The Washington Nationals concluded a six-game intradivisional road trip 3-3. That’s not horrible at all, but because of the way this team, a season removed from 98 wins and steady domination, it seems like a lost opportunity . At 10-8, the are proceeding at a 90 win pace which is probably good enough for a Wild Card berth. That’s not what is expected out them though and the fact that the New York Mets are playing better than expected doesn’t make it feel any better. Nor does the fact that the Atlanta Braves, the division leaders are off to an unsustainable pace. The problem is the Nats keep losing because they seem to make mental mistakes and are easily discouraged by those mistakes. Perhaps the weight of expectations, internal and external, is taking it’s toll, but overall the team seems very unfocused three weeks into the 2013 season.
Sunday’s game was game another example. While another multiple error game did not cost them any runs, it chased starter Jordan Zimmerman early. He put in a mere 5 innings because had to pitch around errors. He didn’t give up any unearned runs and the bullpen was strong. The bats were not though, a day after a 7-run explosion. The pivotal moment of the game proved to be in the 7th when the Nats accepted two walks from Mets reliever ____. Up 3-0 in the count, Jayson Werth, renowned for his plate discipline, inexplicably swung, grounding into a double-play. The Nats would not score in that inning. Werth manned up to it (Nats Enquirer) which is good, but if the most experienced veteran is pressing like that, what does that say about the team?
Saturday’s game was a 7-6 win that shouldn’t have been that hard. Gio Gonzalez lost the strike zone and the Mets kept coming back. Bryce Harper was the difference with two homers.
Friday night’s game against Flushing wunderkind Matt Harvey was another difficult one to watch. Stephen Strasburg never found a rhythm after giving up to early un-earned runs. Just as the defense needs to stop making errors, the pitching staff needs to get tougher about pitching through them.
These are the learning experiences we expected, but a year later. Last year’s shocking division title skipped a step. It is safe to say that fans, the front office and the players themselves did not expect to regress, nor accept it, as defending NL East champs. April can be the cruelest month, but with a 10-9 record and five more months to go, it could be the most forgiving. If the Nats playing their worst baseball equals a 90-95 win pace, things are a lot better than they seem in Natstown. They don’t have forever to get their head in the game.
The St. Louis Cardinals return to D.C. tonight for the first time since the 2012 NLDS. The Nats don’t have Ryan Zimmerman (DL) either, prompting the promotion of Anthony Rendon. It is going to be an interesting homestand with Pete Kozma the Cardinals(The Post) followed by the Cincinnati Reds.
After a long hiatus, one of my favorite features returns — the guest prognosticator! To review, I ask people I know who are fans of the upcoming Washington Nationals opponent to talk about their team. Typically, I try to get a broad overview of both the team, the fan culture and a prediction for the upcoming and overall season with the Nats in a casual Q&A format. This season’s first guest prognosticator is Eric McErlain, blogger emeritus best known for Off Wing Opinion. For several years now Eric has been stopping by for these to talk Mets (2011 & 2012) and even the Jets (2011) once since I do these during football season too. I even snuck in a Washington Capitals question.
Some musical accompaniment if you are so included:
WFY: Between R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana’s no hitter and hanging on into July, did the 2012 Mets exceed your expectations?
EMc: Up until the All-Star break, I’d answer with a yes. But once everyone got back together after the break, the team went into a dive it never really recovered from. By September, the only reason left to keep watching was to see if Dickey could win 20 games and Ike Davis could get to 30 homers.
WFY: Was leaving Sanatana in for a no-hitter “sentimental managing” that hurt the Mets and Santana the rest of the way?
EMc: There’s no manager in the majors who would have pulled a pitcher with a chance of throwing a no-no, never mind the chance of throwing the first in the 50-year history of the franchise. As for Santana’s arm, can anyone say definitively that leaving him in that night led directly to the injury that’s now threatening his entire career? What’s done is done. He’s not coming back and his salary comes off the books at the end of the season. It’s best for everyone that we move on.
WFY: How much does the R.A. Dickey trade hurt?
EMc: Emotionally, it hurt quite a bit. I’ve been a Mets fan all my life and I’d never owned a jersey. Then my wife goes out and gets me an R.A. Dickey All-Star Game jersey for my birthday, and a few weeks later he’s gone. That being said, be sure to ask me again once Noah Syndergaard is throwing to Travis D’Arnaud sometime in 2015.
