Tag Archives: guest prognosticator

A series of Q&As with fans of teams opposing the Washington Nationals & Redskins. Mostly, it is a chance to look at the fandom associated with that team, as well as provide some insight on how they are playing and what to expect in the upcoming matchup.

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2015 Nats vs. Phillies Q&A and prediction with Kevin McGuire of Macho Row

The Washington Nationals dropped their first series of the year to the New York Mets at Nationals Park. Opening Day saw two Ian Desmond errors lead to 3 runs as Max Scherzer‘s strong debut and Bryce Harper’s home run being wasted. In the second game, the Nats won on the backs of the Zimmermen — Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-run homer and Jordan Zimmermann gave up only a run. On Thursday, DE6MOND struck again with another costly 2-out error costing the Nats 2 runs. Stephen Strasburg couldn’t overcome that or the damp, cold weather in a 6-3 loss to Matt Harvey. Three runs off the Mets bullpen made it feel closer than it was.

Moving on and to the city of brotherly love (based on what I heard on radio, by bus – perhaps deserved after this poor performance) the Nats look to right the ship against the Philadelphia Phillies who have (Southeast) Jerome Williams on the mound Friday night.

Really.

Helping us prepare for the Phillies series is another decorated guest prognosticator, Kevin McGuire of Macho Row and College Football Talk. This is the fifth time for him with the Phillies . He’s also talked about the Eagles when I was doing this feature in football season. That could come back someday, but we’ll see.

WFY: Let’s not waste any time – why does GM Ruben Amaro still have a job?

KMc: It is my belief the Phillies are a family-oriented type of franchise. Sometimes they have a hard time parting ways with their own kind, and Amaro has been a part of the Phillies franchise in one way or another for decades before becoming a part of the front office. He played here. His dad played here. They like Amaro and want to give him time to fix things. It is a fault of the franchise that probably held on to Ed Wade for a few years longer than they should have. But the pressure is starting to rise and there needs to be some sort of plan in motion seen this year, I think.

WFY: The Phillies contending days are a distant memory, their two pennants and second world championship even farther. Does getting to watch some fan favorites like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley from the Phillies mini epoch make the decline a little easier to handle than watching a bunch of no-names losing 90 games a year? Not that we have any concerns about that in the nation’s capital where we don’t have all that hardware yet…

KMc: It depends. Chase Utley is treated like a god here. Ryan Howard, not so much. People have long been wanting to ship Howard out of town, so there is no solace there by the general fan. Years from now though, when those players are gone and we have more time to reflect on just how good things were here for that stretch, they will all be welcomed back like heroes, even Howard.

WFY: How did the Phillies look in their first series, against the Boston Red Sox? How did the Sox look; the Nats play them next week? Why does it seem like the Phillies always open with interleague?

KMc: The Phillies were routed in the season opener, 8-0. Cole Hamels gave up four solo home runs and reliever Jake Diekmann served up a grand slam to Hanley Ramirez in the ninth inning. Hamels was not sharp, but look at his career numbers in his season debut and it was really par for the course (he’ll be fine, he always has a rough season debut though for whatever reason). The offense was non-existent, and that figures to be the story of the season in Philadelphia. The top of the order failed to get a hit (Utley reached on an error), and there is not a real threat anywhere in the lineup. The Red Sox are going to mash some hits and score some runs this season. It can be a dangerous lineup, and if they can add another good starter in the rotation they should contend (Hamels trade talks are still out there).

This is the second season of season-long interleague play (which I am no fan of, by the way), and for the second straight year the Phillies opened against an AL team. Last year they opened in Texas and had their home opener against the Royals. This year Boston was in town. I’m not sure if there is anything to it, or if it is just a coincidence.

WFY: Who is left to pitch for the Phillies with Roy Halladay retired and Cliff Lee out indefinitely?

KMc: After Hamels, the Phillies will go with free agent pick-up Aaron Harang for however long he may last. David Buchanan me his major league debut last season and remains not he roster. Right now he is the third pitcher in the rotation. He is followed by Jerome Williams, who wears a pink glove and was added through waivers last season. If Cliff Lee returns this year (I doubt he will), he’ll complete the five-man rotation. But of Lee does not come back, I’m not really sure where this team goes for a fifth starter (Kyle Kendrick is now with the Rockies). The hope is Chad Billingsley is healthy enough to join the rotation soon. He was signed on a one-year deal with a injury history, so the Phillies are crossing their fingers on this one.

WFY: Dominic Brown was seen as a promising prospect for a few years – how is he doing now?

KMc: Well, right now he is on the disabled list to start the season. And you are right, he was once seen as a promising prospect, but so far he has yet to really show why on a consistent enough basis. Brown has been poor in the outfield and his offense is not quite what it was supposed to be at this point in his development and career. Brown is the one prospect Amaro held on to while moving players and prospects over the years, which does not help the situation either. After making his big league debut five years ago and getting a full-time role four years ago, the Phillies needed more out of him by now.

WFY: Do the Phillies have any other prospects starting to come up to the majors?

KMc: There are a few down the line worth watching. Shortstop J.P. Crawford is projected to be the next franchise shortstop once he is ready, but he was only in single A ball last year so he is still a couple years away. Last year’s top draft pick was on pitcher Aaron Nola out of LSU. He was placed right into double A and could be seen this summer, especially if things are unstable in the rotation. The other player that could be seen is Maikel Franco, who plays third and first base. The Phillies will likely end up using him at first base with Cody Asche covering third base. Of course, Ryan Howard is still at first…

WFY: How is Ryne Sandberg doing as a manager?

KMc: I am honestly not really sure. I almost feel inclined to give him a pass to a certain degree given what he has to work with in the clubhouse, but we are now 1.5 seasons in with Sandberg as manager and there are some things that were supposed to be fixed that have not played out as advertised. Fundamentals is still an issue with some, and that was supposed to be the big difference with Ryne as manager. We’ll see what happens this season. There is no doubt he knows his baseball, but there needs to be some positive development on the field this season.

WFY: Given the Phillies decline, was their season series victory over the Nats last year any more satisfying? I owe somebody a half-smoke. What is the perception of the Nats from the Phillies fanbase?

KMc: I’m not sure how much satisfaction most Phillies fans took in anything that happened last season, including a season-series victory over the Nationals. But hey, I’ll take it I guess. I think most Phillies fans recognize the Nationals as the top threat in the division right now, and perhaps that is starting to add some fuel to a regional rivalry, but that won’t really take form up here until the Phillies have something to play for. The Jayson Werth stuff is getting old at this point, I think at least, but there is always Bryce Harper. I think he is perceived as a punk, but he’s a punk we’d all love to have on our team.

WFY: How is the local/regional beer selection at Citizens Bank Park?

KMc: When it comes to this topic I like to defer to Lee Porter, a local food blogger who does a masterful job mapping out the beer selections throughout Citizens Bank Park on his website. One thing he has already noticed for this season is there will be more mega cans of the more common beers available this season, which may or may not be a reason why some of the previously offered local brews have been cut from the menu. There is still a good selection of local breweries in the stadium, so it may not be a big deal for most, and there are some new options available.

