THRICE HARPER: Free from the shackles of batting gloves, Nats slugger has 3 homer game



Bryce Harper
is doing his part to keep the Washington Nationals winning percentage above his on-base percentage. He’s not making it easy though as he keeps getting on-base with a league leading 26 walks over 29 games. Of course, it isn’t walks that make Harper who he is — it’s power. Yesterday, he hit 3 home runs in his first 3 at bats. His fourth at bat was a sacrifice RBI. He did it all without batting gloves, a rarity in modern baseball. The Nats beat the Miami Marlins 7-5.

I watched the second homer over and over again while waiting for a meeting to start:

For most of the season, Harper’s OBP has exceeded the Nats winning percentage. He’s now at .416 and the Nats are 14-15 which is .482. The hope is the winning percentage will remain higher than Harper’s OBP for the rest of the year. I think it will.

Also, let’s remember that Harper is 22 years old and has never faced a pitcher younger than him. He’s in his fourth season. He’s really good. Even Nats manager Matt Williams (who left Max Scherzer in too long) knows it. Finally.

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May the 4th be with you: 228 days until Star Wars: Episode VII

May the 4th be with you.

It’s going to be very weird not seeing this preceding Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens:

I guess we’ll see Cinderella’s castle instead.

It’s a long 7+ months to go until Episode VII debuts. So far, we’ve got very little knowledge based on the teaser:

and the teaser trailer:

I’m excited, but trying to temper my optimism. The good news is Disney usually does this kind of thing right, the Marvel universe is well-respected. On the other hand, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek is mixed. Sure, he NAILED the casting of Spock, but otherwise he:

  • destroyed the planet of the most interesting culture
  • turned Capt. Kirk into Zack Morris in space

So, I’m a bit concerned. The return to practical effects is a hopeful sign.

Of course, there is some fan-service I’d like to see. For me. Because I am a fan.

  • Don’t turn Luke to the Dark Side. Just don’t do it. No evil Leia either. That’s storyline can only conclude one way, with redemption, so why not avoid something obvious along the way.
  • I want to see Luke talk to other previous Jedi — like Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, Mace Windu, Yoda, etc. Hi, Ewan, Liam and Sam! Once a movie is fine.
  • Lando deserves some screen time

I fully expect a return of the emperor at some point during the series. I’d have him show up in the last reel of Episode VIII with little more than a laugh as the great cliffhanger.

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Nats may have leverage over Orioles and they better use it

The riots in Baltimore that followed the death of a suspect in police custody led to a cancellation of a Baltimore Orioles game. Immediately thereafter, speculation began that Tuesday’s game and others that follow could be moved to Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. since the Nats are on a road trip through the end of the week.

This is a terrible idea for the District and the Nats.

Peter Angelos and the Baltimore Orioles have worked against the interests of the District, the Washington Nationals and their fans for over a decade. They voted against DC getting baseball and bullied MLB into giving them the super-majority of the Nats television rights. The Nats were immediately placed on an Orioles-controlled channel that did not make it onto every major D.C. area cable system until September 2006, almost two full seasons. The bad faith goes on and one.

Now, with the Orioles possibly unable to play in Baltimore, the Nats need to use this situation to their advantage. If the Orioles want to use Nationals Park these conditions should be met:

  • Peter Angelos and the Baltimore Orioles renounce all claims to the Washington Nationals television rights immediately
  • Peter Angelos and the Baltimore Orioles and apologize for voting no on D.C. baseball and the decade of bad behavior they have engaged in against the District, the Nats and their fans.

Obviously, neither scenario is likely, so the Nats out to just go about the business and remember Aesop’s The Farmer & Viper.

Also, the Nats ought to start winning again. Just a minor thing. It’d be nice if the team’s winning percentage is was higher that Bryce Harper’s OBP. At least he’s shown up at the plate so far.

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nationals-park-opening-day-2015

Always October? Nats have good pitching, poor fielding and only Bryce Harper hitting in Opening Day loss

WASHINGTON, D.C. — When we last saw the Washington Nationals in meaningful action, it was last year’s NLDS. The story was simple — the pitching was good. The fielding was not and Bryce Harper was the only player hitting. The story remained the same in yesterday’s Opening Day loss to the New York Mets.

Max Scherzer started the game with a strike, but walked the first batter. However, he did not allow a hit until two outs in the sixth. Curtis Granderson had walked and SS Ian Desmond dropped a short fly that was rightfully 2B Dan Uggla’s ball. Lucas Duda singled them home to give the Mets and insurmountable 2-1 lead.

