watch baseball—it’s too long and boring,” he told the Washington Post.
The Nationals are in the middle of a pennant race and their best hitter does not like watching baseball. Is that a problem? His success thus far in 2014 suggests otherwise.
Yeah, and I don’t really watch tapes of technical reviews and staff meetings when I come home. They too, are too long and boring. Although, strictly speaking, they are not billed as entertainment.
The comparison to soccer in TFA is interesting. The beautiful game can be painfully slow but at least that clock keeps moving and you have some idea when it will end. This tied Angels-Mariners game I’m watching is moving at a pace that suggests it may never end. They should just go to penalty kicks and be done with it.
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Manager Matt Williams put on his happy face Tuesday, denying he had a rift with Bryce Harper, telling reporters, “I’ve got Bryce’s back in every way.” It was an interesting reaction, to say the least, considering that 24 hours before, Harper gave an interview in which he all but told Williams how to do his job.
Williams, in his first year managing, is in a difficult if not impossible position. He needs to win over Harper, who, when healthy, is the Nationals’ most dynamic player. But Williams also needs to win over his other veterans, some of whom resent that Harper is the most famous and popular Nat even though he has yet to play 140 games in a season and is still only 21.
What does Williams tell those veterans, who mostly play and hit where they are told, and are certainly more discreet than Harper when they object to the manager’s decisions?
What does he tell center fielder Denard Span, who would be the odd man out in Harper’s suggested lineup, which includes Ryan Zimmerman in left field, Anthony Rendon at third base, Danny Espinosa at second and — ahem — Harper in center?
The challenge for Williams is not as pronounced as, “Lose Harper, or lose everyone else” — at least not yet. But the friction is real. If perceived slights translated into wins, the Nats would run away with the NL East.
...They could trade or bench Span, who has improved his on-base percentage from .305 to .317 in the past two weeks. But many would interpret either move as a capitulation to Harper, potentially sparking greater clubhouse tension. Span does not throw as well as Harper, but both players and club officials view him as the team’s best defensive center fielder.
What about trading Harper? The idea is not as preposterous as it might sound. Harper would command a haul. He is represented by Scott Boras, meaning that the Nationals cannot expect to extend him before free agency. And the Nats have two promising young outfielders who are nearly major-league ready, Steven Souza and Michael Taylor.
Ownership probably would balk at the idea; Harper is the franchise’s meal ticket. Then again, if Harper is the center of the Nats’ universe, the team might as well go all-in. Play him in center. Stop worrying about Span. And don’t worry about anyone else’s feelings getting hurt.
Things will work themselves out, right?
Thanks to DK.
Posted: July 02, 2014 at 10:40 AM | 50 comment(s)
Sunday, June 08, 2014
Harper has a legitimate medical reason for including Playstation as part of his rehab. Presumably, using his left thumb to aim firearms, operate motor vehicles, and shimmy past linebackers will strengthen it after a dormant period following the surgery.
If this is a thing, then I feel like the new Mario Kart has me in the best shape of my career.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Or as Kevin Millar said last night: “I don’t know if Stephen Strasburg will ever be as good as Mike Leake.”
Does Stephen Strasburg still “want a piece” of Mike Leake? We may find out tonight.
The former Little League teammates face off as big leaguers for the first time tonight, and in 2010, Strasburg’s college catcher said Strasburg was looking forward to facing Leake for the first time.
From Dave Sheinin’s July 26, 2010, story on Strasburg in the Washington Post:
In early June, just days before Strasburg would make his extraordinary big league debut, a story about Leake appeared in USA Today, in which Leake recalled playing alongside Strasburg as kids, and said, “He was overweight, pouty and used to cry.” Leake further mused that it would be “a nice little competition” to face Strasburg in the majors.
Back in San Diego, Erik Castro, Strasburg’s catcher at SDSU and the best man at his wedding, read the story and—knowing how it would make Strasburg burn—immediately called him to see if he had seen it. Strasburg had seen it, all right. And he was steaming.