One thing that should also be noted for some higher brow readers, the Phillies have a new deal in place with Chadds Ford Winery and now serve various wine selections in the stadium. Mixed drinks are also more available at certain locations as well. Some are going to need it.

WFY: Is that sign still blocking the skyline in center field? Have their been any significant upgrades to the ballpark since I went there 10 years ago?

KMc: I have good news for you! After a decade of that darn useless sign obstructing your view of Center City, the Phillies are kinda sorta making it less of a distraction. While the sign is still in the parking lot, the height of the sign has been reduced, reportedly going from 157 feet high to 115 feet. It is supposed to be used for its initial purpose of being a message board as well. I’ll have to go to a game though to see just how much of a difference this has made. I’ll be there Sunday for the Phillies-Nationals afternoon game. I’ll report back if you are interested.

WFY: Since it’s 2015, who is the best #15 in Phillies history?

KMc: This one is easy. Dick Allen, who wore the uniform number from the dreadful season of 1964 through 1969, and again in 1975 when he returned to the team. The number was also worn by guys like Rick Schu, Steve Jeltz and Dave Hollins and was most recently worn by John Mayberry Jr. Simply said, there is no competition here for Dick Allen, who should probably be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

WFY: How do you see this series shaping up? What about the Nats-Phillies season series?

KMc: I expect many disappointing series from the Phillies this season, including this weekend at home against the NL East favorite Nationals. I think the Nationals are going to be very good this season (we’ll see what happens in the postseason), and I think they have a relatively easy time taking the season series from the Phillies this summer. Cole Hamels will be back on the mound so I think the Phillies can take one game in the set, but it will not come easily. It should be a beautiful weekend for baseball in Philadelphia though.

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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 vs. Pirates Q&A and guest prognositication with The Maryland Bureau Chief emeritus

My friend Sam, who migrated back to Southwest Pennsylvania from Maryland a few years ago, joins us to talk about the Washington Nationals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates series that begins tonight.

WFY: After several years of teasing respectability and over 20 years of losing seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates advanced to the NLDS last year, but started off sub-.500. and had me wondering if the 2013 maxed out on this groups potential. They have been on fire the last couple of months and worked their way into contention for the play-in game if not the division; do you think they can get in?

TMBCE: Of course I think they can get in. Do I think they will?? Probably not. The Buccos didn’t go out and pick up another bat at the deadline or starting pitcher, although they made a nice bullpen addition yesterday with John Axford. The team is still batting a bunch of injuries, and the starting pitching is still a wee bit inconsistent. It will probably prove to be too much. However, it is nice to think they will have two straight winning seasons after 20 years of futility, so for that I’m really happy! The Buccos are trending upward in my view.

WFY: When I think of the current Pirates, I think of Andrew McCutcheon, Nats-killer and panda hater, but he’s out. How long? Who is filling the void?

TMBCE: Not only is Cutch out, but so is Walker (2nd best hitter on the team) as well as stud pitcher Gerrit Cole. Many of the regulars have missed significant time this year too, such as Marte and Martin. By far, the unsung hero through all this has been Josh Harrison (who we call “J-Hay!” around here). He was barely supposed to make the team out of spring training, and has been a utility player the last few years. But he has really stepped up!!!!

WFY: How has attendance been at the best ballpark I ever attended? Is the fanbase still energized? Have you made it out it to a game so far? I’m hoping to return for the 2015 Nats-Buccos series.

TMBCE: I’ve been to 2 games this year- a win and a loss. Attendance has been really good, and as of now, the projection is that the team will break the single season attendance record.

WFY: A.J. Burnett traded Primanti sammiches for cheesesteaks and signed for the Philadelphia Phillies in the offseason. How much is he missed and how is the rotation holding up? By the way, he got thrown out of his last start against the Nats for arguing with the umpire after giving up a big homer.

TMBCE: Some in the fan base miss, but its not universal. I for one do not miss him. He was a great team leader, but appeared to clash with Clint Hurdle late in last season, and never really appeared to take fondly to coaching. I have a lot of respect for what he did for the team, but I don’t want him back. Bigger than that, I think the Buccos need to re-sign Russell Martin in the worst way.

WFY: I said it last year that the PNC Park is the best thing about Pittsburgh. Normally, that’d be an insult to a city, but I’ll argue that PNC Park celebrates the Paris of Appalachia with the view of the skyline, bridges, river, hills, and proximity to the Golden Triangle. Am I right?

TMBCE: I have been to several current ballparks in my life: Camden Yards, Nationals Park, Jacobs Field in Cleveland (or whatever they call it now), and Fenway Park. PNC is by the best in my view. The most underrated place to sit is in the “upper deck” behind home plate. Its not really that high, offers a great view of the whole field, and a beautiful view of the city. Great prices for tickets too The next 2 parks I’d like to see are Wrigley Field and the Giants ballpark, which I hear is also outstanding.

WFY: What’s your favorite way to get to a Pirates game since it’s possible to go via automobile, bicycle, walking, light rail or boat?

TMBCE:My favorite way is to get the trolley (light rail) and get off at the Gateway Center stop, and then walk across the Clemente Bridge to the game. Its also possible to take the Trolley over to the North Shore and have a shorter walk to the stadium, which I will do in a pinch. But if I prefer the walk across the bridge. I am VEHEMENTLY OPPOSED to driving to PNC Park for any reason.

WFY: I know you avoid buying beer at the ballpark, but what regional offerings other than Iron City (which you questioned my purchase of last May)? I want to try a local craft beer the next time I am sitting in that magnificent edifice. I’ll even buy you one.

TMBCE: Maybe we should get the beer passport and participate in the local pre-game craft beer sampling that they have. I am not sure which ones are offered at the park, because its difficult for me to pay $10 for a beer that I may not enjoy. One local beer that I am enjoying this summer for the first time is the Rivertowne beers. They offer several in a wide range of beers, most of them I like (except for the really hoppy ones). Nicole even likes the Hala Kahiki (pineapple ale) offering, and she isn’t even a beer aficionado.

WFY: Any change to the Pirates standing in the Pittsburgh sports power rankings? How do the Stillers look for the upcoming season? What about Pengyunz?

TMBCE:A weird dynamic has happened with the Pens. A lot of the “new” Pens fans (the ones who just showed up when Crosby was drafted, much like the “new” Red Sox fans who just showed up when the Red Sox started winning) are put off by what has happened with the teams playoff struggles. They expect a Stanley Cup every year, and the playoff games are not always sold out anymore. I too am not pleased with their playoff performances, and agree changes are necessary. But a lot of the new fans are spoiled, in my view. All that said, I think the Pirates are catching up to the Pens in the power rankings. If the Pirates can sneak into the playoffs, and the Pens bow out early again, I think the Pirates overtake them. I expect a big year da Stillers–11 or 12 wins.

WFY: A sportswriter you have mentioned, Dejan Kovacevic, has started his own site. How is that going and have you subscribed?

TMBCE: Dejan is very knowledgeable about Pittsburgh sports but in recent years, has started to come across a bit too arrogant for my liking. He has plenty of connections and is well informed, but I was not sad to see him live the Trib and do not plan on subscribing to his new website.

