Posts about the Washington Senators, a pair of of Major League Baseball teams. The original played in the American League from 1901-1960 before Calvin Griffith moved them and they become the Minnesota Twins. The second Senators franchise played from 1961-1971, until Bob Short moved them to the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex where they became the Texas Rangers.
MANAHAWKIN, N.J. — One of the first intersections on Route 72 east of the Garden State Parkway is for Doc Cramer Blvd. Over many years traveling to Long Beach Island, I had a mild curiosity of the boulevard’s namesake and during a trip to the Beach Haven Library I learned that Roger “Doc” Cramer was a baseball player from that borough.
Perkins had advance knowledge that a special young man named Cramer might help out the major-league club. It seems that some time earlier, Perkins and his teammate Jimmy Dykes had stopped by the office of a realtor named Van Dyke to look for some vacation property, and Van Dyke tipped them off to the local phenom. Doc did not disappoint, and at the end of the second game, Perkins approached the young prospect and asked, “How would you like to come to Philadelphia tomorrow morning and see Mr. Mack?”
Cramer shot back, “What time does Mr. Mack reach the park?”
“About 9 o’clock,” replied Perkins.
“I’ll be there at 8:30,” Cramer promised, and the next day he arrived at Shibe Park to meet Connie Mack wearing a suit his brother Paul had bought him for the occasion. Doc’s father tried to persuade him not to go, but he did not listen and headed off for his tryout with his cousin Chris Sprague driving him there. Mack signed up the eager youngster and kept him on the Athletics bench for the rest of the season, then assigned him to the Martinsburg team in the Blue Ridge League.
Cramer played two games in 1929, which led to 30 in 1930 with about another 30 or so a season before becoming a starter at age 27 in 1933 after the A’s big selloff. Traded to the Boston Red Sox in 1936, Cramer patrolled Fenway Park’s centerfield for 5 seasons, earning All-Star recognition in his final four campaigns.
After the 1940 season, Cramer would be traded to the Washington Senators for Gee Walker. In his only season in Washington, Cramer would play in all 154 games, batting .273 with 25 doubles, 6 triples and 2 home runs.
After the season he was traded again, this time to the Detroit Tigers, along with Jimmy Bloodworth, in exchange for Frank Croucher and Bruce Campbell. This would be Cramers last stop in his career. He’d play for the Tigers from 1942 through 1948, finally getting his release in May.
Cramer would retire to the mainland, across the bay from Long Beach Island, in Manahawkin. A baseball complex is named after him as well.
The All-Star break is in the rear view mirror by over a week and the big concern of the Washington Nationals offseason – the bullpen and manager Matt Williams use of it is still The Big Concern. That, and as the Nats opponents’ batting practice music says “Everybody Hurts,” but this post will not examine the unfortunate injuries, maiming, deaths and possible resurrections of Messrs. Werth, Zimmerman, Rendon, Span and Strasburg.
We knew the bullpen would be a a problem. Rafael Soriano and beloved “7th inning guy” Tyler Clippard were gone. We miss Clipp, but even with the apparent fatal wrist injury suffered by Yunel Escobar (acquired in that trade) the other day, it seems to have worked out. Another bullpen depletion that came after I asked beat writers the questions below was Jerry Blevins, traded to Flushing for Matt den Dekker because despite playing in New Amsterdam, the Mets, exceeded their Dutch surname quota. How’d that work out for you, Amazins?
Craig Stammen’s tragic illness has at least a year of corpse reanimation recuperation as well. He’s been a big loss.
Thankfully, for Washingtonians, the Nats play in the NLeast and the patchwork lineup of 30 year old rookie Clint Robinson, Michael A. Taylor and the shortstop having the worst contract year since time immemorial, Ian Desmond, has not prevented them from having a 3 game lead as of Thursday morning. The rotation, not quite historic all season long (but in spurts), has been good enough to overcome all of these calamities (injuries, depleted bullpen, Matt Williams) as we approach August.
Prior to the season, I asked every Post baseball writer I could about situational bullpen usage, starting with the rookie from Yale:
Q: Relief roles
You mentioned earlier in the chat that the two pennant winners had relievers with locked-in roles. As a fan, I’d rather see a pitcher better suited for the matchup than “well, he’s our seventh inning guy.” How do players feel about it? Would they rather have the “seventh inning guy” more than the pitcher that matches up the best to the batter(s)?