Leake was officially on The List.
“It really fired him up,” Castro said. “I was the first person to talk to him about it. He got so fired up. He wants to pitch against [Leake]. He said some other things that aren’t appropriate to put in a newspaper. But he definitely wants a piece of that kid.”
Posted: May 20, 2014 at 09:14 AM | 13 comment(s)
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Mattnetic Resonance Imaging results are in…
Manager Matt Williams said in his postgame news conference following a 5-2 loss to the Mets Saturday that Gio Gonzalez’s shoulder issue from earlier in the season is not the reason for the Nationals left-hander’s two rough outings in a row.
But if it is not a health reason for Gonzalez’s problems on the hill, what is it?
“I can’t put a finger on that because I don’t know,” Williams said. “There’s no difference in velocity. He’s running it in there at 94 mph. It doesn’t feel like that. He’s had a little tight shoulder earlier this year, but has continued to pitch and tells us that he feels good. So I don’t know. I don’t see that, though.”
Williams said Gonzalez has continued to get treatment on the sore shoulder. He believes it is just inconsistency right now.
“His release point is all over the place, but that’s somewhat typical of him sometimes,” Williams said. “And he tends to zone it in as he gets into the game. But the last two, that hasn’t been the case. It’s been falling behind and coming to the hitters and they’ve been whacking it. So, do a little better job of zoning in early, if that’s the case.”
But after the game, Gonzalez sounds like a player who is having trouble with his shoulder.
“It is just one of those things you’ve got to keep grinding through, just trying to find out what it is,” Gonzalez said. “Hopefully something positive comes out of it. Other than that, try to stay positive.
Posted: May 18, 2014 at 09:32 AM | 6 comment(s)
Wednesday, May 07, 2014
Bryce (soft wear).
Frandsen, who signed with the Nationals in late March after spending spring training with the Phillies, was asked which of his new teammates has impressed him the most this season.
“Rendon,” Frandsen said, not skipping a beat. “Without a doubt. He is as impressive as any young player; in all honesty, he’s the best young guy we have, by far. … I don’t think there’s anyone in the same sentence as him, as far as young guys, and he might be one of the best ones in the league.”
At this point, Eric Bickel and Jason Bishop interjected to ask if Frandsen was including Bryce Harper in his evaluation.
“Absolutely,” said Frandsen, who later said he agreed with Matt Williams’s decision to bench Harper for not hustling. “Tony, ah man, that is one of the coolest swings I’ve seen. And especially for, what is he, 23, 24 years old? To be that consistent, to stay inside the baseball as consistently as he can, and to have that much pop. I don’t know how much the outside knows, but he hits balls farther than most people on the team. But he is so good, as far as staying inside and staying within himself, that just impresses me.”
...“I was fortunate enough, in ’06 and ’07, to play with [Barry] Bonds, and I grew up obviously watching him,” said Frandsen, who’s from Northern California. “Tony is not in that league, okay. No one’s in that league. But, those are some of the quickest hands I’ve seen and played with since Bonds. Based off the fact that he is always in the same slot, he’s always hitting out of the same spot every time, and it’s so quick — it’s just like boom – it’s so relaxed, so relaxed, and then it’s all hell breaks loose on that baseball, and it’s pretty cool.”
Posted: May 07, 2014 at 01:19 PM | 47 comment(s)
Thursday, April 24, 2014
NATITUDE FLEX PACKS NO PUNCH!
A strange play occurred in the sixth inning during the Nationals’ 5-4 victory over the Angels on Wednesday night. After Adam LaRoche singled off right-hander Jared Weaver to lead off, Bryce Harper tried to bunt for a hit on a 2-2 count, but he fouled out to catcher Chris Iannetta.
Manager Matt Williams defended Harper, saying the Angels gave him the opportunity to bunt.