WFY: So, do the Pirates sweep the Nats or just take two of three?

TMBCE: I think the Nats sweep, and I’m not just saying that flippantly. The Buccos offense is really hamstrung right now, and our ace (Liriano) isn’t pitching this series.

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Just one Nats-Brewers question with @LeavittDC

I’m really busy and haven’t gotten to offer many All-Star break #halftakes on the Washington Nationals. Wisconsin expatriate @LeavittDC isn’t even in the country right now, so he’s spending even less time focusing on the Nats or the Milwaukee Brewers. I still needed to get one burning question in with the DC series starting this evening.

WFY: Is having to cold call people and apologize for using PEDs is a bigger deterrent than suspension, fines and loss of reputation?

@LeavittDC: I’d make a lot of unpleasant phone calls for $105 million. He’s handled things very well, though. I suspect the phone call that was even more awkward — although, again, he can cry into his pile of money — was the one from Aaron Rodgers announcing that their friendship and business partnership was over. I don’t know how dear the 8-Twelve MVP Bar & Grill was to Ryan, but that public divorce had to have been awkward. Back to your question, it’s not a deterrent, clearly, but if players knew they are risking not only their professional reputation but personal friendships… crap, I can’t finish that sentence. They’d cheat anyway.

* * *

We’ll try to do better next season, but let’s not forget the most important thing:

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2014 Nats vs. SF Giants Q&A with my friend David

I sent these questions out before Ian Desmond ripped apart the San Francisco Giants like he was a cop avenging his dead partner (the day before he was supposed to retire) in a 9-2 Washington Nationals win.

David, who grew up on another court in our Northern Virginia suburb, has been a guest prognosticator in 2011, 2012 and 2013 Nats vs. Giants Q&A and prediction with my friend David.


WFY: After a 52 year wait, the Giants won San Francisco it’s first World Series in 2010. Then, they stunk in 2011 and came back to win the 2012 World Series, followed by a rough 2013. Now, in 2014 they have the best run differential and record in the NL by far. Why are they going back and forth between domination and mediocrity?

DFS: There is rumor that rears its head ever so often that the Giants ownership wanted to maximize profit following the World Series both times. The Giants are owned by a consortium of moneymen, like hedge fund managers accustomed to return on investment, and not an old baseball family. I don’t know if there’s much truth in the rumor, but the team did not pursue marquee free agents in 2011 and 2013 and were content with limited talent starting often. Like many teams that don’t have a recent tradition of playoff success they re-signed and overpaid old veterans out of gratitude rather than thinking of the future. The contracts awarded to Aubrey Huff and Marco Scutaro come to mind. This year the Giants did the opposite and added two big names—Morse and Hudson—and each have had a great, positive impact.

WFY: The team with the second best run differential in the NL is facing your Giants for four games this week. The Nats have been great in June, having come within a blown save of consecutive sweeps to get them into a three-way tie for the NL East. What’s the take on the series from the Bay Area perspective?

DFS: I can’t really say. From the limited media I take in about the team no one has said anything about the Nats other the typical sales pitch of seeing Strasburg. I’m curious because I’m a Sports Illustrated reader and they have picked the Nationals two years running to take the National League pennant. I think the perception is that the Nationals are an underperforming squad that has been hurt by key injuries. For instance, I wasn’t aware that they’re in such tight contention in their division. The talk of the town really has been how great the Giants have been playing and that’s it. The two-out rallies and late inning comebacks have been so much fun.

WFY: Each game of this series has strong starting pitching from both sides, but I have to think the Giants have the edge playing at home and the overall dominance of Tim Hudson against Washington. The Giants get a little lucky that they don’t face Jordan Zimmerman who dominated the San Diego Padres yesterday and has been part of a starting rotation that gave up one walk in the past week.The DC bullpen has been quite strong, but gets a lot of work at times. How is the Giants bullpen?

DFS: The Giants bullpen has been tremendous. Saturday’s game was a good example. Hudson pitched poorly and only made it through the 5th inning. The bullpen kept the Giants in it long enough for the team to come back in the ninth. The Giants don’t have anybody that overpowers batters with 100 mph stuff—the kind of pitcher who gets a lot of attention. Romo is an unconventional closer—a guy that throws in the 80s and relies nearly exclusively on an off-speed pitch: his slider. The fans absolutely love him.

WFY: Way back earlier in the year, we briefly discussed Michael Morse, the former Nat turned Giant LF who is having a resurgence. How big has he been for the Giants? How has San Francisco taken to him? Is he as bad in left as I remember? He was a fan favorite here and until recently, his at bat music “Take on Me” was still being played in the middle of the 7th which was kind of weird.

DFS: I’ve been so pleased with Morse. Last year the Giants left fielder and first basemen hit about 20 home runs combined! Posey represented the only real consistent power in the lineup. Sandoval, of course, can be a fearsome hitter but he was largely ineffective last year. Pence was spotty. With Morse (and an improved Sandoval and Pence) the Giants have real hitters batting 1 through 5. Having Pence hit 2nd has been great too because he’s fast and his speed was not optimized when he was hitting 5th previously. The reaction by the fans and team to Morse seems to have been instant adoration. He plays with verve and joy. It is fun to watch him play because he’s having a good time while still delivering. It has been so great to get production out of left field or first base. Posey can play first base on off days and Morse moves to Left. The prior option at Left was Gregor Blanco who bunts for singles.

WFY: Who is the face of the franchise?

DFS: Posey. The team has a ton of character and characters. But Posey’s jersey is the one parents buy for their little boys.

WFY: Bruce Bouchy has a pretty strong resume having won the division and even a pennant with the San Diego Padres and of course two World Series for the Giants. What is his style of managing? Did he help get the Giants to the promise land? Have old managers like Felipe Alou and Roger Craig ever been heard from again?

DFS: I feel very fortunate that the Giants have Bochy. I think managers’ value generally is overstated. Football is the ultimate coach’s sport where expertise in talent evaluation, film study, game planning, and clock management reveal a coach’s value. In baseball, I think the game has historically been a player’s sport and you have to look more closely to see how a manager may be adding value. Bochy has the confidence to assert himself into the game and take strategic risks. In the 2010 and 2012 playoffs his regular line-up changes seemed to pay off beautifully. To wit, using Ryan Theriot as a DH in Game 4 of the World Series made me scratch my head. Theriot scored the winning run. The Giants have been using the Williams Shift frequently and they realign for each batter’s scouting report in more dramatic ways than I’m used to seeing. Bochy also manages with the long-term in mind. He’s not afraid to sit two of his best players on the same day if he thinks it is prudent to give them rest even if that means a much more likely loss. He elected to have a robust bullpen with only 5 bench players (including a backup catcher that plays at least once a week). That can be a problem in extra innings situations or in games where he goes to the bullpen early. But it has worked very well thus far. Those are the type of things that can be lucky, random trends that may disappear down the line.

WFY: The Nats ripped the Phish “WIL-SON” chant from the Seattle Seahawks for catcher Wilson Ramos. How in the world did San Francisco not adopt Phish’s Wilson for former closer Brian Wilson? Or does The City not acknowledge jam bands other than The Grateful Dead.