A: Chelsea Janes
This is something the Nationals relievers have talked a bit about in camp already — and by they’ve talked about it, I mean we’ve asked them about it. Craig Stammen, who has come to the park for the past couple seasons without any idea of what inning — if any — he might pitch that day said he thinks it should be easier when you know what inning you’re going to pitch. I think most guys agree because they can develop a routine. One-batter lefties know they’re going to be called on short notice. Thornton, for example, said that while he didn’t know exactly when he would pitch, he could see situations coming that would call for the hard-throwing lefty. So he could prepare mentally for those. The locked-in roles help, to some extent.
But I can see how Nationals fans would be uncomfortable with the idea of locked-in roles, particularly in the playoffs. Some argue that was one of the main things that cost the Nationals the NLDS last season — sticking to the pattern of bullpen use they’d relied on all season instead of adapting to the heightened circumstances and maybe changing things to match the situation. Whether in Game 2 or Game 4, those things came up, and sticking to the season-long plan, to established roles, didn’t work in that case. That doesn’t mean it could never work, it just didn’t in that case. So maybe there’s an argument to be made that locked-in roles help during the regular season, but all bullpen bets are off in the playoffs when arms are tired and pressure mounts and one at-bat determines the fate of a season. Not to be dramatic on February 26, but that question could end up defining the Nationals season. If the starters do their job and the hitters do theirs, Washington should have leads late in games. They could have those leads late in games late in October. At that point, those leads probably won’t be substantial. They’ll have to protect them. If this team makes the deep playoff run people project it should, it could all come down to the bullpen, to who comes out of it and when.
…but there’s a long way to go before that. The Nationals are a week away from their first spring training game. More questions will arise, and James and I will be back to answer them some time soon. That’s it for now, but thanks so much for reading, and stay warm! I won’t tell you how chilly it is in Viera right now, and instead remind you that in 38 days, there will be baseball at Nationals Park.
Long answers that are not really comforting, but illuminating. It’s not all on Matty.
Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports
Q: relief roles
Are relief roles as ingrained in the players as much as the reigning NLMOY? Would it take an organizational and or cultural shift to get to situational bullpen usage instead of Clip is my seventh ining guy thinking?
A: Thomas Boswell
Matt Williams was talking last week about the possibility of using “match-ups” at times in the eighth inning this year.
I had two thoughts. 1) He’s flexible. 2. “Ut oh!” If you have multiple quarterbacks or closers, you “don’t really have any.” I expect Janssen will grab and keep the job. If he doesn’t, it’ll get interesting fast.
These responses suggest a few things– players seem to like knowing their role and perhaps long-tenured baseball columnists feel even stronger about it because despite impressive bona fides, they are looking at this like it’s football.
It seems that an organizational/cultural approach that would need to change to embrace that not all relief appearances are equal. A 9th-inning up by two facing the 6-8 hitters is very different than a 7th inning up 1 with a runner on and hitters 2-4 due up. The focus on saves as the primary metric for evaluating relievers has obscured that high leverage situations should result in the best available pitcher instead of the “X inning guy.”
So, in short, the Nats bullpen situation will not improve through strategy and it’s not entirely because Matt Williams (or Boswell!) is unimaginative and underwhelming in general. It’s just mostly his doing. This just amplifies the siren song from the Queen City (of Cincinnati -because lets face it, there are several Queen Cities in the U.S.) is being heard throughout the Natmosphere. Aroldis Chapman, throws about as fast as Jayson Werth drives and is being completely wasted on the lowly, but tots realz baseball towne Reds. There is lust in the hearts of curly W fans for this flamethrower that Mike Rizzo infamously claimed to come in second place for way back in Olden Times. I too, would like Chapman to ply his trade on South Capitol Street, but I don’t see how the Nats could make it happen. Actually, I do and I am not willing to part with wunderkind Trea “Ian who?” Turner. Michael A. Taylor even up though!
