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Tag:Washington Nationals
Posted on: July 4, 2010 4:49 pm
 

All-Star questions, snubs and thoughts

-- Stephen Strasburg, discuss.

-- OK, here's my part of the discussion: I think the right thing was done not only in leaving him off of the All-Star ballot, but also in not listing him among the final five men for whom fans can vote. You know he would have won that in a landslide. As I blogged the other day, the guy's career has barely achieved liftoff -- there are others in line in front of him for the All-Star Game. Besides, the Nationals are so worried about his innings-pitched count that they're probably going to shut him down by early September. So why shouldn't he wait a year or two before making his All-Star debut? That said, it's one hell of an argument, and colleague Gregg Doyel makes the contrary argument (big surprise there, huh?) here and, as usual, does it very well. He's wrong, but he's good.

-- Biggest snub? Colorado catcher Miguel Olivo not being on the NL team. Forget a simple roster spot. He should be starting.

-- How can the San Diego Padres have by far the best pitching staff in the game one-through-12 this season and not have one pitcher on the NL team? Closer Heath Bell is one of the five players up for the fan vote for the last spot on the team. But starter Mat Latos (9-4, 2.62 ERA) should be on the team, and starter Clayton Richard (6-4, 2.74) merits consideration. But the real snub is that set-up man Luke Gregerson didn't make it despite a strikeout-walk ratio that is sick: 51 K's against six walks over 40 1/3 innings. What, the NL team has a death wish by not inviting San Diego pitchers?

-- Best All-Star story: Cincinnati reliever Arthur Rhodes, who, as a 40-year-old first-time All-Star, is the third-oldest All-Star "rookie" in history. Rhodes from April 13-June 26 made 33 appearances for the Reds without allowing a run, equaling a single-season record he now shares with Mark Guthrie (2002, Mets) and Mike Myers (2000, Rockies).

-- Nicest All-Star story: Arizona outfielder Chris Young, who got himself so twisted up at the plate last season that the Diamondbacks shipped him back to Triple-A to fix his mechanics (and for his own sanity) last summer, bounces back to earn his way onto the NL team. Young has 16 homers, 57 RBI and 14 steals and is one of the few bright spots in Arizona this summer.

-- With the 5 p.m. start time to the Tuesday, July 13 game in Anaheim, you'll be hearing so much about "twilight" you'll think vampires (or Kristen Stewart) will be playing. No question, in the Year of the Pitcher, pitching should dominate for at least the first half of the game. Hitters will not be too crazy facing Ubaldo Jimenez, Roy Halladay, Josh Johnson, David Price, Jon Lester, Cliff Lee and the rest in the twilight.

-- Quick reference guide: The American League has won seven consecutive All-Star Games since the tie in Milwaukee in 2002, and 12 of the past 13 (including the tie). The NL has not won since 1996 in Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium.

-- The new rule this year by which each manager can designate a position player to re-enter that game in the late (or extra innings) if the last available position player at any position is injured) is cheesy. I know Commissioner Bud Selig's special on-field committee is a crack staff, but it won't be long until we'll have Little League everybody on the roster gets to bat rules in place. Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio used to play seven, eight, nine innings. Today's "everybody gets a chance to play" mentality is weak.

-- As the sole representative from the host Angels, one of Torii Hunter's duties, no doubt, will be to introduce all of his AL teammates to the Rally Monkey.

-- You'll also be seeing endless replays of the big Bo Jackson 448-foot homer to dead center field against Rick Reuschel in the 1989 game.

-- Vladimir Guerrero returning to Angel Stadium as an All-Star with Texas will be intriguing to everyone but Angels fans.

-- Rookie Jason Heyward's announced plan to participate in batting practice with the NL All-Stars, because he was voted in by fans, but to sit out the game, because he's on the disabled list, is classy.

-- Final man votes: I'd go Paul Konerko of the White Sox in the AL, and Cincinnati's Joey Votto in the NL.

-- The painted Mickey Mouses (most featuring All-Star designs on Mickey) they're placing around Anaheim look very cool. And this from a cranky guy who doesn't give two hoots for Mickey, and a guy who generally avoids Disneyland (and Disneyworld) at all costs (I just despise crowded places where you stand in line forever).

