Nats vs. Pirates Q&A with Sam, The Maryland Bureau Chief Emeritus

Earlier in the season, I asked the outgoing Maryland Bureau Chief about the first Washington Nationals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates series. Since then, Sam became The Maryland Bureau Chief Emeritus by moving back to Western Pennsylvania and both teams reached mediocrity or better. Their third series of the year begins tomorrow at Nationals Park.

WFY: Since our last Q&A, you moved back to Western Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh Pirates have at times had a winning record. The Washington Nationals have also been as high as 2 games above .500 (though they aren’t right now, grrrrr!). Is this all a coincidence or did your moving back lift both franchises?

TMBCE: It certainly appears that way, doesn’t it? I will say this: Pirates fever is starting to capture the city. At present, they are just 2 games over .500, but you’d think they are winning the division by 5 games. TV ratings are up and 3 of the biggest crowds in PNC Park history have been this season. To be fair, they’ve gotten a fair number of Phillies, Red Sox and Orioles fans for those respective series. And fans are still skeptical that the wheels will come off the wagon any day now. I think the Nats improvement is more sustained, and they could challenge for a division title next year.

WFY: Now that you are back in the Pittsburgh market, are you watching the Pirates and following them more closely? Did you find a Pirates cap to wear? Have you been to any games?

TMBCE: I am following them more closely, along with the Yanks. I’m much more into baseball this year. Sammy (my 5-year old son) is turning into a crazy baseball fan. We watch a portion of many of the games. I am trying to take him to his first game on July 9th against the Cubs-a fireworks night!

WFY: What is your take on Jim Riggleman resigning as manager of the Nats?

TMBCE: Overall, I think the GM did him wrong. And where is the ownership-are they weighing in on this ? I hope Riggleman isn’t interested in managing again, because he just committed career suicide. Plus, no one forced him to sign the contract, so I don’t feel too badly for him. But I would have tried to cash in on an extension too. The GM should have just fired him or extended him in the offseason. My long-distance view is a lack of leadership from ownership.

WFY: Thanks for taking 2 of 3 from the Baltimore Orioles last week — did We Are Family got a lot airplay? #theenemyofmyenemyismyfriend

TMBCE: Actually, it got none, because the Pirates (and I think wisely, for them) planned a series of events celebrating the 1971 championship team over that week. 40th anniversary and all. Who did they beat in the 1971 world series, you ask? The “unbeatable” Baltimore Orioles!!! So that was an enjoyable time for all.

WFY: Off topic, how do you feel about Jaomir Jagr’s decision?

TMBCE: I am in favor of him coming back, but will not be devastated if he does not. I cannot shake the “dying alive” comments he made right before getting shipped out to the Caps. Hopefully he has matured. Plus, the Pens power play sucks.


Surely I didn’t ask that previous question just to post this, did I?

WFY: Also, off topic, is a downtown rally for Hines Ward for winning Dancing With The Stars unbecoming of a city that has hosted 3 championship parades in the last 6 years?

TMBCE: It is. I have been a fan of Hines Ward long before it was “cool” to do so. Hines is probably my favorite all-time Steeler, but I will admit to being a bit disturbed to seeing so many “new” fans of Hines over the last 3-4 years. Most of them probably don’t realize he’s been playing for 13 seasons.

WFY: On a scale of “no chance” to “MORTAL LOCK” what are the chance that the Nats trip to Pittsburgh will be the same weekend as our mutual friend’s wedding next April?

TMBCE: Its a fair possibility. The Pirates seem to try and load up on summer weekend series against the big market teams, at least they did this season. I think the most likely scenario is the Nats come to Pittsburgh over Labor Day weekend. The 2nd most likely scenario is the last weekend in April.

One additional thought crossed my mind regarding the Nats-Pirates trade from a few years ago. Joel Hanrahan is exceeding expectations this season. He is tied for 2nd in the NL with 23 saves. He is perfect in saves opportunities this year with a 1.21 ERA. He is likely the Pirates All-Star, although with those numbers, I believe he has earned his ticket. I believe this tilts that trade slightly in the Pirates favor, for the moment.