WFY: Okay, on to the present — how are the Mets holding up with so many snowouts?
EMc: Well, they’re 2-2 on this roadtrip, so I guess we can’t complain. What I don’t understand is why Major League Baseball thought it was a good idea to authorize outdoor ballparks in Minneapolis and Denver. And who in their right mind thought pairing those two stops on an April roadtrip was a good idea?
WFY: When the Mets have actually played, they’ve done well it seems. I know it is early, but are the Mets playing over the heads?
EMc: The Mets have been fortunate enough to face some weak competition thus far, and John Buck is playing more like Josh Gibson. So the answer is yes. Still, there’s real progress here. While Jon Niese is slotted as the #1 starter, it looks like Matt Harvey is the real deal. Keep an eye on him, as he’ll be giving the Nats fits for about a decade.
EMc: Bemused. This sort of thing is a normal state of affairs for a Mets fan, and has been since management decided to trade Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi.
WFY: How far away are the Mets from contending? Where do you think they will finish in the division? What about the Nats?
EMc: No way this team finishes .500 this year. Winning as many games as last season would have to be considered a great achievement with such a flawed lineup. A lot will depend on how the team handles the next offseason. By then, Bay and Santana will be off the books, which means they ought to be able to spend some money to fix the outfield situation. Toss in Zack Wheeler, Syndergaard and a couple of free agents and I think the Mets can start causing some real trouble for Atlanta and the Nats in 2015. As for the Nats, they’ll be dueling the Braves all year long, despite that disastrous sweep we saw last weekend. I say they snag a Wild Card berth. Once that happens, who knows?
WFY: How do you feel about the overall direction of the Mets? Will they be competitive before the Jets?
EMc: The Mets are trending up, the Jets are trending down and will likely experience something like a controlled crash in 2013. That means the which end of the Rex Ryan/Mark Sanchez era in New York.
EMc: The alternate stuff isn’t doing anything for me. If I had my druthers, we’d be back to the uni combo from the 1960s (I especially love the road uniforms). I like the BP cap and will get one for my wife.
WFY: How much do you miss blogging?
EMc: Just because I don’t blog at Off Wing doesn’t mean I don’t blog anymore. I just don’t blog about sports. I sent a note to the crew at Amazin Avenue a few months back in response to a request they sent out for writers and editors, but they didn’t bite. (Editor’s note:seems like this sort of thing is a normal state of affairs for a Mets blog)
I do admit I felt like an idiot when the Bleacher Report crew sold out to Turner. They didn’t know anything anyone else in the business didn’t realize, including Jamie Mottram at Fanhouse. And while a lot of the Bleacher Report content is simply embarassing, I can’t help but give them props for their business model.
WFY: How tempting is it to jump to the Nats?
EMc: Not at all. Sure, I get caught up in everything when the team plays well, and I’m very happy for local baseball fans like yourself who have a team again after missing out for so many years. But the Mets are my first love in sports.
WFY: Who takes this week’s series and what about the season series?
EMc: Nats will take two of three, but Harvey outduels Strasburg on Friday night. That game is going to be epic, and I think Harvey will want to make a statement that he’s an elite pitcher. Overall, I say the Nats take 13 of the 19 games.
WFY: Lastly, what’s your take on the Capitals? I had them left for dead a month ago? How much of this is them being streaky and how much is them figuring out Adam Oates new system?
EMc: I think part of it is getting used to the system and the another part is getting everyone healthy again. And the final part is getting to play a schedule laden with games against the NHL’s weakest division. I think they can get out of the first round, but beyond that is another question. That’ll mean going up against Boston or Pittsburgh, and I still don’t think they match up well against either of those teams. Then again, once you’re in, anything can happen in the NHL playoffs.
While a sweep is always preferable, the Washington Nationals still “beat the Mets, beat the Mets” twice in this weekend’s three game series. By the way, I can’t say enough how attractive the series looks, particularly when the Nats wear their home whites. Take a look during Michael Morse’s grand slam (first of the year for D.C.)
I don’t know if it is going online any time soon, but I was quote in an article that ran on D2 in yesterday’s Post. Here are some things I should have tried to shoehorn into my comments to Steinberg about keeping going as a Nats blogger since 2004:
Testify to the greatness of Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler of the Washington Nationals Radio Network. Slowes has been here from the beginning and called exactly one season of non-losing baseball. Jageler arrived a year later, so he has not even get to call a precisely medicore season of D.C. baseball though last year was close.