Likes: The long piece on Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in Sunday's New York Times magazine. ... Seeing clips of Lou Gehrig's "Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth" each July 4 -- it was delivered 71 years ago Sunday -- never fails to produce chills. ... I'm not much for reality shows -- sports or otherwise -- but The Club, centered on the crazy Chicago White Sox, on MLB Network later this month looks too dramatic to pass up. ... George Steinbrenner's birthday being on July 4. How perfect is that? ... Man, does the Padres' Tony Gwynn Jr. have wheels.

Dislikes: We can all argue All-Star snubs, but there are too many players on each roster already. The 34-man rosters are ridiculous.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Driving in to Darlington County
"Me and Wayne on the Fourth of July
"Driving in to Darlington County
"Looking for some work on the county line
"We drove down from New York City
"Where the girls are pretty
"But they just wanna know your name
"Driving in to Darlington city
"Got a union connection with an uncle of Wayne's
"We drove 800 miles without seeing a cop
"We got rock and roll music blasting out the T-top"

-- Bruce Springsteen, Darlington County

Posted on: June 30, 2010 5:23 pm
 

Stephen Strasburg is not an All-Star

Come on. Stephen Strasburg an All-Star?

In 2011, probably.

Every season from 2011 through 2021, good chance.

But 13 days from now? In 2010?

No way.

Five starts do not make an All-Star, no matter how many oohs, ahhs and strikeouts Strasburg has produced. This is still a game in which you have to earn your way. Strasburg is off the starting blocks in that department. But he hasn't earned anything yet.

There are too many good pitchers in the National League who have been doing it since Opening Day who deserve All-Star spots more than Strasburg. Break it down to rookies alone, and St. Louis' Jaime Garcia and Cincinnati's Mike Leake are in line ahead of Strasburg (yes, even though Leake has struggled in his past couple of outings).

Look, I love Strasburg. He's exceeded the hype, which pretty much was an impossible task.

As a fan, I'd love to see him pitch an inning in the All-Star Game facing someone like Derek Jeter, Justin Morneau and Josh Hamilton.

But there are only two possible reasons to justify putting him on the NL squad:

1. The fans demand it.

2. Because the winning league gets home-field advantage in the World Series, you must put the best pitchers on the team regardless.

As for the first reason, the fans have their say in voting for the starting position players. They don't name the entire team.

As for the second reason, again: Judging by all appearances and rave reviews, Strasburg looks like he's already one of the best pitchers in the game. But even he said following his outing against Atlanta on Monday that he's got plenty to learn.

There are too many others deserving to jump Strasburg ahead of them. And I haven't talked to him about this issue, but my guess, level-headed kid that he is, is that he'd agree.

The game demands that you earn things, you're not just given them.

And in the end, you'll be respected a heck of a lot more if you do.

Likes: Vladimir Guerrero back in Anaheim. And the nice ovation he received in the series opener Tuesday. ... MLB Network, which does an excellent job each night cutting from game to game to game. ... XM Radio offering every game, every night. I know I've plugged them here before, but what a great thing satellite radio is -- for games, news, music, everything. ... Mexican food in Southern California. ... Excellent new disc from Gaslight Anthem, American Slang. ... The fourth season of Friday Night Lights is fantastic. Really, really good writing and acting, as we've come to expect from one of the best shows ever on television.

Dislikes: Atlanta rookie Jason Heyward saying he's out of the All-Star Game. ... Poor Joel Zumaya. Best wishes to the Detroit reliever in his recovery following an absolutely sickening injury. ... The Dodgers' Matt Kemp and Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton in the doghouse. Come on fellas, how difficult is it to work hard and be a good teammate? ... Carlos Zambrano is a dope.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"You told me fortunes
"In American slang"

-- Gaslight Anthem, American Slang

 

Posted on: June 13, 2010 8:19 pm
 

Strasburg-Storen could be winning combo for years

CLEVELAND -- Sunday was the perfect glimpse into the future for Washington, and it wasn't simply because Stephen Strasburg was nearly unhittable again.

