Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fair Shake

As disappointing and heart wrenching as tonight's loss to The Atlanta Braves was, Livan Hernandez showed once again why he's been Our Washington Nationals best pitcher this season. He wasn't helped in the bottom of the 4th at Turner Field when The Atlanta Braves' Alex Gonzalez lofted a routine fly ball to short right field. A two outs, end of the inning catch that Adam Kennedy rushed out to get, clearly sending Michael Morse away from attempting to make a play on--only to see Washington's 2nd baseman trail off the play leaving Morse holding the bag for a run scoring, non catch, that tied this game up at two runs apiece.

Little things like that can't happen in The Major Leagues. You have to call the ball and you have to be confident you are going to catch it. Anything less, is unacceptable. Ole Number 61 didn't deserve to be put in such a situation. Much like the predicament he found himself again in the bottom of the 7th, when Livo allowed another pop single, by Brooks Conrad, JUST OUT OF THE REACH of Kennedy, Roger Bernadina and Ian Desmond. An eventual bases loading blooper with one out that found Hernandez deciding once and for all--if he's got any fair shake to win this game--he better do it all himself. There is no question, that man's got the self-assurance to handle anything that comes his way.

And he proved it for what seemed like the thousandth time, when The Big Cuban forced Atlanta's Omar Infante to line a pitch right back to him and then got Super Rookie Jason Heyward to fly out to Morse in right to end the threat. The sight of Livan Hernandez pounding his glove with is right hand in jubilation five times said it all. Ole Number 61 is as passionate as they come in the game and he understood the importance of the moment. Every game played has seminal stages and each individual tilt can sway the final outcome in either direction. Livo had one particular battle this evening. He had escaped what looked like certain defeat. And he had proved beyond a reasonable doubt--he's a wily as they come on the mound.

If anyone deserves a fair shake to return to Our Washington Nationals in 2011, it's Livan Hernandez. He might only be 8-8 on the season, but he's received no decisions in nine starts. He's kept D.C.'s team in most every game he's been given the ball to take to the mound. And as Livo proved tonight, he can also keep most any outing close when the defense behind him is shaky. Most young pitchers on Washington's staff can't do that. Stephen Strasburg, yes, but not anyone else--unless they are entirely on their game. Livan Hernandez can put his team in a position to win--even without his best stuff--and he was putting the lights out tonight for seven innings against the first place Brav-OS. That's rare, and worthy of consideration this off-season as Washington's 2010's roster is pondered for 2011.

Just like the concern over Major League Baseball's umpiring. There was no excuse Tuesday evening for Pudge Rodriguez to be thrown out in the bottom of the 1st inning by then 3rd base umpire Brian Knight, on a debated 3rd strike swing on a pitch that eventually landed in the dirt and wasn't caught by Atlanta's David Ross. A decision Knight wasn't even involved in. That was a poor call and decision by a man in blue. But tonight's ruling by replacement Home Plate Umpire Scott Barry to toss Ryan Zimmerman in the top of the 8th for throwing his bat and helmet down in disgust over striking out--downright ridiculous.

Fans do not come to the ballpark to see the umpires. They should be seen and not heard. Scott Barry introduced himself to Atlanta's and Washington's fans by inserting himself visibly into the game. Barry was apparently pissed off that The Z-Man had believed ball four was called on a previous pitch and had begun to walk to first base. Upon hearing "Strike Two!!", Our Number 11 simply walked back to the plate. HE DID NOT SHOW UP THE UMPIRE. But Scott Barry decided to show up Zimmy by tossing him on being upset with being struck out in a crucial game situation one pitch later during a tie game (2-2) in the 8th.

That's downright absurd.

The very fact that Umpiring Crew Chief Gerry Davis stood at home plate while Our Manager Jim Riggleman argued and argued with Barry without superseding the debate or including himself in it, was nonsensical as well. You don't throw out a sure to be Hall Of Famer over a silly strike three call in the very first inning of a game played on Tuesday night. And you certainly don't toss a defending Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award winner the following evening for no good reason--for no other reason than the fact the umpire held a personal grudge over wrongly believing he was showed up. Ryan Zimmerman has never been tossed from a game in his lifetime and he didn't deserve to be thrown out this evening at Turner Field.

Thankfully, Manager Jim gave Barry enough of his thoughts that he got tossed too. Poor umpiring resulting in D.C.'s Team receiving nothing close to a fair shake by the arbiters this evening in Atlanta. No question, if anyone deserved to be tossed--it was Scott Barry--the home plate umpire.

Final Score from Turner Field where Washington lost tonight when Jason Heyward singled home the game winning run in the bottom of the 9th off Tyler Clippard: The Atlanta Braves 3 and Our Washington Nationals 2. The 69th defeat of 2010 wasn't the biggest concern, or even a big worry. Fans should take solitude in the fact that Livan Hernandez has pitched as well as most starters in The National League this season. He's kept his team in most games, even when his teammates couldn't help themselves. Livo's been a rock on the mound, dependable. The guy you can count on to get you to the finish line--even when his teammates can't.

The very opposite of Major League Baseball's umpiring crews who are as inconsistent as can be. There is NO EXCUSE for what happened to Pudge Rodriguez last night and what happened to Ryan Zimmerman this evening when he was ejected in the top of the 8th. Baseball needs to review these judgements. If MLB can suspend players for unruly acts on the field, then umpires should be held equally accountable by the same standards. The inconsistencies in on the field rulings have been building over the last few seasons and baseball's arbiters have been given far too much leeway. They many times act as if they are above the law. If players are to be held under such high standards, so should baseball's umpires.

Only then, can a fair shake can be received by all.

Tonight's InGame Photos--John Bazemore (AP)


Bang the Drum Natly said...

One bright spot this evening was hearing Charlie and Dave wish you a happy birthday, saying it was your "mmph"-th one. So while your actual age was "blurred out," allow me to join the (now-belated) chorus in wishing you a very happy birthday, from one of the former 320-ers!

Screech's Best Friend said...

Bang The Drum Natly: It's nice to hear from you. Sohna and I talk about you often and our Section 320 experiences. "Mar-LOON, AndersOON!!" And "Alfonso SORIANO!!"

MickNats was with us the other night chatting as well.

There was noting quite like Section320 at RFK and there probably, sadly, never will be again. I can't tell you the number of people who come up to us now and ask about everything we did back then on East Capitol Street at the Old Ballyard. How much they enjoyed it, even though they didn't sit within our first four rows. How special it was. Three years of cheering that was nothing sort of wonderful. The nicknames, the friendships, the camaraderie, the family of it all, and the just plain old fun. Memorable for so many reasons. And Its never been quite the same since.

Too bad some today don't understand those origins.