Another Desmond error, this time a short-hopped throw to first base that we hope Ryan Zimmerman will learn to get cost Nats another run. Is there anything that says April in Washington more than cherry blossoms, tourists, pollen and Ian DE6MOND making errors?

Scherzer finished with eight strikeouts, zero earned runs and a big L next to his name. His opposite number, Bartolo Colon, also struck out eight, giving up only a hit to Michael A. Taylor and a homer and single to Harper. Jerry Blevins, the former Nat, struck got Harper out and then was promptly removed. The Mets have already figured out Blevins is a LOOGY, something Matt Williams never did.

I wasn’t surprised Colon beat the Nats, I mentioned that likelihood in the Q&A with Eric McErlain, but I was surprised that Colon was hitting 92 on the radar gun.

OTHER NOTES FROM THE PARK

First off, a big thanks to Joe Riley for the ticket. We were in 309 which gave a good view of the fire from Capitol Heights which was behind the Blue Smoke sign. Joe was on top of it when he said “great product placement” or something to that effect.

The weather was absolutely perfect and we were seated in the shade. Best Opening Day weather ever.

Remember WGAY? The “easy listening” station, gone from D.C. airways since the 1990s? Apparently it’s been resurrected as the in-stadium music during the opposition batting practice. The idea is that it mellows out the visitors bats. Welp, the Mets had five hits and one error while the Nats had 3 hits and 2 errors. Let’s blame that for the loss, shall we? And Desmond.

On the bright side, the piped in music seemed a little less during the actual game.

#signduanedargin Nine year-old Duane Dargin of the Washington Nationals Dream Academy threw out the best first pitch (DC Sports Bog, The Post) I’ve ever seen for the commissioner Rob Manfred. Sign him now!

Speaking of Manfred, the worst kept secret in MLB was confirmed with D.C. getting the 2018 All-Star game. I’d rather it have been Nats TV rights, but this is okay. Ted Lerner really wanted it (The Post), having attended the 1937 edition at Griffith Stadium.

We had an asynchronous national anthem and fighter jet flyover. #foreshadowing

It must be time for a rubber chicken sacrifice!

The Nats are now on a 161-1 pace.

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ny-mets-are-my-favorite-squadron

2015 Nats vs. Mets Q&A with Eric McErlain

Opening Day is Monday! That means I resume my annual Washington Nationals Q&As with opposition fans. Leading off is Eric McErlain (not pictured) – the NY Mets are his favorite squadron; we took a relaxed attitude and talked about the baseball match.

This is Eric’s 5th visit as a Mets guest prognosticator: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and Jets in 2011.

WFY: Though it may not have been apparent to all Washington Nationals fans, the 2014 New York Mets improved significantly. Bullpen meltdowns helped the Nats to a 15-4 record against the Amazins – a split and it would have been a winning season in Queens. How have the Mets addressed that weakness? Beside bringing in Jerry Blevins of course. Hint to Terry Colins he’s a LOOGY. That’s it. Matt Williams doesn’t know that.

EMc: I have to dispute the premise of your question. Yes, the Mets bullpen was a real problem vs. the Nats last season, but overall the team was 6th in the National League in ERA and 3rd in strikeouts. I think much of your evaluation is colored by the experience early in the season when Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth were holding down the fort, and to be frank, letting the Indians over the walls. Later, as Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia, Vic Back and Jenry Mejia started playing larger roles, the situation really stabilized.

Things looked a little tenuous as Edgin was lost for the year to Tommy John surgery, but Sandy Alderson addressed the need for lefthanded help in the bullpen by acquiring Blevins and Alex Torres last week. Bobby Parnell, the former closer who is returning to the team after missing nearly an entire season, ought to return to the team in mid-April. Rafael Montero, who just missed snagging the job as the 5th starter with a great Spring, will also be in the pen from the start of the season. This looks like a strength, not a weakness heading into 2015.

One of my favorite stats is one you can find on every season summary page in Baseball Reference: Pythagorean W-L. Last year, the Mets finished 79-83 while outscoring the opposition by 11 runs. According to Pythagorean W-L, the team should have been 82-80. I think a lot of observers believe that even with a lineup constrained by Fred Wilpon’s financial difficulties, the Mets aren’t that far away from being a winning team. I think they’re right.