“I’m not opposed to him laying a bunt down with two strikes. We’ve seen guys do it before,” Williams said. “If he gets that bunt down, it’s a base hit. I’m not concerned about that. He is trying to do things to help us win.”
Two innings later, Harper hit a routine ground ball to first baseman Albert Pujols, who bobbled the ball. At first, Harper didn’t run hard to first base, but once he saw that Pujols couldn’t handle the grounder, Harper ran hard and was safe on the play. Pujols was charged with an error on the play.
...“He was safe at first base. That’s all I care about,” Williams said. “We are not asking him to go 100 percent all the time—as fast as he could possibly go, every single moment. Not everybody does. But what we expect is for him to give us a chance, and he gave us a chance on that play. The ball was mishandled by Albert and [Harper] kicked it in gear and got on first base. That’s all I care about.”
Posted: April 24, 2014 at 07:43 AM | 35 comment(s)
Saturday, April 19, 2014
If only someone had done this with Yaz when he was 21…
Nationals wunderkind Bryce Harper was pulled from Saturday’s game and benched for a “lack of hustle,” manager Matt Williams told reporters. Harper grounded out back to pitcher leading off the sixth inning but did not run hard down to first base.
...Yeesh, tough call by Williams. He’s clearly using Harper to set an example for the rest of the team. I don’t think any player would run out that ball hard.
More...“We made an agreement,” Williams said. “He and I made an agreement. This team made an agreement that when we play the game, that we hustle at all times, that we play the game with intensity and the willingness to win. As it turned out, his spot came up. Kevin Frandsen put on a nice a-b against [Trevor] Rosenthal. But his spot came up with the ability to win the game. That’s a shame for his teammates.”
Harper said he “absolutely” understand Williams’s decision and “I respect what he did. It’s part of the game.”
Posted: April 19, 2014 at 05:10 PM | 130 comment(s)
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Hey, at least they’re not the Baltimore Rabbits.
Have you heard?! Have you heard?! There’s a billboard promoting Orioles tickets near the D.C.-Maryland border and it’s rubbing some Nationals fans the wrong way.
...Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier spent a segment discussing the billboard, which is located seven miles from Nationals Park, yesterday on 106.7 The Fan. On the LaVar and Dukes Show, Chad Dukes conceded that the billboard makes good business sense before going on a rant against the Orioles and their D.C.-based fans.
“If you’re from Baltimore, fine, I don’t care, root for them until your lungs turn orange,” he said. “It doesn’t make no nevermind to me.”
LaVar then interrupted to ask about fans who live outside of Baltimore but still root for the Orioles because there was no team in the District. Fans like me. I grew up a Redskins and Orioles fan while living in Cheverly and Arlington. I still root for the Orioles. I also root for the Nationals. I don’t root for the Ravens, despite John Harbaugh’s best efforts. Direct your ire here.
Back to Dukes:
“That’s fine, you have a team now. My family has a lot of family in Illinois. I was a Cubs fan because we didn’t have a team. I still check in on them. I like to see them. I went to see them in spring training this year. I am a Nationals fan, because now we finally have a team, and I’m going to support that team because it was a long, arduous process, and many failed attempts, to make it happen. You’re spitting in the face of your own market here, so as a fan, this irritates the hell out of me. And it irritates the hell out of me when I tune into our midday show, and I hear people calling in saying, ‘Well, I’m from Reston, should I just turn my back on my team?’ They’re not your team. They’re Baltimore’s team. They’re not yours. They’re Baltimore, Maryland’s team.
Posted: April 17, 2014 at 10:13 AM | 27 comment(s)
Monday, April 07, 2014
Announcers think Harper is kicky!
If my math is correct, the Braves and Nats have played three times this season. And in all three of the Atlanta broadcasts on Fox Sports South, the Braves announcers managed to take cracks at Bryce Harper.