Remind everybody of the bad faith that Peter Angelos and the Baltimore Orioles. With the blessing and downright protectionism of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Angelos/Orioles voted against D.C. baseball in 2004. Selig, then rewarded this bad behavior by granting Angelos the Nats TV rights . Angelos then put the Nats on a new channel, MASN, that DC cable systems did not get until September 2006. The channel is overwhelmingly Baltimore coverage outside of Nats games.
“Nats breaking news texts” from MASN have been 75% about the Orioles. Um…
Tonight begins the biggest series since 1945. Or 1933. I need to find a way to one of the games. The Nats can bury the Atlanta Braves with a sweep and probably come close just by taking the two-game series. Huge, but potentially one of a few huge series left this season.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — I bicycled to Nationals Park, met my dad, and then watched the Washington Nationals struggle mightily against New York Mets knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey, possibly the “the Most Interesting Man in Baseball” (The Post). In 7 1/3 innings, a mere handful of balls hit by D.C. (mostly in the 8th inning) reached the outfield. I thought it unwise that the Mets took him out after 105 pitches too — aren’t knuckleballers rubber-armed?
The lone Nats run come in the 9th inning, a solo shot by Ryan Zimmerman. That’s twice now that Mr. Walkoff has homered in the ninth inning this season (I was there for both of them) but the blasts were harmless to the opposition, proving too little too late.
Dickey’s opposite number, Chein Ming-Wang drew unfortunate comparisons to Tony Armas, Jr. during his start. He frequently loaded the bases, only to get out of jams. He fielded about 4 comebackers well, but a fifth got past him. A 2 run blast by Lucas Duda provieded the winning run. An additional Mets run came later.
For the 8th time in 9 tries, the Nats couldn’t complete a sweep. It is a strange, but utimately tolerable problem for one to have.
Over 32,000 tickets were sold for the afternoon getaway day. There were several clusters of groups, but overall a lot of people wearing red caps and/or shirts. We sat in the shade of section 409 with the Capitol dome off of our left shoulders.
Interleague play resumes this evening in Boston, the Nats first trip to Fenway Park in six years. The last one didn’t go too well. For whatever reason, there have been several New England writers on the Nats beat over the years. This is big for trip for them. Amanda Comak noted in The Wash. Times (or the Nats blog they have at least) that The Boston Globe is hyping the Nats. Also, @AdamKilgoreWP tweeted that “Lots on Nats gear on flight, at hotel in Boston. Not usually the case.”
I wonder if they’ll be as bad as the Orioles fanboys/Angelos apologists that work in D.C. sports media.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of wearing another man’s name on your back. However, I’ll say this New York Mets fan is doing it right (with the exception of the headspoon jersey instead of blue pinstripes).
Chico Escuela (just audio) is and always will be my favorite Mets player. I think it is the Bill Murray narration and the name more than anything.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Recently I started putting pennants up in my son’s room. My alma mater and my father’s alma mater are represented on one wall. On the opposite wall, I have started putting up D.C. team pennants, starting with the Washington Nationals and Capitals. I’ll eventually get a Redskins pennant for him off of ebay (don’t want to send money to Dan Snyder ). That leaves the Washington Wizards and DC United. For the latter, I looked at a few pennants online and didn’t like them too much. For one thing, the logo is perpendicular to the name — looks silly. So, I figured I might have more luck visiting the official team store at Verizon Center. I recently went there on a Sunday and found out the store was closed. No big worries though, half the fun of the trip was riding the Metro — little kids love riding the trains.
Fast forward to last Friday. Preschool was closed and I took the day off to be with my son. I decided on a whim to try the team store again. So, we parked in Pentagon City and picked up the Yellow Line to Gallery Place/Chinatown. I figured that a weekday in season for both the Wizards and the Caps would be open. Well, that’s not how it worked out, the gates down and the store had a sign that it would be open for the most recent Wizards game which was the day before. So, we didn’t get a pennant, or Caps t-shirt.
After a snack, I figured we’d see if Nationals Park would work out. With Opening Day under a week away, we got on the Green Line in search of a new Nats shirt and a new cap (can’t find his current one). The luck there was no better:
So, two team stores, both closed. I didn’t spend a dime.
How can you have the team store at the ball park closed for the first 20% of the season, Andy Feffer? Why have a team store in the downtown area if it isn’t open, Ted Leonsis?