WFY: An improving team should get help with the return of Matt Harvey from his Tommy John surgery. What is the Mets plan for him? How does the overall rotation appear now? Other than noted Bryce Harper observer, Zack Wheeler, who is out with his own Tommy John, right?

EMc: Alderson is keeping his cards close to his vest when it comes to an innings limit on Harvey. He’s said the team isn’t counting on him pitching 210-225 innings, but he also said that the limit wasn’t as low as the 160 Stephen Strasburg was held to when he returned from the same surgery. We’ll just have to watch and see. What I do know is I saw Harvey pitch nearly six scoreless innings vs. the Yankees in Spring Training and he looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. He’s out for blood and I think the Mets will have to tread very lightly in order to not alienate their young star.

As for the entire rotation, the order at this point – in order to maximize the revenue potential in Harvey’s starts at home – is Colon, deGrom, Harvey, Niese and Gee. The Mets shopped Gee in the offseason, and if he gets off to a hot start, they may move him and slide Montero into the 5th position.

WFY: Given the Nats predilection for hitting homers in Citi Field last year, seemingly half of which would have been outs in previous seasons, I was surprised to see the Mets moving the fences in again. Do you agree with the Mets that the advantage to the offense greater than the disadvantage to pitching?

EMc:
That appears to be the calculus. Wright needed help and so did Curtis Granderson. When Citifield opened, I liked the fact that it played big. So did Shea Stadium (even Mike Piazza’s power numbers dropped when he joined the Mets), and the Mets took advantage of that through their time there by developing great pitching. That appears to be happening again, and I guess Alderson is counting on the great young arms to keep the ball in the park. As for the bats, the Mets led the Grapefruit League in just about every offensive category. Things may have turned.

WFY: Did the Mets make any significant free agent acquisitions?

EMc: The major offseason acquisition for the Mets was David Wright’s buddy, Michael Cuddyer. He’ll play left field and spell Lucas Duda at first against some lefthanders. When Cuddyer moves to first, ex-Phillies outfielder John Mayberry, Jr. will get the call in left. Both have had excellent Springs. A lot of fans were clamoring for a new shortstop, but Wilmer Flores has the job and it’s his to lose. His spring has been more than respectable at the plate, but his glove …

WFY: Noah Syndergaard and his lunch are back in the minors – has he been a disappointment or is it too soon to say? I think I ask about Travis d’Arnuad every year too.

EMc: It’s too early to say and thanks to the amount of pitching in the system, the Mets don’t need to rush him to the majors. As for d’Arnaud, he rebounded nicely after being sent down last season. He’s the only starter who has had a disappointing Spring. But if he falters, remember that the Mets have Kevin Plawecki stashed at Las Vegas. He looks like the real deal too.

WFY: What needs to happen for the Mets to reach the playoffs?

EMc: Take the Nats out of the equation last season, and the Mets are 75-68. They cannot go 4-15 vs. the Nats again and expect to make the playoffs. Go .500 vs. the Nats, and they’ve got a fighting chance to make it.

WFY: Since it’s ’15, who is the best #15 in Mets history?

EMc: Carlos Beltran without question. Others who wore that number include original Met Al Jackson, George Foster, Ron Darling and d’Arnaud. But my favorite #15 of all time is the catcher who guided the pitching staff to the World Series twice (1969 & 1973) in five years, Jerry Grote. I’d kill to buy his jersey – which would be #15 with no nameplate on the back – but you can’t buy it. Hey, Mitchell & Ness, I’m looking at you!

WFY: What do you make of the Mets not being majority fanbase anywhere, even their own zip code, according to The Times Facebook likes based fanmaps?

EMc: The Mets have been forgettable during the era of social media while the Yankees have been consistent winners with a lineup that boasted the most popular player in all of baseball, Derek Jeter. If the Mets string together a couple of good seasons, we’ll see that map turn. It’s nothing more than that. With Jeter gone and Harvey on the rise, look for some of those zips to flip in coming years.

WFY: Since the Mets keep doing things to their uniforms, I’m going to keep asking about them. Will you miss the all-white uniforms? I was never a fan, though I understand the appeal of not having pinstripes. Does the alternate cap with gray on it need to find a way into you possession?

EMc:
No and no. I’m a traditionalist with the Mets uniform. I’ve never liked the deviations much, with the possible exception of the mid-80s road blues that replaced New York with Mets across the chest. I own an R.A. Dickey All-Star Game jersey, and have a strong attachment to the original road uniform. For me, that road uniform screams 1973 and beating the Cubs in Chicago to clinch the NL East.