DFS: My friend Bill used to complain that they didn’t play the Beach Boys when Brian Wilson came out. Now that he is in LA, the Dodgers really ought to do that. I saw the NFL Films piece on Phish. The band actively campaigned its fans and the team to use it. I had never heard of it before the NFL Films piece. The Giants are a bit more folksy and local with their cross-marketing—like Metallica Night, for instance. My favorite tradition is that they play Tony Bennett after every win while playing a film of scenic and iconic San Francisco locations. I almost always stay to watch it and listen to the song before leaving the park.

WFY: Are the Golden State Warriors still trying to move across the bay to a pier? Is there any fallout from the 49ers leaving for the South Bay?

DFS: The Warriors have purchased land in the city to build a stadium. They abandoned a prior plan that would put it right by the Bay Bridge on a pier. I’m not supportive of the move. I don’t follow or really care about the NBA—although I was delighted the Bullets advanced in the playoffs. But I have a great amount of respect for the Warrior fans. They have filled that house through thick and thin. Oracle Arena is in the same asphalt and steel complex as the Coliseum and lacks the beauty and design elegance that some people have come to expect from arenas. It does not have readily accessible night life like the Verizon Center does in DC. But it has its own BART stop and ample parking. And it’s in Oakland. Everyone knows that long-time fans will be priced out by a stadium in San Francisco and I find that to be deeply unfair to such great fans.

The only people that I’ve heard say positive things about the Niners’ move are those that live in the South Bay. Candlestick was one of those places like Veterans Stadium—where everyone to a man complained about it. But to borrow a phrase from Joe Queenan, it was a temple. If you have the time, give this a read: Closing the Cave of the Winds (Grantland) Looking at it without sentimentality however, I don’t blame the city government at all for letting it happen. Football-only stadia represent a bad deal for American cities. They are dormant nearly the entire year but require a tremendous amount of pavement and traffic control. The early reports on the new stadium bring back traffic nightmare memories of Raljon. Evidently the stadium won’t host any Monday or Thursday games because of insufficient parking on weeknights: they will have overflow parking at surrounding locations on Sundays.

WFY: I have probably asked this before, so forgive me if I have, but how has the fanbase evolved in your decade of living there, late Bonds era to 2 time champ? You arrived just in time!

DFS: When I moved out here Bonds was still playing. He was an obstacle to my full adoption of the team. I don’t despise him and am still in awe of his accomplishments, even if not completely earned. But he rubbed me the wrong way and I had a hard time supporting the team fully because of it. I started to self identify as a Giants fan in his first year of retirement, which means I didn’t have to suffer through much before I enjoyed the rich bounty of 2 championships in 3 seasons. Winning does change things in the typical ways. I certainly see a lot more gear these days. The team also has cultivated a more jovial take to marketing itself. The players all have nicknames and fans riff on that by wearing costumes. The team’s commercials are light-hearted and occasionally funny without being too slick.

I don’t remember seeing that stuff when I moved here. Going to a game was an opportunity to watch Bonds in an idyllic ballpark. You didn’t need much more than that.

WFY: We’re to the point where team gear is kind of silly at times, but I’ll ask anyway — what Giants merch you have?

DFS: I have four items—all of which I received as presents. I have two Giants sweatshirts, one cap and some great orange and black argyle socks. I agree the gear has become ridiculous, particularly all the jerseys. Football fans are the worst. Everyone’s walking around with authentic jerseys that look like house dresses when worn by normal-sized people not wearing shoulder pads. When I wear gear I try to keep it understated. For instance, one of my Giants sweatshirts is stitched black on black. Harkening back to another older conversation, I agree with you that if you’re going to wear a jersey, wear one that has no name or number on it. If you must, go retro and cool like the Raider fans that wear Jack Tatum’s jersey.

WFY: Do you have a favorite Giants cultural, film, literature, television reference? What about favorite book about the Giants? I just learned on Uni-Watch today that Clint Eastwood wore a Giants cap in The Enforcer.

DFS: That scene in The Enforcer has Clint going into a whorehouse where he announces himself as Larry Dickman. That film also includes a scene shot at Candlestick during a game against the Reds. It is pretty cool. I’ve never read anything by Don Delillo, but I’ve been told that one of his novels starts with an extended description of the Bobby Thomson game. I’d like to read that. Robert De Niro made a lousy film called the Fan, where he is a rabid Giants fan that stalks a star player played by Wesley Snipes. Nothing else is springing to mind other than a Peanuts cartoon strip lamenting the World Series lost to the Yankees.

WFY: Who takes this series and why? What about the season series? Will they meet again in October?

DFS: As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have much insight into the Nationals, or any other non-NL West team. So this is pure guesswork. I think that Giants split this series 2 games to 2. They’ve been on such a great run that I feel like they’re due for a few bad hops. This team has the fundamentals for a great playoff run. I think they will take the season series and win the NL West. Meeting in October will be up to the Nationals.

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Nats vs. A’s Q&A and prediction with Tom Bridge

The first D.C. baseball trip to the East Bay since August 1971 (the Senators were swept by the AL West winning A’s) begins late Friday night. For the third time, We Love DC co-founder Tom Bridge, a credential Washington Nationals blogger, is here to answer questions about a Northern California team of his youth. Previously Tom participated in Redskins vs. 49ers Q&As in 2011 and 2013.

WFY: Do you still closely do you follow the Oakland Athletics these days? What’s a bigger factor in your level of fandom, the distance/time zone or having a new baseball team a bicycle ride away from where you live?

TB: I still follow the beat writers on Twitter (seriously, follow Susan Slusser, she’s great), so I keep abreast of the news, but with most of the games starting at 10pm Eastern, I tend to catch just the highlights. Being 3,000 miles away is hard enough, but 3 hours behind? I won’t catch much of this series.

WFY: I often ask guest prognosticators what the best book and/or popular culture contribution is about the guest prognosticator’s favorite team, but these seems too easy — Moneyball. What was your reaction to the book and if you’ve seen it, the movie? Are there any other books about the A’s you’d recommend?

TB: If you haven’t read this book, you should really read it. The movie’s a fine telling of part of the story, and the way the 20-game winning streak is treated is a joy on the big screen, but the book is really its own animal and one you should really make the effort to read.

WFY: Billy Beane has built a team that regularly competes, but hasn’t broken through, do you think with his current resources he can win the pennant? As a fan of both teams, do you appreciate that they trade each other players frequently?

TB: So, it’s fascinating. I think there’s a comparison to be made between the Capitals and the Nationals. It’s not that the Caps are spendthrift, but they’re franchise-building only to make it so far. They want the basic playoff revenue, but there’s something about the way things are being run that just doesn’t get them any farther than that. In Oakland, that’s budgetary pressure. In Washington, it’s the front office’s limited capabilities.

It’s kinda fun that the A’s and Nats have found themselves trading partners. I think the deals have worked out well for both clubs, and I think Rizzo and Beane seem to be excellent foils for each other. I, for one, would enjoy watching them fight crime together, buddy cop style.

WFY: How are the broadcast teams? Do you have the A’s MLB.tv package?