WFY: Oh, how wonderful, I’m so happy that he is conquering his pyromania. Seriously, he killed the 2009 season with all of his early blown saves, this should have been his entrance music:

Lastly, TMBCE expects a split series but thinks the Nats have a better shot at taking 3. I think he’s trying to jinx me, so I’ll give the Buccos the edge in taking 3, though I expect a split.

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Throwing errors aside, Ryan Zimmerman is awesome, but the Nats are under .500

Does it figure that the day that overwhelmed sports radio host and occasional Post columnist for topics other than the NBA, Mike Wise, writes a column on how great Ryan Zimmerman is that the Washington Nationals third baseman commits the throwing error that cost the Nats the game? Of course it does!

I don’t argue Wise’s point that the Nats need to make Zimmerman part of a winning team in D.C. — I think they are doing that. Zimmerman seems to think it too. Oh and I don’t think it is time to move him over to first base because he’s having a little trouble throwing 3 weeks after coming back from abdominal surgery.

By they way, the ziMS Foundation gala, A Night at the Park, is tonight at Nationals Park, tickets still available, starting at $75. The ziMS foundation “is dedicated to the treatment and ultimate cure of Multiple Sclerosis.” His mother, Cheryl Zimmerman was diagnosed with the disease in 1995.

The guy whose last name sounds really similar to the “face of the franchise” Jordan Zimmermann, pitched 8 innings without giving up an earned run in yesterday’s 1-0 loss to the Anaheim Angels. Zimerman was 90 feet away as the tying run when Michael Morse struck out on a 100 MPH fastball to end the game. The Davey Johnson era starts out with a sweep and now the Nats are under .500. The good news is that interleague is over, so we should never have to deal with designated hitter Matt Stairs again.

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I-95: EZ Pass only lanes now open on the Delaware Turnpike

 

I-95 high-speed E-ZPass lanes open at Newark toll plazaThe News Journal (New Castle, Del.)
A nightmare of a construction project along Interstate 95 has been completed.

The Delaware Turnpike toll plaza near Newark now has two dedicated left lanes for cars with EZ Pass — drivers with the transponder no longer have to slow down!

Last year when we were going down the Shore, the delays for the Delaware Turnpike plaza stretched over 10 miles into Maryland along I-95 north.

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Nats: Davey Johnson is 0-2 and I dislike west coast night games

Two games in to the Davey Johnson era, the Washington Nationals are 0-2. Clearly, they blew it when they let John McLaren go. McLaren at least made the most of his era (DC Sports Bog, The Post) Also, Thomas Boswell took the Jim Riggleman mudslinging in stride which was almost disappointing.

I think I might hold a grudge against Walter O’Malley and Horace Stoneham for creating West Coast baseball — I have not been watching the Nats as their games are starting after 10 p.m. since they are at the Anaheim Angels. No, I won’t call them by their “proper” name because it is really redundant, about is geographically indefensible for a baseball team. One of the things I always appreciated about baseball was if a team had a city name in it, they actually resided in that city. Football, hockey and basketball aren’t great about that, but baseball was until the Angels decided to tack on the name of a city 30+ miles away. Also, in the past I was critical of the team renaming itself to Anaheim back in the 1990s, but it has a larger (and growing) population than Pittsburgh or Cincinnati.

Since I haven’t watched the games, I got my fix remembering the last time the Nats were in Anaheim, courtesy of rocket1124 at Capital City Goofballs:

20050614 – Pine Tar and JOSE’S REVENGE! from Rocket 1124 on Vimeo.

Frank Robinson may had his weaknesses as manager, but he was a complete badass.

Tonight’s game is East Coast friendly, 7:05 start. Jordan Zimmermann tries to stop the bleeding and get the Nats back over .500.