I didn’t watch the entire Atlanta broadcasts — just segments, after fans highlighted individual cracks. I can’t promise this is a comprehensive cataloging.
...First, Caray and Joe Simpson discussed Harper’s offseason during an early-game at-bat, while showing a photo of him with his UFC belt.
“In the offseason Bryce Harper made it a point to let the world know about his offseason conditioning program,” Caray said. “He really hit the weight room in preparation for this 2014 season. Maybe he was looking more like an NFL linebacker.”
“I don’t know why young guys think that more muscles mean more power,” Simpson said. “That’s almost a clown move, bro. Long line of guys who think that muscles equal more power, and not necessarily so. You can make a phone call to Jeff Francoeur and see how that affected him. Jeff thought that beefing up to about 230 would help him hit more homers, and it did not. In fact it had an opposite effect….[Harper’s] such a gifted baseball player, can do so many things well. Any team would love to have him on their ballclub. You just would hate to see him somehow affect what comes naturally to him and how strong he already was before he worked out, or did whatever he did this winter.”
Later, Harper struck out again.
“How concerned are you about Harper now? Ten strikeouts in his first 21 at-bats. I know it’s early, but….” Caray began.
“I’m not concerned at all,” Simpson laughed.
“Let me rephrase that: How concerned do you think the Nats are?” Caray asked.
“I would think that they’d want to revisit that workout program,” Simpson said.
Posted: April 07, 2014 at 06:06 PM | 70 comment(s)
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Wuh? Taking over Micah’s Korban cult ain’t enough!
“Well, I’m 5-9 on a good day,” he says with a laugh in the home clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium. “Hopefully pushing 170 in weight. I don’t run the best, I don’t have the best arm in the world. So I had to find a way to compete and stay at this level and I understand that. I’ve had to do whatever I can and I think, for me, there had to be something that’s going to help me stay on a ballclub and be a reason for a ballclub to keep me. Guys are bigger, faster, stronger. But I also love the game, I enjoy it. I try to use whatever I can to compete at that level and help the team win.”
...Making the Nats is the focus right now, but he’s not oblivious to Father Time.
“Now, at this stage of my career, you start trying to come up with a plan for what the next chapter is,” Carroll says. “And I’m not naïve to the situation. I understand that sooner or later that other life’s going to come, and you plan. You plan for everything else. You plan for your road trip, you plan for your dinner at night. You plan, and I’m not afraid of that.”
...This isn’t the first time he’s pondered the question.
“Everybody’s ready to put a fungo in my hand,” he smiles. “I’ve looked at it this way: I’ve played with a lot of good coaches, from managers to infield coordinators, and I think I’ve learned a lot that would be tough to go home and sit on. But at the same time, I do have a family - twins that are 6 years old - and that might be the perfect time to go and be a dad. It depends. It depends on what the situation is. But it’s intriguing, definitely.”
Posted: March 18, 2014 at 09:21 AM | 7 comment(s)
Monday, March 10, 2014
So why has baseball been so slow to adapt in that area?
“(Laughs) Baseball’s been kind of slow to adapt to a lot of things, huh? It’s a very traditional game. If you ever read the book, ‘Men at Work,’ by George Will, the polycracy involved for years in professional baseball, as opposed to democracy or meritocracy, he called it. It was ruling by old friends. Slow to change! There’s no question about it. And don’t get me wrong, we have (an analytics) group here, Sam Mondry-Cohen and the guys that do the (advanced metrics) stuff that are tremendous. I’m not wired along those lines. Now, I will take that information, because you’d be foolish not to. But I still think you watch the game, like Tony LaRussa told me one time - purposeful watching. You watch for a reason.
“And also, what I know in (my head) is not just a gut instinct or an educated guess, it’s years of experience and seeing the players and having 18 years of an advance database. I’ve seen more baseball than most people ever would in three lifetimes. So you work it hand-in-hand. So we’re going to use some spray charts, try to adapt that, actually, and devise one of our own in-house along with some of the outside sources that provide spray charts.”