No, the future came in the combination of Strasburg and the Nats' other first-round pick last year, Drew Storen.

Storen, who beat Strasburg to the majors by a few weeks, relieved him in the sixth inning with one out, the bases loaded and the Nationals leading 6-1 Sunday. Storen induced a pop to second from Russell Branyan and then struck out Jhonny Peralta to end the threat.

It was the first time Strasburg and Storen, the Nats' closer of the future, have formed a tag team in the majors.

It should not be the last.

"I think I've blown two no-hitters for him this year [in the minors]," Storen said, chuckling. "Not tight spots like that. Hopefully, that's the first of many to come."

Storen and Strasburg now have been teammates in the Arizona Fall League, Double-A, Triple-A and, now with the Nats.

And while Strasburg is getting about 99.9 percent of the buzz, Storen now has inherited 12 runners and has not allowed any to score.

When he left the bases loaded Sunday, it not only helped preserve Washington's victory, it helped keep Strasburg's ERA low. It's 2.13.

"I was telling him I was probably more fired up for him in his last outing than I have been for myself in any of my outings," Storen said.

Likes: Washington third-base coach Pat Listach getting razzed from the elephant-memoried fans in the stands behind him who still hold a grudge that he won the 1992 AL Rookie of the Year award, when he was playing for Milwaukee, over Kenny Lofton. "A security guy came by and said, 'You know, your Rookie of the Year award is in dispute around here,'" Listach said, chuckling. "It was a long time ago, but these fans here are good. They don't forget anything. ... Paul Hoynes' press box hawk call Sunday. It's a Friday night tradition around here with Hoynes, the long-time beat writer for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, but he was off Friday and Saturday and so Sunday was this week's makeup date. He's been doing it for the better part of three decades now. At one time on Fridays they had a press box pool as to what inning Hoynes would do it. Not sure if that's still the case, but it's one of those cool and quirky moments in baseball that you appreciate -- even if it doesn't carry the Strasburg hype. ...The crawfish etouffee and gumbo at Fat Fish Blue, a downtown Cleveland Cajun joint.

Dislikes: Come on Tom Izzo, stay put at Michigan State. You don't belong in the NBA. You're too good for the NBA.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It's a long way from Cedar Riverside to Cedar Sinai
"Three times St. Paul to Cheyenne
"And it's a long way from Sacramento too
"We were bored so we started a band"

-- The Hold Steady, The Sweet Part of the City

Posted on: May 28, 2010 11:16 pm
Edited on: May 29, 2010 12:36 am
 

Nationals play Friday's game under protest

Bizarre moment in Friday night's Washington-San Diego game when the Nationals lodged a protest midway through the first inning because the Padres had erroneously listed Adam Russell as the starting pitcher on the lineup card instead of Clayton Richard.

Richard had worked a 1-2-3 first when Nationals manager Jim Riggleman called the Padres on the mistake. Umpires then accepted the protest for an "unannounced substitution", which would be moot if the Nationals win.

It could have gotten dicey had the Padres won because the Nats appeared to have the Padres stone cold. Alas, Washington beat San Diego 5-3 with Matt Capps earning his major-league leading 17th save.

Had the Padres won, a baseball official said Friday night, one of two things likely could have happened:

The protest could be upheld and the game would have to be replayed from the middle of the first.

Or, the league could deny the protest, most likely on the grounds that the pitcher's spot in the batting order had not yet come up and it was clear who was pitching for the Padres.

Being that protests are very rarely upheld, the latter is the most likely scenario.

To find the last protest upheld in the National League, you have to go back to a Pittsburgh-St. Louis game in June, 1986, when then-NL president Chub Feeney upheld the Pirates' protest that umpire John Kibler improperly called a game prematurely on account of rain.

On that night, there were two rain delays. The first totaled 17 minutes, then the game resumed for only two pitches before another rain delay of 22 minutes. Then the game was called with the Pirates losing 4-1. NL rules called for umpires to wait at least 75 minutes during the first rain delay and 45 minutes during a second delay before calling the game.