As I said though, my son had a great time riding the Metro, so these trips were far from being a loss. I’ll probably stop trying to go to brick and mortar stores.
METS 4 Nats 3
I only saw 4 or 5 innings of the game. Good to see Jayson Werth finally get a hit, a triple no less. Good to see lots of men on base. Bad to see so many stuck there when the inning ended. You don’t get to complain about the umpires if you leave 9 men on. Edwin Jackson only went 5 innings in his debut, giving up 3 runs. Bullpen was solid until Henry Rodriguez blew the save in the ninth. ESPN Boxscore
Once again, the guest prognosticator series returns. Leading off the 2012 Washington Nationals season is blogging pioneer Eric McErlain of Off Wing Opinion. Among countless other things, he’s the subject matter expert for former Shea Stadium teams. You may recall last year’s Q&As about the Mets and Jets.
WFY: Are the “new” Mets uniforms (really the old Mets uniforms without the black) the best thing about the 2012 Mets? Do you prefer the classic pinstripes or the white “head spoon” home jersey?
EM: While I am happy about the new “old” uniforms, there are some reasons to be interested in the 2012 Mets. They’ve moved the fences in and made sure they were painted with the traditional blue and orange color scheme. David Wright seems completely healthy as does Johan Santana. And seeing Lucas Duda in the lineup every day is potentially exciting. The kid has got a big bat — I watched him hit a pair of dingers on Saturday afternoon — and he has the potential to turn even routine fly balls into an adventure.
Are the Mets going to challenge for the Wild Card in a terribly competitive NL East? Probably not, but the starting rotation is stable enough to help them keep things close and the middle relief has some potential. I think they’ll be about a break even proposition in 2012.
WFY: The Mets are not in a good place right now — broke owners, declining attendance, Is the lowest point since Donald Grant (and Dick Young?) sent Tom Seaver to Cincinnati? Are you hoping Bud Selig takes over them like he did the Los Angeles Dodgers?
EM: Bud Selig will not pull a McCourt with the Mets. As for the post-Sever trade years, I remember those seasons quite vividly, and there isn’t another era in team history that was nearly as painful. Still, there’s a stark recognition that this team is at best going to be treading water for a few seasons as the Wilpons get their finances sorted out. As I indicated above, this team isn’t as bad as some may thing, it’s just that it isn’t going anywhere given the level of competition in the NL East. The real question will be raised as we get nearer to the trade deadline: does the team trade David Wright? He’s been on fire thus far, and would fetch some prime prospects in a deal later this year if he keeps it up. GM Sandy Alderson will have to consider the return carefully.
WFY: Has Johan Santana’s return improved your outlook for the 2012 Mets?
EM: Yes. Without him at the top of the rotation, the team would be a serious threat to lose 90+ games this year. I don’t expect the old Santana back, but I think he can win 15 games this year.
WFY: Did the late 1980s Mets underachieve? If they did, do you think current Nats manager Davey Johnson contributed to them only winning the division twice and pennant/World Series once?
EM: Yes, but I would never blame Davey Johnson. You need to remember that during the era when the Mets were riding high, both the Cubs (’84 and ’89) and the Cardinals (’85 and ’87) had pretty good ball clubs. Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry, two players who looked liked mortal locks for the Baseball Hall of Fame, partied too much. But the real killer with those teams was the fact that Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter just got old — a point that Jim Leyland would often make while he was managing the Pirates.
WFY: The Mets honored Gary Carter on Opening Day and will throughout the season. It is unclear whether the Nationals, who in a previous corporate incarnation were Carter’s Montreal Expos, will do the same. Do you think the Nats should honor somebody who never played in Washington?
WFY: Who is your current favorite member of the Mets?
EM: It’s R.A. Dickey hands down. He came out of nowhere two seasons ago to absolutely rescue the starting rotation. Without him, the Mets would really be a terrible team. And while he’s already 37, as a knuckleballer, he could pitch till he’s 50. And how can you not love a guy who named his bat “Orcrist” after a sword from “The Hobbit?” When he walks to the plate, the stadium PA system plays the “Imperial March” from Star Wars. He’s approaching Mookie-like levels of devotion from Mets fans.
WFY: Where do you get your Mets coverage these days? Do you get to follow Mets broadcasts much? How are the broadcasters now? Historically? Does Chico Escuela do Spanish broadcasts?