So you’re making your own spray chart?
“Yeah, I gave it to (advance scouting coordinator Erick) Dalton and Rosie (advance scouting assistant Christopher Rosenbaum). Because really, what pitchers want, I found this out the hard way with Kevin Brown and the Dodgers, he said, ‘Everything you’re giving me is what the league does in general against what you’re seeing. But I want to see where the ball’s going when they’re hit off of me.’ So the only way to do that is to be at the game when your man’s pitching. Well, it does make a lot of sense to specify it, if you do have a general spray chart and then devise one that’s specific for your individual pitcher, it’s got to give you some tendencies, right? That along with percentages of where a ball’s hit.”
We’ve all heard of the phrase “paralysis by analysis”. Are you worried about some players feeling like they have too much information kicking around in their heads during a game?
“I don’t worry about it, I just recognize who those people are so you don’t overload them. Some people, like in anything, one of the worst terms we have in baseball is instinct. Human beings aren’t born with an instinct to run the bases or catch a ground ball. My Labrador retrievers are born with an instinct to retrieve and swim in the water with webbed paws. You learn to play this game, you’re taught to play this game. The difference being some people have better powers of observation, more aptitude, better listeners, better watchers, purposeful watching. Better aptitude. If there are certain individuals who are not geared towards (it), if their makeup isn’t geared towards taking a lot of this data, we won’t give them a lot of it. But the ones that would like to have it, it will be there for them.”
Thanks to Ed.
Posted: March 10, 2014 at 10:24 AM | 2 comment(s)
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
“There are so many different stats out there nowadays I honestly don’t even know half the time,” reliever Tyler Clippard said. “I read articles, and I don’t even know what these guys are talking. fWAR-plus or ERA+, I don’t even know what those things mean. And I don’t really care to because I’m kind of like old-school-type mind-set where I just go out there and do well, and all that other weird statistical stuff will fall into place.”
...Mentioning some advanced statistics to pitching coach Steve McCatty results in obscenities. He has a number of preferred statistics: the percentage of strikes thrown, hits per nine innings, walks per nine innings, and strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also likes looking at first-pitch strike percentage and strikeout rates, but would rather see fewer base runners than more strikeouts.
“I like to see guys, but I like to keep the walks down because it’s just like giving up a hit,” he said. “If they’re going to beat you, make them earn it. If you can keep your walks down, and average 3-to-1 strikeouts, you don’t have to be a strikeout guy. That’s not always important, but that’s a good number.”
...A player’s batting average with runners in scoring position, known in shorthand as average with RISP, is a telling statistic for Desmond.
“I’m a character-type guy so if you have a guy with really high average but terrible with runners in scoring position, it kinda gives you a little reading on the person.”
Hitting coach Rick Schu shows hitters the tendencies of opposing pitchers: whether they nibble on the edges of the strike zone or fire high 90s fastballs — but he prefers to avoid the advanced offensive statistics.
“I don’t even know what all that stuff means,” he said. “I kinda just have a baseball edumacation. Just have some quality at-bats, barrel it up and do some damage. . . . I think all those numbers are more for the front-office guys. I’m more of a gruntster: Score some runs, have some good ABs, make some loud noises.”
Posted: March 04, 2014 at 08:47 PM | 11 comment(s)
Friday, February 28, 2014
What the hell are you complaining about Werth?!
Jayson Werth said good morning and then asked me over to his locker.
“Take a look at this,” Werth said, taking a baseball card from a stack on a shelf.
It appeared to be Werth’s Topps card for 2014. Except…
“Whose card do you think that is?” he asked.
It’s a picture that includes Werth pointing to something in the stands at Nationals Park — he’s not sure what anymore. It’s kind of neat, actually. But ... it could be anybody’s card.
“Thank you,” Werth said.