The last AL protest that was upheld was in the infamous Pine Tar Game between Kansas City and the Yankees in July, 1983.

 

Posted on: April 5, 2010 1:41 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2010 7:20 pm
 

Halladay the Phillie

Roy Halladay had barely set foot into the National League on Monday when the Nationals sent him a tell-tale sign that he's no longer in the AL East.

Then, Halladay sent word that he really could care less, thank you very much.

On Halladay's first two pitches, Nats speedster Nyjer Morgan poked a single  -- and then swiped second base. Five pitches after that, Ryan Zimmerman boomed an opposite-field, RBI double. And two batters later, Halladay walked Josh Willingham.

For a pitcher who sets a goal of fewer walks than games started each year, it was rough waters.

Which just goes to show you: Even the best pitcher in the game isn't invincible. Whether it was Opening Day, President Obama's appearance or the Nationals' approach -- maybe a bit of all of the above -- Halladay's Philadelphia debut was memorable after only one inning. 

Not surprisingly, though, by the end of Philadelphia's 11-1 rout of the Nationals, he made it memorable for all the same reasons he made so many nights in Toronto memorable.

That noise in the first was the last anybody heard from the Nationals. Halladay breezed through seven innings, holding the Nats to that one run while scattering six hits. He fanned nine and walked two, and his ERA after one NL start stands at a tidy 1.29.

That already miniscule ERA will be worth watching. Facing weaker lineups than he faced in the AL, there is every reason to believe that Monday's start will be step one for Halladay toward winning his second Cy Young award.

Posted on: November 12, 2009 12:19 am
 

Riggleman no longer 'In Case of Emergency' guy

Jim Riggleman is a good man and a true professional. He isn't flamboyant, there's no controversy in him and his hiring isn't going to spike Washington Nationals ticket sales, at least not until Stephen Strasburg joins the rotation, Ryan Zimmerman gets some help and the Nats start to win.

But what's important to know when the Nationals officially name Riggleman as their manager on Thursday is this:

The guy he replaced last summer, Manny Acta, was actually turning down managerial gigs a couple of weeks ago, telling Houston "no thanks" so he could accept Cleveland's offer.

And under Acta last summer, the Nationals went 26-61, a .299 winning percentage. Under Riggleman after Acta was fired, they went 33-42, a .440 winning percentage.

Same team.

Maybe Riggleman never will be the next Sparky Anderson, but knowing what we know about what transpired in Washington over the summer and in Houston and Cleveland this fall with Acta, there is no question that Riggleman is qualified and capable.

Until now, as I wrote here in September, Riggleman was settling nicely -- but not necessarily willingly -- into a career as the "In Case of Emergency" guy.

Having previously managed San Diego and the Cubs, Riggleman became interim manager in Seattle in 2008 after Mike Hargrove left. And he was named interim manager of the Nats in '09 after Acta was fired.

"There's a new feeling of professionalism in the clubhouse," Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told me when we were discussing Riggleman in September. "Guys are accountable now for how they handle themselves."

It's easy to get labeled in this game, and next to impossible to shed that label once you've got it. Credit Rizzo, a new GM himself, for having the guts to make his own decision on his own man and not steering away from Riggleman because of how some might have perceived him.

Rizzo said in September that he wasn't necessarily looking for a marquee guy and, true to his word, he left Bobby Valentine stranded at ESPN's Baseball Tonight desk in choosing Riggleman.

That surely will make a few managers who find themselves on the hot seat early in 2010 very uncomfortable, because Valentine is a sexy name who will be linked to nearly every fluid managerial situation.

Riggleman is not a sexy name. But he's a solid manager, a good teacher, a guy who obviously commanded respect in the Nationals clubhouse last summer.

In other words, exactly the kind of manager the Nats need right now.

Likes: Ken Griffey Jr. back for another year in Seattle. No, he's not the same player he was, but he made a serious difference in the Mariners clubhouse last year, especially in bridging what was a pretty good gap between Ichiro Suzuki and many of his teammates. ... You bet catcher Jason Varitek exercised his player option with Boston on Wednesday. Where else was he going to go? ... Good luck to my Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central Falcons, who host Manchester in a big playoff game Friday night. Go get 'em, guys. ... Geno's East deep dish pizza in Chicago. The Meaty Legend we had the other night -- sausage, pepperoni, Canadian bacon and bacon -- was nothing short of sensational.