TB: I love the A’s broadcast teams. I miss Bill King immensely on the radio. His voice was the sound of summer days, so much so that when I heard him on the At-Bat app, I could smell the tomatoes in the field, and the cut grass, and the chlorine of the pool down the street. He was marvelous. Now, Ken Korach and Ray Fosse are on, and while they’re great broadcasters, it’s not quite the same as it was then.

I don’t catch much of their TV crew these days, though.

WFY: Recent research suggests there is not a single zip code where A’s fans are the plurality, much less the majority. Were the A’s always the second team to that degree and if not, when did it start changing, or at least where you were?

TB: I started following baseball seriously the first year we had season tickets. 1988. The A’s made the Series that year (more on that in a bit) and the Giants were 11 1/2 games out of the Division. While the Giants had been in the thick of it in 87 and would be again in 89, I had no shortage of A’s fan friends, as well as plenty of Giants fans as well.

WFY: The A’s of your childhood dominated won the AL and won three pennants, but only the 1989 World Series. Did they max out or leave more on the table? How strange was the earthquake as an A’s fan and a Northern California resident?

TB: They left the 88 Series on the table. One bad slider. One bad, bad slider. And every time I see Kirk Gibson hobble around those bases…

Sigh.

They were the better team that year, but not after that slider.

The Earthquake was a monumental tragedy for the area. People died on the Cypress Structure freeway, and on the Bay Bridge, and in the fires that followed. It was a nightmare. But that was a day that baseball saved lives. The quake hit at 5:04pm. Right at the start of rush hour. Only most of the city had gone home early to make the 5:05pm start of the game. I can’t even think how many more would’ve died during a heavy rush hour in Oakland.

WFY: The elephant in the room (I’m sorry, that’s terrible) is that those A’s teams had some steroid users. Does it taint the memories at all?

TB: Yeah, it does. Canseco was a problem for the franchise even then, but the roids he was doing was pretty much known. McGwire hurt more. The culture of baseball was pretty broken then, and I’m not sure we’re past it yet.

WFY: Who is the best A of your lifetime and is he also your favorite?

TB: The best? Dave Stewart. Four straight twenty-win seasons from 87 to 90? A forkball that just disappeared? The smoky stare that put fear into the strongest hitters? Totally my favorite. Stewart was a monster. He pitched over 1,000 innings in four years, with 700+ Ks, 375BB, and 7 complete game shutouts. He was the heart and soul of that club and it was a joy to see him out there every give days.

WFY: The A’s are desperate to leave the much maligned Oakland-Alameda Colosseum and it’s sewer leaks, but from a fan’s perspective how is it? I always found the massive foul territory to be a bit off-putting, but overall how does it stack up? I know the outfield upper deck built to lure back the Raiders is a source of anger amongst A’s fans. When did you last attend a game there? What’s the quintessential food and beer at an A’s game?

TB: I last made it to a game there about a decade ago, so my domain knowledge of the Coliseum is less than current. It was a workman’s ballpark, with the simple pleasures, Bud and Miller Lite, colossal dogs, ball park nachos with orange cheese, and hot coffee when it got cold late in the evening. I loved the wide foul territory, and the bullpen just inside the lines. Our seats were down by the A’s bullpen, and we could watch Eckersley warm up late. It was a big place, not intimate like a tiny chapel, but massive, like a cathedral. The concrete, exposed and flat, made it a noise machine, but the view out into the Oakland Hills was majestic.

But that was before Al Davis (may he ever rot in hell) ruined it with the Raiders’ return.

WFY: The Silicon Valley A’s – Do you support the A’s leaving the East Bay for San Jose? From here, it seems like they put in good faith efforts to stay in Oakland or elsewhere in the East Bay, but I have not followed it closely.

TB: I support the A’s getting a good place to play ball. I would hope that would come in Oakland, paid for by the owners of the club, but I suspect they will end up in San Jose. That’s okay, too, but I know a lot of fans who will hate that. It’s not my team as much as it used to be. I’ll leave that decision in the hands of others.

WFY: Which happens first, Bud Selig makes decision on the A’s or Nats TV situation.

TB: The heat death of the universe. Both of those will be decisions made by the next Commissioner.

WFY: Who takes the series?

TB: A’s take the series, Nats win behind Gio on Sunday. Wildcard here is Fister. He can beat Milone, but I worry he’s not 100% yet.

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2014 Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies Q&A and prediction with Kevin McGuire

One of the most prolific guest prognosticators is back to talk about the Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies series. Kevin McGuire, blogs about the Phillies at Macho Row, but is best known for writing for College Football Talk.

WFY: Looking at the standings, the supposed worn-out and elderly Phillies are 13-13. How did the get there?

KMc:The Phillies have been incredible up and down, a team consistently inconsistent. It has been difficult to figure out the offense at times, but we do know that it has a number of holes at key positions. The top of the starting rotation has been fine and just welcomed back Cole Hamels but the bullpen has been going through some growing pains holding on to leads as well. It seems when the pitching is doing well, the offense cannot score runs and when the offense bursts out, the pitching cannot hold the fort down.

WFY: On Wednesday night’s radio broadcast of the Nats game, Charlie Slowes mentioned that the Phillies were essentially going with a three man rotation right now due to days off. Is this accurate? I see Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett and Cole Hamels are the probable starters for the series, while the Nats still have not announced theirs. We know Jordan Zimmermann won’t pitch, though Gio Gonzalez could on Sunday. The Nats rotation is all messed up right now.

KMc:The Phillies are skipping Kyle Kendricks spot in the rotation this weekend to go with the top three pitchers this weekend. Cliff Lee has had two rough outing but has been brilliant at other times. AJ Burnett has been a solid addition to the rotation and Cole Hamels will get his third start of the season after a rough night against the Mets this week. This is a fundamental change in philosophy that comes with Ryne Sandberg and his staff compared to past years under Charlie Manuel. Sandberg is taking a bit more of an aggressive approach by adjusting the rotation so early in the yer but that is because he likely sees the importance of winning division games now instead of trying to catch up at the end of the season. If the Phillies are going to stay afloat and in the conversation, winning games against division opponents is the way to go.

WFY: What have the Phillies strengths been thus far? How good can the 2014 Phillies be?

KMc:I think the offense, as a whole, has been pretty decent this season. Chase Utley has been the clear MVP but I feel as though I have seen better at-bats from Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard early on by showing more patience. The Phillies lack strength though and have to rely on moving base runners, which has been a problem at times.

WFY: What’s going on with Dominic Brown?

KMc:He is off to a slow start and has been lacking the power we saw at times last season. At this point in his career Brown has not been living up to the hype but if I recall he was actually off to a slow start last season as well before busting out to become an All-Star candidate. He seems to have all of the physical attributes to be a really good corner outfielder in the middle of the line-up, but he needs to cut down on the strikeout-walk ratio to provide better protection behind Howard.

WFY: Who is the Phillies best player, face of the franchise, people’s champion right now?

KMc:Best player? Chase Utley. Face of the franchise? Chase Utley. People’s champion? Chase Utley.

Philadelphia loves Chase Utley and the way he plays the game. His way of preparing for a game is also something fans can get behind. He never appears to take a play off, and Philly fans love a player who hustles. I have always been more of a Jimmy Rollins fan but Utley is without a doubt the player most fans would consider the face of the franchise right now.