WFY: Do you feel like a Nationals-Mets rivalry is likely or even possible? Is there lingering bitterness from 2007 when a fairly bad Nats team kept beating the Mets in September?

EMc: It’s not a rivalry when you take 14 of 19 from a team. That being said, Collins has identified the failures vs. the Nats last season as something to be corrected. So call me in September. If the Mets keep it close, the series in DC from September 7-9 could be interesting. As for bitterness, take your pick: 1973, 1998, 2000, 2007 or 2008. Those never go away.

WFY: Off topic, I’ve noticed you’ve been mentioning the other blue and orange from Long Island, the New York Islanders more of late on social media. Have you gone back to your roots in hockey after so many years following and blogging about the Caps? How is their move to Brooklyn going over on the Island?

EMc:
I’ve watched a lot of hockey this season, Caps and Islanders. If the teams play on the same night, I’ll watch the best matchup. It’s the last season in Nassau Coliseum, and the fans, many of whom I grew up with, are doing their best to send the team out in style. It would be impossible not to watch given the time when I grew up. If the teams meet in the playoffs, I have to admit I’ll be very conflicted. That being said, if it happens, Caps in six.

WFY: Last year, you mentioned that the Mets are historically awesome on Opening Day, while the Nats are not. That didn’t matter in Flushing last year though as the Nats came back to win 9-7. Now with Opening Day in DC (where it belongs) can Bartolo Colon outduel Max Scherzer and get the boys from Flushing on their way to a series win? I think his slop will mess the Nats up, so I’m saying Mets take the first series, but the Nats take the season series.

EMc: I’m writing off Opening Day, where I think the Nats will win and win big. Colon always has the potential to get shelled, and I think this is the game. As for the rest of the series, I think the Mets sneak out a win with Harvey on the mound Thursday. I see the season series going 11-8 for the Nats. As for the rest of the season, I see the Mets winning 86 games and missing out on the Wild Card to the Marlins. As for the Nats, it almost seems like a division title and a 100-win season would be a disappointment, but the truth is that nothing less than winning it all will be a disaster. I say they do it.

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Nats bloopers to Stars & Stripes Forever, I Fought the Law and um, Da Butt

MAY 21 UPDATE: The video and soundtrack are back! Get Valerie Camillo a fainting couch, there here is go-go in it!

I’d replace “I Fought the Law” with Danny Gatton’s “Fingers on Fire” though.

UPDATE: YouTube turned off the sound due to a copyright infringement in the 18 hours since I discovered this video that had been up for almost 2 months. You’ll just have to listen your vinyl copy or well, go here.

Yesterday, I stumbled on some Washington Nationals-related bloopers on youtube, part of a series for all MLB teams. It starts off with John Popper playing “God Bless America” on his harmonica (remember that?) while somebody tries to add eye drops while wearing sunglasses and is followed by President Obama’s eephus pitch to native Washingtonian John Phillip Sousa‘s “Stars & Stripes Forever,” so that gives you a pretty good idea of what we’re in for with this thing.

Later in the video, Experience Unlimited takes over with “Da Butt” because reasons. The last is The Clash with “I Fought the Law” the only non-DC music in the whole video. You have to respect the local flavor of the video creator.

Wacky plays, broken/flaming stadium equipment, Pierogi destruction, John Wall and an insurrection against the President’s Race are all included. Bryce Harper is well often represented. One really, glaring omission though:

But hey, it’s got had “Da Butt.”

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R.I.P. Earl Lloyd

Earl Lloyd, an Alexandria native, integrated the NBA in 1950 with the Washington Capitols. I blogged about this on 60th anniversary. He didn’t last long before entering the Army while the Capitols folded in early 1951. Lloyd would play for the Syracuse Nationals, winning the 1955 NBA title. His final two years were with the Detroit Pistons where he would also become head coach, the second African-American to hold the top job after Bill Russell.

More on Earl Lloyd:

Wizards Magazine Extra: Remembering Earl LloydMonumental Network

Earl Lloyd, first black player in NBA, dead at 86NBA.com

Earl Lloyd, first African American player in the NBA, dies at 86The Post

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William F. Yurasko's blog v.15 – Nats, Redskins, Capitals, D.C. life, transportation, not so much Penn State anymore,