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It is summertime and the Nats are precisely mediocre, hopefully we’ll never celebrate that again

The Washington Nationals reached a .500 record last night (37 wins and losses — hey that Strasburg’s number, it MUST BE A SIGN) with a tight 2-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners. This the latest the team has not had a losing record since October 2, 2005. Only two members of the team were around then, Ryan Zimmerman and ¡LIVAN! and the latter was playing elsewhere for about 3 years of that span.

I thought today’s gamer by Adam Kilgore of The Post was the most successful in getting what .500 means to the team those who follow it. Kilgore framed the story around John Lannan, who along with Zimmerman, endured the leanest years of the franchise. Lannan, like the team has had his struggles. As recently as early May, it looked like Lannan might be headed to another long assignment in the minors like last year. However, Lannan has been excellent of late:

Lannan has allowed two earned runs or less in eight of nine starts, and in his last six starts he has a 1.15 ERA. He lowered his season ERA to 3.40. Five of the last six times Lannan has taken the mound, the Nationals have won.

The 26 year old sinkerballer has AA written on the interior brim of his caps to motivate himself, a constant reminder of his time in the minors last year.

The Nats are saying the right things. Lannan again:

“People doubt our ability, and they have for the last couple years,” Lannan said. “And we have to be able to prove them wrong. We’re not done doing that. We’ve struggled, but it’s a new organization. It’s a great feeling.”

Zimmerman:

“Nothing,” he said. “If we continue to play good, then it will mean more at the end of the season. A ton of teams are .500 in June.”

But, Zimmerman allowed, “the past two weeks matter.”

Reliever Sean Burnett, who after having a poor stretch has rebounded well – last night he struck out Ichiro, a rare feat and a critical out, said:

“Baseball’s been fun again,” reliever Sean Burnett said. “We knew what we were capable of, but we had to get back to .500 before we could really see how good we were.”

Of course, as @needham_chris noted, Burnett has only played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Nats, so how could it have been fun? Point taken.

Danny Espinosa, who factored in both Nats runs last night (1 RBI, 1 R) observed:

“I think people are going to pay more attention to us. Coming back from where we were, people probably just thought, ‘The Nationals this year, they’re going to flop.’ This team’s not like that. We’re not going to accept losing. It’s obvious losing hasn’t been accepted.”

It’s true, people are starting to take notice. Baseball Tonight did last night:

For an everyday Nats fan, there is certainly room to quibble with post-season aspirations or Jim Riggleman’s in-game managerial aptitude, but Riggleman deserves praise for getting this young team to play cleaner baseball. The errors have been fewer and they run the bases well. There seems to be a level of accountability in the team that has been absent in five years.

I took the day off today to head up to Nationals Park with my dad. So far, I haven’t seen a single win in my 3 trips to 1500 South Capital Street. I didn’t even see a run until my third visit. Hopefully, the Nats can break that streak, while building on their modest 2 game winning streak and shocking 10 of 11 run. A win today would give them a winning record for the first time during the summer since 2005. I am excited. I am pleased that they are at .500.

But I still want more.

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How I’d tweak the Washington Capitals uniform

Four years ago today, the Washington Capitals reverted to their roots and unveiled new red, white and blue uniforms. It actually seems longer, because as soon as those new sweaters hit the ice, it seemed like they had always been around. The black, turquoise and bronze uniforms were thankfully sent to the dustbin of history. Recently, the Caps sibling, the Washington Wizards did the same thing and redesigned their uniform. Prior to that redesign, I came up with a design that became one of my most popular posts.

Overall, the red, white and blue Caps uniforms grew on me once I saw them in action, but I maintain there are still a few shortcomings:

  • My co-worker Fred, a Buffaslugs fan no less, noted that the script has no capital letters. Yes, the team is the Capitals, but the letters are lower-case. They could have capitalized the “C” and still gotten the basic point across.
  • Where are the stars? Capitals uniforms always had lots of stars, one way or another. The sleeves should be covered in stars.