WFY: Is GM Ruben Amaro’s job in jeopardy or is that just WIP caller’s wishful thinking?

KMc:The pressure is on Ruben Amaro, that is not just hot sports take radio at work, but I honestly do not see the Phillies making a change at the position even if this season results another season without a playoff game. The reason I suggest that is because the Phillies have long been a Phillies family-oriented organization, and Amaro is as much a part of that family now than anyone. Firing one of their own is not a decision the Phillies do quickly (Ed Wade was general manager for eight years, Amaro is in year six). Bad contracts (notably Ryan Howard, Jonathan Paplebon) have restricted some of what the Phillies can do, and that falls on Amaro, who has acquired Cliff Lee twice and may have to be put in a position to trade him once more if things go south.

WFY: How are the new Phillies broadcasters working out?

KMc:Just so everybody understands, Comcast has more say in the Phillies broadcast teams now that they signed a new rights deal last year. That meant broadcasters handpicked by the Phillies before were no longer safe. That led to the removal of longtime Phillies broadcaster Chris Wheeler and former player Gary “Sarge” Matthews. The Phillies kept Tom McCarthy as the TV play-by-play voice and Comcast added former Phillies Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs in the booth. So far the new team seems to work well, although there are still some rough spots that are being worked out for the broadcasting rookies. Moyer and Stairs each bring a unique approach to the broadcast and nobody in the booth seems to want to fill all of the open air. McCarthy gets a bad reputation by some but I honestly feel he is doing just fine with his new partners. Moyer and Stairs split the games for the most part but sometimes are both in the booth.

KMc:I have not had a chance to really digest the Sunday home broadcasts, when Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt joins the broadcast as well for Sundays with Schmidt.

WFY: What’s the best book about Philadelphia baseball you have read?

KMc:The 2008 season brought a number of books to my collection, as you might expect, but the The Rotation co-written by longtime beat reporter Jim Salisbury and the well-respected Todd Zolecki may be my favorite. The book focuses on how the Phillies put together the starting rotation in 2010 that included Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and that other guy (Joe Blanton).

WFY: Who takes this series and the season season? How do you think the NL East shakes out?

KMc:I actually feel pretty good about the chances the Phillies have this weekend, but I would still lean on a healthy Nationals team to take the season series by a slight margin. My thought about the division remain the same though, and that is the team to beat plays in Atlanta. I think the Mets and Marlins will be pesky for everyone, but I think the division goes Braves, Nationals, Phillies, Mets and then the Marlins, who have two of the best players in the division by the way (Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton).

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2014 Nats vs. Mets Q&A with Eric McErlain

The return of Washington Nationals baseball means the return of one of my favorite features, the guest prognosticator posts! One of my favorite annual guest prognosticators, Eric McErlain (not pictured), leads off as the Nats visit the borough of Queens to take on his beloved New York Mets on Opening Day next Monday. When was the last time you were so excited for a Monday?

Eric, a pioneering blogger now enjoying emeritus status, is now a member of the prestigious five-timers club of WWN guest prognosticators, having answered qustions about the Mets in 2011, 2012, 2013 and Jets in 2011.

WFY: How was the 2013 Mets season?

EMc: Exactly the same as 2012: 74-88. But I’ll be damned if it didn’t feel worse than the year before. At least in 2012 sticking with the team meant getting to pull for R.A. Dickey to get 20 wins or Ike Davis to hit 30 homers. 2013 held no such comforts. Davis slumped early and never recovered. David Wright got hurt. Again. So did Bobby Parnell. Reuben Tejada did his best to prove he’s not a major league shortstop (Hardball Talk). He’s got me convinced, even though the franchise seems inclined to give him yet another chance to prove us all wrong. Once Matt Harvey went down for the season, there wasn’t much left to root for. Were there bright spots? Sure, Juan Lagares may already be the best fielding centerfielder (MetsBlog) in baseball, though his bat is suspect. Zack Wheeler looked all right in limited action. Marlon Byrd’s comeback was nice to watch, but he was dealt at the deadline and is now playing in Philadelphia. Add it all up, it was another lost season.

WFY: GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins are talking about a 90 win season, what would need to occur for it to happen?

EMc: How often do you get a royal flush in poker by drawing the Ace of Spades on the river? The 2014 Mets should be better, but a 16-win improvement is too much to ask. To get there, all of the following would have to come to pass:

1. Wright returns to form – and that means .300 average, 25-30 HRs & 100+ rbi;

2. Whatever solution comes together at first base (Davis or Lucas Duda) it needs to provide some power in the 25-30 HR range;

3. The same Daniel Murphy needs to show up, though I’d be happier if he got on base more often;

4. Tejada needs not to be a stiff. That means he needs to hit .280 or above and find his glove again;

5. Curtis Granderson is going to strike out a lot, but I won’t mind as long as he hits 30 HRs or more;

6. Eric Young, Jr. needs to hit .280 with an OBP of .340 and steal 25-30;

7. Free agent Chris Young will play a credible CF, but he needs to hit 20+ HRs to make a difference;

8. The starting rotation needs to max out on its talent. That means Jon Niese needs to stay healthy and claim the #1 job in Harvey’s absence; Dillon Gee needs to repeat his 2013 performance; Bartolo Colon will not win 18 games with this team, but if he wins 13 and stays healthy enough to be dealt at the deadline I’ll be happy. Zack Wheeler needs to pitch over .500 and continue to develop. As for Daisuke Matsuzaka, the new human rain delay, I can only hope the Mets make his stay in the rotation short in order to make way for either Jenry Mejia early on or Noah Syndergaard at midseason.

9. The bullpen, as it has been in recent seasons, is a complete crapshoot. Having Parnell back will be nice, and I have high hopes for John Lannan in long relief. But the rest of the crew is unknowable, and they’ll have to come together in a big way and fast.
Get all of that, and yeah, 90 wins is a possibility. Don’t hold your breath.

WFY: Seemingly like every other promising pitcher, Matt Harvey had Tommy John surgery. Do you believe the Mets handled him properly before and after the injury? Do I recall correctly that they were trying to avoid surgery initially?

EMc: I think it’s impossible to second guess the team’s decision-making on Harvey. Indeed, they wanted to avoid surgery, but it just didn’t work out. Since then, Harvey has fought and won the right to rehab in New York this season instead of at extended Spring camp. He swears he’ll pitch this season, but I’m hoping the team and Harvey err on the side of caution.

WFY: What’s been the reaction to the Curtis Granderson signing? It is seen as more than just beating out the Yankees for a free agent?

EMc:It’s been positive. If you’d seen Duda playing right field (Sports on Earth) last season you’d be happy too. The Mets outfield has been a mess for too long. As for the Yanks, Granderson was done in the Bronx after last season, so there was no one to beat out.

WFY: Last year you mentioned Noah Syndergaard and Travis D’Arnaud – how have they progressed? Is the direction of the franchise trending upward?