I don’t condemn coveting Chapman, but I take issue with my distinguished colleague that he would be the second greatest Cuban Nat ever. Obviously, the people’s champion and special assistant to life skills coach Rick Ankiel (what ever happened to that?) is ¡LIVAN! We love #61 like he loves second breakfast and I won’t take that away from anybody. However, there was once another Cuban junkthrower in this town:
Connie Marrero won 39 games over 4 years for DC back before color television, starting as a 39 year old rookie in the majors. He lived to be a few days short of 103 years old, taught LIVAN! the curve and wore an outstanding t-shirt along with his curly W cap. Then he died and about a year later, our sweet land of liberty and his homeland resumed diplomatic relation. Marrero, no relation to Chris, died and all of the sudden, we’re cool with Cuba again. His sacrifice made this happen, if only by his astute fashion sense.
So, despite what you have read elsewhere Chapman to the bullpen would be wonderful, is impossible and still only the third best Cuban connection in Washington baseball history. Don’t forget that, ever.
Now, it’s onto August and hopefully a Mets team that outright quits while the Nats wait to get healthy in the hope that maybe it’ll work out better in the fall.
That’s just outstanding stuff. Walter Johnson, the winning run in the only World Series title to date.
There has also been more wonderful Nats coverage than I can keep up with of late.
Today, at 3:07 p.m. on FOX Sport 1 or in my case, MLB Audio, the Washington Nationals host the San
Francisco Giants, who whipped the Pittsburgh Pirates in the play-in game on Wednesday night. The Nats have Stephen Strasburg starting his first playoff game while Jake Peavy starts for the Giants.
I was hoping for the Giants and told my friend David in San Francisco as much which might be hubris. I think it’s the best possible matchup in the playoffs for DC. David offered this in an email:
It is amazing what a big win will do to your attitude. I still believe that the Nationals and the Dodgers are the two best teams in the National League. But I also will note that the Giants played great last night and a 5 game series is short enough for randomness to trump averages. I suspect the Giants will use Bumgarner for Game 3, which means they will get him only once. Although you speak highly of Hudson, he has been lousy over the past month. At 38, end-of-season fatigue is a real thing. His pitches are elevating on him (typical sign of fatigue) and he’s been crushed for it. The best I’m hoping for from him is that he puts in 5 solid innings, gives up less than 2 runs and then Bochy goes to the bullpen. That will be taxing meaning that Peavy and the other likely starter (maybe Petit, maybe Vogelsong) will need to give a solid performance. But it means we get a travel day after going to the bullpen early.
In our favor, I like that Matt Williams has no post-season coaching experience and the Nationals’ last trip to the postseason ended in humiliating disaster. That is something that might creep into the minds of players that remember it. An ESPN analyst last night had a nice quip. He said the Pirates came into the game last night full of excitement and emotion and the Giants came in workmen-like fashion and the result showed. I thought in the 5th inning when McCutchen was stranded at second to end the inning his body language said he (the best player on their team) was a defeated player. I typically discount all the bluster of “playoff experience.” For instance, the most important players in the Giants 2010 championship, such as Posey, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Romo and Brian Wilson had zero playoff experience combined. Juan Uribe, Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria were the only players that had significant playoff experience and their contributions were mixed. Renteria was amazing and a vital component of their success, Uribe played well and Rowand was a total non-factor. But I really do like the fact that so many players on this team have experience winning elimination games–particularly multiple elimination game scenarios. They have the moxie to lose two games in Washington and come home and play their best ball and force a game 5. Some teams don’t have that–the A’s for instance.
Some other things to put in the doom category: Matt Williams (former San Francisco Giants star) quoted “we have miles to go before we sleep.” You know who else says that a lot? Ted Leonsis, who has never owned a team that advanced past the second round.
There is also the concern that the cowardly, subsidized Baltimore Orioles will exceed the Nats this and any season. And then we’ll have to hear about it from the fanboys in the DC media who uncritically cover a Baltimore team as if it were in DC. Even the ones who aren’t openly in the tank for Baltimore are apologists who ignore that the Orioles and their owner Peter Angelos are currently in default to the Nats. It’s a bad situation made worse.
Memories of the 2012 Nats collapse aren’t far away either. They had the Cardinals down 6-0 and lost 9-7, a bitter defeat as any in DC sports history. At least in my lifetime.
I had a bit of an epiphany this morning though. Back in 2004, I decided to ignore my cynicism and get emotionally attached to the idea that baseball would finally return to The District. Then it did.