    I thought would try and address these items:

    In my redesign, I added stars back to the sweaters. I think the solid blue pants are good enough or maybe I didn’t want to Photoshop any more stars on stuff. The original white sweater (which is my primary Caps sweater) had a lot more red on it than the current version so I made the sleeves on the road white sweater red. Lastly, I capitalized the “C” in Capitals because…they are the Capitals, no the lower-casers.

    I am sure you will all agree that switching to these uniforms would be the final step needed to hoist the Stanley Cup, nevermind all of that nonsense about better coaching in the playoffs, healthy players and an enigmatic Russian 2nd line winger.

    By the way, the image above was modified from The Hockey Uniform Database which includes every NHL uniform ever and it well worth a visit.

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  • Wilson Ramos hits walkoff as Nats come back from 5-0 down to beat Mariners

    If you left early, you blew it! – Dave Jageler

    So, ¡LIVAN! was ¡Navil! last night, going down 5-0 to the Seattle Mariners. In fact, the Washington Nationals were down 5-1 with two outs in the ninth and were facing , a 98 MPH throwing closer. Jayson Werth got on with an error and advanced to second. Roger Bernadina‘s walk was wiped out by Ryan Zimmerman‘s double-play (his third of the night, very Cal Ripken-like). Jerry Hairston singled Werth home. A Michael Morse line drive off of League’s calf forced the closer from the game and kept the rally alive. David Pauley replaced League and gave up a single to Danny Espinosa, scoring Hariston. Wilson Ramos than came to bat and taking hitting coach Rick Eckstein’s advice, waited for a change-up. Pauley threw one over the plate and this happened:


    Incredible commentary in the lats 15 seconds of the video, maybe turn the speakers down if you lasted that long.

    Here is the official video with the Johnny Holliday and Charlie Slowes calls.

    I think I’m starting to believe, but I want more. Like a win when I’m in the park.

    The subhorn is growing on me.

    In really important news, Werth shaved off his beard. Perhaps Werth got wind of this Big League Stew contest that features a MissChatter photo.

    Nationals vs. Mariners: Wilson Ramos hits walk-off home run to cap Washington’s five-run rally in ninthThe Post
    Ramos’ bomb seals Nats’ 5-run, ninth-inning rally over MarinersThe Wash. Times
    Ramos to the rescueThe Wash. Examiner

    Slowes was very excited, they need to bring back his victory fireworks. Also, did Bustin’ Loose go away? I haven’t seen any homers in the games I have been at this season, so I don’t know for sure. That needs to come back if it is gone.

    The game got storify-ed by @dcyetti too.

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    Nats: Chad Coredero retires and I wonder if he’s broadcaster material

    Chad Cordero, the original Washington Nationals closer, has retired according to his most recent team, the independent St. Paul Saints. Cordero was never able to sufficiently recover from a torn labrum in 2008.

    Cordero, was by most accounts, a really good guy. He was also an effective, if dramatic, closer. He lead the majors in saves in 2005 with 47. His flat brimmed cap has been mimicked by many others. I am disappointed that he couldn’t get back to the majors; he’ll always have a place in the heart of Nats fans for his performance in baseball’s return to the District.

    Now that the franchise is in its 7th season, the number of retired players is growing. It is my hope that one or more of them, perhaps Cordero, can be recruited and trained to be a part of the broadcasts. Now, I’m not advocating anybody be replaced, especially Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler who should be granted tenure on the radio side, but having a former DC player in a logical progression for the team. Perhaps it is redundant to suggest that having former players on board to share their experience is logical and desirable. Of course, since the Nats TV rights were given to Peter Angelos because he is a crybaby and a coward, they may not get a say in the matter. After it was Angelos’ son who hired Rob Dibble. We didn’t get to watch a lot of Cordero’s best work because Angelos kept the Nats off most cable systems. I’m getting off topic here, I’m sorry.

    Cordero has had a tough few years with his career ending and the absolute worst thing in in the world happening to him and his family . Whether he returns to D.C. or not, I wish him well.

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