EMc:Syndergaard will start the season at AAA Las Vegas, but is expected to join the Mets sometime mid-season. He’s a potential #1 starter who can strike out 200+ a season. As for D’Arnaud, he was a disappointment with the bat last season in limited action after coming up from the minors. He hasn’t played enough for anyone to conclude his development has been derailed, but his Spring has been less than impressive (Rant Sports). I suspect his upside isn’t nearly as high as has been projected.

WFY: Did you know that Bill Gotto’s original Mets logo design had the colors black & pink (Todd Radom)? How would have been cheering for black & pink have felt?

EMc: No, I had been blessedly unaware of that fact up until now. I think it’s safe to say they made the right decision.

WFY: Speaking of blue and orange, how do you feel about the New York Islanders moving west “off” Long Island to Brooklyn?

EMc: It’s sad but unavoidable. Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead are broke and can’t afford to build a new arena. It beats seeing them move to Quebec or Kansas City.

WFY: Nationals Park beer drinkers welcomed, albeit in limited locations, local and regional brews to the ballpark last season. Do the Mets sell local craft beers as well?

EMc: Take a look.

WFY: As an out of market fan, do you have the MLB.tv package? How is it?

EMc: Oh yes. I’ve had it for several seasons and I love it. I subscribe using my Apple TV, so I pump the games over my 42″ 1080p Panasonic HDTV. I have no complaints.

WFY: How are the current announcers? What is your favorite Ralph Kiner memory?

EMc: It’s Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling. They are a very entertaining trio, though I’ll admit to cheating on them with Vin Scully when the Mets go to LA to play the Dodgers. Nats fans should know that Darling’s performance has improved markedly since his one season in the booth here in Washington.

As for my favorite Ralph memory, it has to be Opening Day 1985. Gary Carter hit the game-winning home run in the bottom of the 10th in his first game with the Mets. Ralph goes down to the field to have Carter on Kiner’s Korner, and promptly introduces him as Gary Cooper.

But while folks remember his malaprops, he had more than his fair share of trenchant observations. People forget that he was a Hall of Fame talent that played in baseball’s golden era. He was teammates with Hank Greenberg and played against Jackie Robinson. When the game bogged down, Ralph always had an observation from the game’s past that shed some light on what was happening on the field. He’ll be sorely missed.

WFY: How do you think the NL East shapes up this season?

EMc: It’s for the Nats to lose. The Braves will challenge all year long, with the Mets, Phils and Marlins serving as cannon fodder.

WFY: How would you rank the Mets NL East rivalries? What about outside of the division?

EMc: The Mets have been out of the money for too long to have any meaningful rivals right now. Sure, we hate the Phillies and the Braves, and the Marlins are a tougher out than they ought to be. As for the Nats, the Mets always seem to have a problem putting them away (I still have nightmares about that walk off homer Ryan Zimmerman hit off of LaTroy Hawkins last season). Outside the division, it’s the Cardinals. In St. Louis, they’ve been calling the Mets, “Pond Scum” since the mid-80s. I’ve always been touched by that. For more, read “The Bad Guys Won,” by Jeff Pearlman.

WFY: What is your favorite book about the Mets?

EMc: Jack Lang, who covered the Mets from their inception in 1962, wrote a comprehensive team history that was published before the 1986 season. “After the Miracle” by Maury Allen, the late New York Post reporter, took a look back at the 1969 team 20 years after beating the Orioles. It had some incredibly bittersweet moments, including how the wife of one player didn’t understand why the Mets weren’t playing in the World Series every year. I like to think she’s learned since then. The aforementioned, “The Bad Guys Won,” lays out just what a group of reprobates that 1986 team really was. “Doc: A Memoir,” is a warts and all look at the career of Doc Gooden, and one that part of me wishes I had never read. Doc ought to be in the Hall of Fame alongside Darryl Strawberry. That he isn’t breaks the heart of any real Mets fan.

WFY: What is your favorite Mets pop culture moment?

EMc: The Seinfeld episode with Keith Hernandez will always be a favorite, though having Game 6 of the 1986 World Series force NBC to reschedule an episode of Saturday Night Live has to be tops.

WFY: Which team wins the opening series and the season series?

EMc: Mets win first series, 2-1. Mets are historically great on Opening Day. Nats win season series 13-6.

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Redskins vs. 49ers Q&A and prediction with Tom Bridge

Shotgun Formation -- 4th Quarter Niners v. Redskins FedEx Field Landover (MD) Sunday November 6, 2011
Photo by flickr user Ron Cogswell, used under CC 2.0

Tonight the Washington Redskins host the San Francisco 49ers in really cold Raljon. I’ve invited Tom Bridge of welovedc.com to answer a Q&A about his Niners. Begin!

WFY: The San Francisco 49ers came so close to coming back in Super Bowl XLVII, but couldn’t get that sixth ring – how tough was it? Was it any tougher since they were playing a team kind of near where you currently live?

TB: You know what hurt more than losing the Super Bowl? Losing the NFC Championship the year before. Maybe that was proximity, as we were home in California for that one, but I minded losing that game to the Giants more than I minded losing to the Ravens. Maybe it was the overhyped Harbowl side of it, but I found myself less bummed at their loss in the big game than I did in the year before.

It wasn’t tougher since it was the Ravens. While I’m not a Ravens fan, one of my favorite folks in DC is a huge Ravens fan, and several of my clients are Ravens fans, and they were over the moon to get the title. I was happy for them, knowing that triumph from earlier in life. Thinking about it, though, we’re coming up on 20 years since a team that I back has won their respective championship. 2014 will mark 20 years for the 49ers, and 25 years for the Oakland A’s, my only two teams to ever have done it.

WFY: Are the 49ers experiencing a letdown following Super Bowl XLVII? Is Colin Kapernick having a sophomore slump or has the league adjusted to read option quarterbacks in general?

TB: This hasn’t been the greatest season for the Niners, but I think it has more to do with excellent intelligence on the part of opposing teams, and a weaker receiving corps in the red and gold. I wanted the Niners to make a move for a top name wideout, and instead we got a middle tier one in Manningham. Crabtree’s been hurt, which has limited Kap’s options, which makes defending against the formerly potent offense into a more containable challenge.

WFY: The 49ers prime coincided with the Raiders Los Angeles years, so I imagine the part of Northern California you were from was solidly scarlet and gold. Did the silver and black make inroads after the Raiders went home to Oakland?

TB: Absolutely, and in so doing, destroyed the Oakland Coliseum. Oakland always loved the Raiders – less after the move, doubtless – and their return to the East Bay was a homecoming despite it all. I knew a few die hard Raiders fans growing up, but the priests at St. James said prayers for Joe Montana, not Al Davis.

WFY: Tangentially related, do you want to see the Rams back in LA for the sake of the rivalry?

TB: Could care less.

WFY: Succinctly, you co-own and operate a web site called “We Love DC” and have adopted the local home teams save one – the Washington Redskins. Why not?

TB: Three reasons:

1) Dan Snyder strikes me as a comic book villain. The over-management, then the mis-management, and now the bewildering under-management of the front office has me wondering what it’s like in that squirrelly little head of his.

