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2016 Nats vs. Indians Q&A and prediction with Vince Guerrieri

Hey, what’s going on? I’ve been busy this spring and summer, so there hasn’t been much blogging of late. I’ve found a little time though and with the Washington Nationals headed to Cleveland, I have asked my former colleague Vince Guerrieri (not pictured) to answer some questions about his beloved Tribe. Some say he’s the best freelance writer in Ohio. He’s also a newspaper editor as well as the author of Ohio Sports Trivia and The Blue Streaks and Little Giants: More Than a Century of Sandusky and Fremont Ross Football.. Vince also contributed to Tim Russert’s Wisdom of Our Fathers. Someday, he’s going to write the definitive biography of Jim Trafficant as well, can’t wait.

WFY: The last time we talked baseball here, the Cleveland Indians were coming off of the Manny Acta Experience, 2.0. Terry Francona was in his first year and that team lost the play-in game I think. Now, the Tribe has the largest divisional lead in the American League. What’s working for this year’s team? Is there optimism from the fans?

VG: The Tribe did win a wild card in year one of the Francona era, and lost the wild card game at home. They’ve finished at .500 or better in both years since, and three straight years of that is quite an achievement in Cleveland baseball.

The short answer to what’s working? Everything. They’ve got a strong starting rotation, and the offense is scoring five runs a game — and that’s WITHOUT Silver Slugger Michael Brantley. And not only are people starting to buy in, the Cavs have tapped a vein of optimism.

WFY: Beyond baseball, Cleveland’s doing okay this summer — the prodigal son came home and won a title, but not just a title. A comeback over the best regular season team in NBA history. The first title since LBJ was president. You got to cover the Republican National Convention and nothing caught on fire. Great Lakes Oktoberfest is only a month or two, if not weeks away! How much fun has it been on the shores of Lake Erie this summer?

VG: Everyone loves everyone! I didn’t actually cover the RNC (the closest I came was just across the river for a Daily Show recording … and I had a couple Great Lakes Cream Ales), but it went about as well as could be hoped for. I thought the Cavs were dead and buried after Game 4 of the Finals, and I’ve never been happier to be wrong.

WFY: How is attendance at The Jake this year? It was down in 2013, has it rebounded?

VG: Well, renovations and additions took out about 10,000 seats from the ballpark’s peak, so small crowds don’t look as small as they used to. Attendance has picked up in the past two weeks (right around the time the team was setting a record with a 14-game winning streak), but the RNC put the Tribe on an almost two-week road trip. So we’ve got a division-leading team with a lot of home games coming up. We’ll see what happens.

WFY: Chief Wahoo is being phased out, right for a block, serifed C, correct? How is that going over? I am anti-cartoon in any form on a major league cap and believe the letter(s) of the city is the only appropriate insignia, so I’m on board.

VG: The problem is that the team seems to want it both ways. They’re not completely eliminating the Chief, but they are phasing it out. And nobody’s happy. The anti-Chief faction wants it completely gone, and there are still fans who cling to the Chief out of nostalgia or something.

WFY: We’ve got two, two-game series over the next few weeks. Who do you think takes these four games, DC or CLE? Any chance you’ll be in our nation’s capital for the second series? Maybe in 2019, I’ll make it out to Cleveland with the Nats.

VG: I will miss the games at Nats Park. I think the Tribe wins both at home and loses one or both in DC.

WFY: How far do you think the Tribe is going to go this year? What about the Nats?

VG: I think they’re both in good spots, leading mediocre divisions. If the Tribe clinches the division early enough and sets the postseason rotation (and maybe makes a deal before the deadline), then the sky’s the limit.

As for the Nats, well, it looks like they might run into the Giants, and it is an even-numbered year…

WFY: Okay, thanks Vince. I might have to start doing football Q&As again in the fall just to talk about the Browns.

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Nats sweep Cardinals: First D.C. sweep in St. Louis since 1951

Bryce Harper went hitless for the weekend and the Washington Nationals still swept the St. Louis Cardinals in Busch Stadium III. #cantpredictball

Here’s some historical perspective that I tweeted out on Sunday:

Yes, Senators vs. Browns, the golden age of baseball indeed. That was Sportsman’s Park too, Anheuser Busch hadn’t bought the Cardinals yet.

Oh, there’s more:

Take that Neil Lomax!

I don’t know if the Capitals have ever swept the Blues though. Washington and St. Louis weren’t ever in the NBA together, at least not for very long.

When the Rams were in St. Louis (which was really weird), they played the Redskins almost annually, but never twice.

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Nats Opening Day videos from Hoover to Obama

Despite the spring equinox, the season never really arrives in the U.S. until the familiar cry of “play ball!” rings out. In Washington the grand and ancient tradition is carried out as President Johnson arrives to throw out the first ball as a thousand shutters click…”

To celebrate the home opener, I’ve put together a youtube playlist of Opening Days in Washington over the years, starting with a silent movie featuring Herbert Hoover. There’s some more highlights of recent vintage as well:

For generations, the traditional start of the American League season begin in the District of Columbia, frequently with the President throwing out the first ball to the assembled Washington Senators. Presidents Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson included in black and white newsreels included on the playlist. Footage of Richard Nixon, a big Senators fan, couldn’t be found — newsreels were over by then and the Senators were by the end of Nixon’s first term. Presidents Ford, Reagan, Bush (the elder) and Clinton would throw out the first ball elsewhere, while oddly enough softball player Jimmy Carter never did, at least for Opening Day.

The tradition resumed, albeit sporadically and not always on true Opening Day, in 2005 when the Washington Nationals were reborn as a National League team. Now, it’s a first pitch, from the mound to a specific player rather than the first ball from the stands to a group. George W. Bush made two home opener appearances – 2005 at RFK Stadium and 2008 on Nationals Park Opening Night. Barack Obama, wearing a Chicago White Sox cap and Nats jacket threw an eephus pitch in 2009.

Hoping for a return to an annual Washington Presidential Opening Day is unfortunately a fool’s errand. Between other presidential duties and MLB stretching out Opening Day into Opening Week, the tradition is unlikely to return. At the very least, MLB could award Washington a regular Opening Day slot, but they tend to be more sympathetic to Baltimore on such matters.

There are a few other on-field highlights as well as a pregame hype video. Hopefully, more Opener video will find it’s way onto youtube.

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2016_nats-prediction

2016 Nats prediction

Happy Opening Day, every one! We survived another long offseason.

The Washington Nationals threw away 2015 and Bruce Harper’s magnificent season in late 2013 when they hired Matt Williams to succeed Davey Johnson as manager. Now, they hope hiring one of Williams’s mentors will reverse the trend. Dusty Baker has a reputation of poor pitching management, but also being a strong clubhouse manager. After last season, the former seems more important.

Stephen Strasburg
is in his walk year and seems to have put it together in the second half of 2015 – if he’s healthy he probably wins more than Opening Day starter Max Scherzer who seems likely to regress a bit in his second NL season. It’s an enviable top two, but looming in the East is a powerful, young New York Mets rotation with a pennant on the resumes.

The biggest issue for that Nats and every one of course is health. Last year the optimum lineup played TWICE in 162 games. Leadoff man Denard Span is gone with Ben Revere. If Anthony Rendon can stay healthy and play like he did in 2014, that should be a solid top of the lineup for Harper and Ryan Zimmerman I’d he can avoid chronic injury.

I like the Nats to improve over next year overall just by the addition by subtraction of Matty. I’m saying 90-72. I don’t know if that’ll be enough to win the division, but they will be a factor.

Play ball!

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