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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