2) The racist name. My opposition to the Washington Football Team’s name is long-standing, and it’s absolutely because I consider their name an offensive slur. I’ve heard the history, I’ve heard the claims of “80 years of history” but it all seems to pale to the offensiveness of the name. I’m not a Washington football fan, nor will my son be one. He can root for my wife’s Steelers, my 49ers, or even the Jacksonville Jaguars, just not the local outfit. But, kids have a way of making their own path, and while I’ll do my best to steer him toward the Caps, United and Nationals, I won’t be making that effort when it comes to the NFL.

3) The rampant bizarro fandom the football team have. I’m fairly sure that RG3 could be caught with a live boy, a dead girl, a goat, pictures of him assaulting the President while mooning an old lady, and the local media would shrug it all off, and the talk radio circuit would praise RG3 for being open with his sexuality, happy he was standing up to power, and that the goat was really just asking for it. Football fandom in this town is cultish, weird, and not just a little bit upsetting when you think about the injury toll.

WFY: I will not suggest that there is a rivalry between tonight’s opponents, but there were some memorable playoff games during the first Joe Gibbs era. Which one sticks out the most? I remember the NFC Championship in 1984 pretty well — that was a bogus call against Ronnie Lott, but in a since deleted “America’s Greatest Games” video I watched, Bill Walsh said it propelled the 49ers to Super Bowl XIX.

TB: I honestly was 6 in 84, so I don’t remember much before, say, the 1988 season.

WFY: Speaking of head coaches, a friend of mine in San Francisco were discussing Jim Harbaugh and reached a consensus that his act could get pretty tired if the Niners are going 10-6 or 9-7 annually and not advancing. Am I onto something?

TB: Maybe? I think that after the late 90s and early 00s, where the Niners were a massive embarrassment to the state of California. There was the better part of 15 years when I had nothing to look forward to in the Fall after baseball was done, so I suspect that Harbaugh, as long as they keep going far in the playoffs, at least past the first round, will have a lengthy tenure. He will not nearly reach Walsh’s status, though, until he wins at least 2 Super Bowls, and probably not until he’s picked up 4. Walsh is revered as a genius, a hero, and a saint, something that Harbaugh will never get credit for, mostly because of his antics. We’ll see if he can win more than he freaks out.

WFY: Did you get to Candlestick Park for 49ers games much?

TB: Nope. I’ve never seen the 49ers play live. Candlestick was a real chore to get to if you lived in the Central Valley, because it’s all the way down the Peninsula toward SFO, which would’ve been 3-4 hours drive from Davis in the traffic. I remember a Giants game or two in 86, but after that we were pretty much A’s fans.

WFY: Are you happy with the 49ers fauxback uniforms? Should they have just gone completely throwback?

TB: I’d prefer total throwback, but I bought one of the fauxback Rice jerseys last year.

WFY: Was watching the game with “the radio turned up and the sound turned down” part of the 49ers fan experience?

TB: Not as much for football as for baseball. We did listen on the radio occasionally, but I usually watched with my Dad with the TV turned up.

WFY: What is your prediction for tonight’s game?

TB: Niners are going to smoke the local football club. If there’s any justice, it’ll be a 49-0 shutout, but I think the final will be more like 28-21 SF.

WFY: I think the Skins win, just to mess with everybody

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2013 Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles Q&A and prediction with @pancakecatapult

P8041718
Joining us again is @PancakeCatapult, the latest non de plume of someone whose internet celebrity far outshines my own. Shockingly, I don’t think Mr. Catapult is blogging anywhere right now, not even about Wilco — has he quit for good? Time will tell.

WFY: 5-5! Your Iggles are in the mix for the entire “SEC of the NFL” division. They looked great against the Skins in September, but have also had some games where they can’t score 10 points. What in the name of Mike Mamula is going on with them?

Mr. Catapult: Basically, Nick Foles got hurt and Matt Barkley happened for two games. Foles has generally been effective (and a little lucky) when healthy, and obviously gives Philly the best chance to win every week.

WFY: Nick Foles threw 7 touchdowns in one game. Is that more improbable than Matt McGloin being a starting quarterback in the NFL? Could Foles be the answer or is it just another case of somebody having the game of his life and seeing false conclusions drawn from it?

Mr. Catapult: Nothing is more improbable “Matt McGloin, Starting NFL Quarterback”. Nothing. Foles’ game against Oakland was insane, partially because of the final statistics, partially because Oakland covered absolutely nobody all day long. Chip Kelly felt no compulsion to stop the bludgeoning.

WFY: Tangentially related, seeing Terrell Pryor get blown out wasn’t disappointing, was it?

Mr. Catapult: Funny, before the Oakland game, former Pitt Panther Shady McCoy said “we couldn’t afford him” when asked about Pryor’s recruitment. No shade for Pryor from me anymore, though. He and Brandon Marshall were two guys that came forward in Jonathan Martin’s defense when that ridiculous scandal broke. Both of them had amazingly thoughtful responses to that situation.

WFY: Other than Foles, how is the Philly offensive attack?

Mr. Catapult: Stunningly effective on the ground with McCoy and occasional sprinkles of Bryce Brown. Riley Cooper has exploited some Second Team Practice Squad magic with Foles. DeSean Jackson is still dangerous as anything, and Zach Ertz is providing a second tight end option. It’s all happening!

WFY: Chip Kelly – innovator, mediocre or still not like enough like Buddy Ryan?

Mr. Catapult: I’m a fan. They lost Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn to ACL injuries in training camp. Their quarterback situation has been less than ideal for most of the season. There’s a lot of lemonade being produced from only a handful of lemons, and that’s a testament to Kelly and his staff. He’s done some really strange in-game stuff, but the quality of football has generally improved.

WFY: How is the Eagles defense? They gave up a lot of scores in garbage time in week 1.

Mr. Catapult: Improving, for sure. Bad, but improving.

WFY: What about undefeated in KC, Andy Reid? We wondered if the players quit on him last year, but did this diva actually quit on the players?

Mr. Catapult: Everybody was just done at the end of Reid’s tenure. We all know he’s a good coach, despite his tendency to ignore the running game and complete inability to use instant replay challenges properly. He provided a run of playoff appearances never seen before in Philly, but the team, coaches, fans, management, soft pretzel vendors — they were over it, and it showed. Reid’s success in Kansas City isn’t all that surprising to me.

WFY: Do the Eagles dishonor the memory of Princess Diana by not returning to her beloved green and silver look? Or is Jeff Lurie just anti-monarchist overall?

Mr. Catapult: I’m all for breaking out the Kelly Green on occasion, but I’m losing enthusiasm for it. Let’s be honest, it’s a pretty awful shade of green. Hard to work with. We could use a little help on the uniform front these days.

WFY: Is a roof and fake grass is the solution to the problems playing at home? Did that post invalidate anything the700level.com has ever done or ever will do?

Mr. Catapult: Not at all — the Linc is a sterile, gray dump of a new stadium. It’s terrible in just about every way.

WFY: So, the Eagles are totally going to break with tradition and win a home game, right? Not just in this series where the home team usually loses, but in general. Wasn’t Donovan McNabb the quarterback the last time the Eagles won at home? Your prediction!

Mr. Catapult: I’m fairly sure that the Redskins stink. The Eagles very well might be average. 34-31, Philly.

WFY: 27-24 DC

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