Dislikes: Airport hotels. ... Man, I hate to see Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band wrapping up nearly two years on the road. The current tour ends Nov. 22 in Buffalo, and the whole thing has a feeling of finality to it right now. Sure am glad I've got one more show on the docket before they go on hiatus.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"God have mercy on the man
"Who doubts what he's sure of"

-- Bruce Springsteen, Brilliant Disguise

Posted on: August 18, 2009 12:08 am
Edited on: August 18, 2009 1:22 am
 

Nationals sign Strasburg

Desperate for both talented players and good news, the Washington Nationals got a welcome dose of both late Monday night by agreeing to terms with their No. 1 pick, pitcher Stephen Strasburg, on a major league deal worth $15.67 million, CBSSports.com has learned.

It is a record contract for a draft pick, for more guaranteed money than the $10.5, five-year deal pitcher Mark Prior received from the Chicago Cubs following the 2001 draft. Prior was chosen No. 2 overall that year, behind Minnesota's Joe Mauer.

Washington's deal with Strasburg came just minutes before Monday's midnight EDT deadline following several weeks of a public standoff that gave every indication it would keep the participants on edge until the very end. Mike Rizzo, the Nationals' interim general manager, said that the two sides agreed to the deal at "11:58 and 43 seconds."

Rizzo, who called it a "great day for the Nationals franchise", said on a post-midnight conference call that the negotiations were "an amicable but anxious time."

"We were optimistic for the most part," Rizzo said. "We knew Stephen Strasburg really wanted to play professional baseball and be a member of the Washington Nationals."

The deal is a clear win-win situation for both sides.

Washington is desperate to add talented players to its organization, and Strasburg, from San Diego State, is considered the best pitching prospect in the history of the draft, which started in 1965.

The Nationals were widely viewed to have bungled negotiations with their No. 1 pick last year, pitcher Aaron Crow. They lost rights to Crow when they didn't sign him. Kansas City drafted Crow, represented by Randy and Alan Hendricks, in June and he remains unsigned.

Rizzo called the Strasburg negotiations and last year's Crow talks "mutually exclusive."

As for Strasburg, he said, "Not signing Stephen Strasburg would have been very unfortunate for the Washington Nationals. He is an extremely gifted starting pitcher and has a chance to be a front-of-the-rotation guy. Whenever you lose talent like that, it leaves a hole in your organization."

The Nationals also suffered a huge blow last week when one of their top pitching prospects, Jordan Zimmermann, came up with a damaged elbow. Zimmermann, who was 3-5 with a 4.63 ERA in 16 starts for the Nationals this season, will undergo Tommy John ligament transfer surgery and will be sidelined for a year or more.

The right-handed Strasburg, who was 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA and 195 strikeouts for San Diego State this season, receives a record deal and will begin his professional career now rather than sit out like Crow. Had he not signed, Strasburg could have gone back to SDSU for his senior season, signed with an independent-league team or even, perhaps, gone to play in Japan.

He would have been viewed as a pariah in Washington for turning down a record offer and, worst-case, could have gotten hurt before next year's draft.

As things stand now, Nationals president Stan Kasten says Strasburg could pitch in the Arizona Fall League this fall, spend next spring in the major-league camp and, conceivably, be on the opening day roster in 2010. As for how quickly the Nats will get him moving, Rizzo noted that he hasn't pitched since May 28 and said that the club will evaluate where he's at and come up with a plan.

The Nats can use the help, if Strasburg is as good as advertised and develops as quickly as some scouts think he can. At 43-74, they're on pace for a second consecutive 100-loss season.

"We don't view Stephen Strasburg as the savior of the organization," Rizzo said. "He's just another very bright young star we have in the fold. We're very well endowed with young starting pitchers, and he might be at the top of the group."

Lots of folks think he immediately heads to the front of that group.