Ian Desmond on the left, Anthony Rendon in the middle and Werth on the right. Even the Washington Nationals’ assistant trainer, Steve Gober, can be seen clearly. The only reason you’d know for sure it was Werth’s card is because you know what Werth looks like. (Like Animal on “The Muppets.”) The card happens to be captioned with Werth’s name and position under his part of the picture, but that seems like happenstance.
It’s just so ...
“Vague?” Werth said.
Desmond likes the card so much, he keeps it taped by the nameplate in his locker as if it were his.
“I actually saw this picture on a computer and didn’t realize it was a baseball card,” Desmond said. “I put it in my locker the other day. We got ourselves a team baseball card.”
Posted: February 28, 2014 at 05:26 PM | 22 comment(s)
Monday, February 17, 2014
This team philosophy was originally started by Gene Gene Mauch.
“I always ask the infielders if they can dance or not,” Williams said yesterday during his session with the media, causing a couple reporters to shoot glances at each other, trying to figure out if the new Nats manager was being serious or not. “If they can dance, then they can play infield. If they can’t dance, we need to get them lessons, then they’ll be able to play infield. So that’s all it really is. You play through the baseball and create rhythm and all that stuff. You become more accurate, all those things.
“They always play music during batting practice, right?” added Williams, a four-time Gold Glove award winner as a third baseman. “And I would always try to get my ground balls according to the music. I developed that type of rhythm according to what’s playing on the scoreboard. With the beat.”
Williams “couldn’t dance a lick” during his playing days, he said with a chuckle. He also once bashed 43 home runs during a season and was a top-notch defender, so he was still able to get by. But while he might not be the most accomplished guy on the dance floor himself, Williams does believe that being able to feel the beat can help players in a number of ways.
“Dusty (Baker) taught me early on as a hitter, ‘We always have music in the cage,’ ” Williams said. “So if we went to work in the cage, there was always music. And we would hit along with that rhythm, that rhythm to the music.
...Williams initially refused to choose a walk-up song in his playing days when that concept was brand new, saying that he didn’t need one. Eventually, when team staffers persisted, Williams let teammate David Dellucci to pick his song for him - “Tom Sawyer,” by Rush.
“I enjoy something that’s got a good beat to it, that I can hear the bass of it,” Williams said. “Especially on the field, because ... classical, it’s hard to get that rhythm. I don’t know about hardcore rap, but something that’s got the constant (beat), so that we can time things on the field.”
Posted: February 17, 2014 at 10:54 AM | 50 comment(s)
Wednesday, February 05, 2014
Jonah Keri’s “Big-ass feature on the Orioles, the Nationals, the TV deal that’s bringing the 2 teams to blows…”
In 2013, the O’s spent just a few million more on payroll than the Milwaukee Brewers, who play in the league’s smallest geographic market, and just $10 million more than the Kansas City Royals, who ranked second to last in total revenue last year. It’s no great surprise that a franchise that ranked in the middle of the pack in payroll last season and 23rd as recently as five years ago didn’t suddenly drop $400 million on two players.
On the other hand, it’s hard to understand why the Orioles aren’t spending at all. After winning 178 games the past two seasons, the O’s appear to be at a place on the win curve where minor upgrades could make a big difference — and where a major move could provide massive returns in both the win column and team bank account. Yet Peter Angelos’s team has failed to act, with $72 million currently committed to 15 players and a few low-impact arbitration rulings to come. Barring any impending signings, Baltimore seems to have settled for a roster that figures to be one of the cheapest in all of baseball despite boasting revenue streams to support more.
More than almost any other team, the Orioles are in a state of limbo. To figure out why, and to diagnose where they should go from here, we need to consider a dizzying array of factors, including an honest evaluation of team talent and AL East competition, the incredibly opaque realm of team finances and TV deals, and the riches-to-rags-to-riches recent history that’s affected both the team’s record and bottom line.
Posted: February 05, 2014 at 02:52 PM | 26 comment(s)
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