EM: I try to watch as many games as possible online. As for coverage, I default a lot to ESPN New York, but also like to read Faith and Fear in Flushing, which is co-edited by Jason Fry. Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling are actually pretty good. Darling is 1000 times better now than he was during his time behind the microphone in Washington. As for Spanish-language radio broadcasts, that’s no joke with the Mets, as they’ve been doing them for decades, and actually simulcast games in Spanish as well.
WFY: Nationals Park has the half-smoke — does Citi Field have a signature dish?
EM: Back in the day, the signature beverage at Shea was beer with white paint chips that were flaking off the seats. As for favorites, CitiField has had a Shake Shack since it opened, and the lines are always long there.
WFY: What is the best case scenario for the 2012 Mets?
EM: Break even baby! 81-81 and they don’t fade from the Wild Card until after September 1.
WFY: How do you think this series will go and what about the season series?
EM: The Mets have won three straight and are due for a fall. I say the Nats take two of three on the way to winning 11 of 18 this year.
For the first time in 4 years, the Washington Nationals have won 70 games, may this never be a milestone again. They did it by beating the New York Mets 2-0 behind Brad Peacock‘s debut start. The rookie righty threw 5 scoreless innings.
The 2012 schedule was released yesterday. The true Opening Day won’t be in Washington this year which is stupid — hopefully it’ll snow in Baltimore on April 5. The Nats start the season visiting Wrigley Field (before the ivy is even close to coming out, grumble) to face the Chicago Cubs. They open at home on April 12 against the Cincinnati Reds, so I guess I’ll finally get to check them off my NL teams to see list. No home game on Memorial Day this year for some reason, but the July 4 home game tradition is thankfully observed — the San Francisco Giants are here for it. The New York Yankees are in town over Father’s Day weekend. The Yankees travel to Boston to play the Red Sox on June 8 for a weekend series. The cowardly, subsidized Orioles come here May 18 while the Nats go to the wrong end of the Parkway on June 22 (don’t even think about giving Peter Angelos some money for those games). The Nats host a Labor Day game (Cubs) which would be more appropriate for Baltimore. Lastly, the Pirates series in Pittsburgh is during the week instead of a weekend, so I probably won’t go to it next year either. I figured it would be the weekend of the Pentagon City Bureau Chief emeritus’ wedding.
The Washington Nationals just snatched victory from the jaws of defeat which they previously snatched from the jaws of victory. Who were they playing? The New York Mets of course!
Entering the 9th, the Nats were down 7-6 to the Mets with 8-9-1 in the batting order coming up. That worked out to be Jesus Flores, PH Jonny Gomes and Ian Desmond. Flores singled was replaced by PR Brian Bixler who reached second on a wild pitch. Gomes then walked. Hope was alive. As I tweeted, “so, the #Nats need to get at least two base-runners on in the 9th...” Ian Desmond then advanced both runners with a great bunt that he almost beat out. Next, the Mets did something that even George Custer* would find to be an arrogant, uneducated and stupid tactic — they walked Roger Bernadina to load the bases and face Ryan Zimmerman AKA Mr. Walkoff in the bottom of the 9th.
Tried to hack an embed code, but it didn’t work tonight — maybe in a few days it will. Why does MLB wait a few days to make embedding possible anyway? Oh and here’s the Mets feed:
Oh and if that wasn’t enough, earlier in the game on the first pitch seen as a major leaguer, starting pitcher Tom Millone homered to the Nats bullpen in right field. A 3-run homer to put the Nats up 5-0. Shades of Jim Bullinger whom I almost instantly recalled for some reason.
Hopefully, Millone will have a more distinguished career with the Nats than Bullinger did with the Chicago Cubs or anybody else he played for back in the day. I probably had not thought about Bullinger since he hit a homer in his debut sometime back in the early 1990s. Memory is an odd thing.
This was the Nats 11th last at-bat win this season, tied with the MLB lead according to @STATS_LLC
Back to the present and D.C. — you go for the moments. Or watch for the moments. I expect one tomorrow in what appears to be the final start of 2011/ever for ¡LIVAN! in a Nats uniform. Maybe he’ll finally get a no-hitter (not likely, since Eric Gregg has passed on) or maybe hit for the cycle. Actually, a no hitter is more likely than ¡LIVAN! hitting a triple.
*My friend Joe added: “I remember George Custer. He lost the Series against the Indians =:P”