"Is he ready for the majors?" one major league scout said in April, repeating a question I asked when doing this piece on Strasburg. "That's tough. I look at him and I look at what's out there. Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez ... he's got better stuff. There's nothing like him in the country, I'll tell you that."

The Nationals, and the rest of us, are about to find out.


Posted on: June 14, 2009 10:07 pm
 

Nationals' Acta days appear numbered

Two springs ago, then-Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden looked me squarely in the eye during a conversation around the batting cage and uttered this declaration:

"Manny Acta one day will be a Hall of Fame manager."

He could not have been more earnest.

I did not write it because it was ludicrous on so many levels.

But with Acta pretty much reaching his expiration date as the Nationals' skipper, that statement is so apropos today in explaining a lot of things about how a Montreal Expos club turned into a disgrace by major-league baseball's stewardship has become an even bigger disgrace.

That Bowden could be so delusional to even say such a thing when the sample size of Acta's career was so miniscule (he had managed in the majors just one season at that point) helps explain many of the other decisions he passed off as sound during his time as GM.

That the Lerner family, owner of the Nationals, could allow a man with the gall to make such half-cocked assessments to remain in charge of running the show for four seasons helps explain why the Nationals currently are challenging the 1962 New York Mets for baseball ignominy.

Unless or until he gets another job, we'll never truly know how good -- or bad -- of a manager Acta is because evaluating his work with the mismatched cast of characters he was given to work with is impossible.

He was one of the hottest commodities on the managerial market when he was a third-base coach with the New York Mets. He was respected in the clubhouse. As a manager, he was always prepared. Surely, he's better than the ship that wound up taking him down.

But a Hall of Fame manager? Those were brazen words, even from Bowden. And, I thought, unfair to Acta. Here was a guy attempting to get his managerial feet on the ground with a club that was, at minimum, several years away from legitimately contending.

As things turned out, he had his hands full. He tried to leave his imprint, benching a Felipe Lopez here and a Ryan Church there when they didn't hustle. In each of the past two seasons, Acta ranked second among major-league managers in pinch-hitters used. But, as they say, you can't make chicken salad out of chicken ... .

The one thing that I thought did not reflect well on Acta was that his team often looked disinterested and arrogant. A coach with a major-league team asked me about it last year, then proceeded to rip the Nationals for the way they casually got on and off the field, often at little more than walking pace. This coach said it was one of the most unprofessional teams he had ever seen.

Acta probably could have ranted and raved more than he did, but given the cast of characters and reprobates he was handed, would it have mattered? I doubt it.

He did what he could with what little he had. In the end, he certainly did enough to warrant another crack at this managing gig.

I don't know that he's Hall of Fame material. But he's certainly better than a misguided organization made him look.

Likes: Excellent blog work from the Kansas City Star's Sam Mellinger, who, in following up Shin-Soo Choo's winning hit off of a seagull last Thursday in Cleveland's Progressive Field, dropped a note to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Mellinger writes of the response from Dan Shannon, PETA's assistant director of youth outreach and campaigns: "PETA is just glad the bird is OK. Talk about having to take one for the team. But if Shin-Soo Choo wants to make amends, he could drop by his local animal shelter for a few hours to make it up to the animal kingdom." Quips Mellinger: "So, to review: Maximum sentence for bouncing a game-winning single off a seagull: 2 hours community service." ... Eric Arnett, Milwaukee's first-round pick out of Indiana University, was very impressive during the few minutes I saw him in the television booth on Sunday before he sets out for rookie ball in Montana. Very well-spoken and clean-cut young man. He was even wearing a tie.

Dislikes: Hate to see Toronto's Roy Halladay suffer a groin strain in the midst of a sensational start to 2009 (10-1, 2.52 ERA). Right now he's only expected to have his next start pushed back a few days. I hope that optimistic report is true and he avoids the disabled list. It's a crime that he's never started an All-Star Game. I know it's early but, right now, he deserves this year's start.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well, we got no class
"And we got no principals
"And we got no innocence
"We can't even think of a word that rhymes"

-- Alice Cooper, School's Out

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com