Sunday, August 17, 2008

Of Course

"It's almost comical," stated The African Queen. Our Washington Nationals were moments away from defeat--their 10th in row. A loss that would mathematically eliminate any chance for Our Team to field a winning record in 2008--with 37 games to go in The Inaugural Season of New Nationals Park.

Every single time of late--when Washington has a chance to actually turn any game around--a setback occurs. Impetus which takes away all the momentum earned and sets up that "Of Course" Moment.

Today's Favorites:

Ryan Langerhans gets thrown out at the plate on a very close play in the bottom of the second inning. To the naked eye--it sure looked like Our Number 29 got his hooked foot under the tag of The Colorado Rockies Catcher Chris Iannetta. Langerhans made a perfect slide. But, Home Plate Umpire Mike Estabrook emphatically gave the out call. A signal that got Our Fans up out of their seats in protest and Our Manager Manny Acta up and out of his seat on the bench to complain about the ruling. Not seeing the replay from Our Seats in Section 218--it sure looked like Langerhans was safe. And Of Course--Estabrook was not going to reverse his call. Ryan's score would have been Our Washington Nationals second of the game--if ruled safe--giving Washington a cushion advantage. Of Course, as it turned out--this signal at the plate just hurried up the inning--as Our Starter Odalis Perez was next up and struck out to finally kill the rally.

Then, The Rox Chris Iannetta grounds a fairly routine ball to Pete Orr--today's shortstop for Our Washington Nationals. A sure easy out as Our Number 4 ranges to his left--at least until the baseball glances off Our Number 4's glove for an error. A frustrated and already not pitching well Perez, then issues a full count walk to Troy Tulowitzki and, OF COURSE, the very impressive young slugger for The Colorado Rockies, Ian Stewart, steps up next and FLAT OUT HAMMERS A THREE RUN SHOT over the right centerfield wall to give Colorado their first lead of the game. An advantage not anticipated just three batters previously.

With Washington now Down 3-1 in the bottom of the 5th--Lastings Milledge (FLAT OUT HAMMERING THE BALL--HIMSELF-- ALL DAY AND OVER THE PAST WEEK) drills an Aaron Cook fastball DEEP to left centerfield. The Rockies Outfielders, Matt Holliday and Wily Taveres, have NO CHANCE to get to the ball. A sure bases clearing double with both the speedy Emilio Bonifacio and Willie Harris running ahead of him. A possible triple to tie this game at three. Of Course--the baseball bounces on the warning track, at the wall, AND LANDS OVER THE FENCE for a Ground Rule Double. Harris must retreat to third. Milledge to second. A third run in this ballgame for Washington--cheated out by an unlucky bounce.

And Of Course--Aaron Boone would follow and strike out poorly, then Ronnie Belliard would walk to load the bases and eventually Our Fans were left simmering again--when Langerhans flied out to right--to kill another game changing rally.

These Game Changing Moments that again came Washington's Way in the bottom of the 6th. Pete Orr and Wil Nieves had greeted Colorado Reliever Matt Herges with back to back singles. Two on, nobody out, and Our Washington Nationals down just one run. And Manny made the right move. He brought the resting Ryan Zimmerman off the bench to Pinch Hit for Odalis Perez. Using Our Number 11 as the game changer--sensing this might be Washington's Final Chance to turn this game around. Our Number 14 was right.

And Colorado Manager Clint Hurdle sensed this turning tide as well, and IMMEDIATELY moved to the mound to replace Herges with hard throwing and sometimes deceptive Manuel Corpos. Neither Manager wanting to give in. And "ZIMMY" looking to hammer the baseball out of the park--for the first time since May 15th.

As it turned out, fate would settle in again. Ryan Zimmerman got the exact pitch he wanted, a fastball right over the middle of the plate--and OF COURSE--he popped out to Holliday in left. A Home Run Pitch Missed. A deflating moment, because Our Number 11 KNEW HE GOT THE PITCH HE WANTED--AND HE KNEW HE HAD FAILED. Emilio Bonifacio following with The Rally Killing Double Play.

Signaling, Of Course, that every single move this afternoon, would fail for Washington. Sadly.

Like when Our Manager Manny Acta sends out Lefty Charlie Manning to face Lefty Swinging Brad Hawpe to lead off the top of the 8th. The Perfect Match Up.

Hawpe Homers to right. Score now 4-2 Colorado.

Then, Our Number 14 immediately moves to the mound and replaces Manning with "The Human Rain Delay". Of Course, Jesus Colome hits Iannetta on the first pitch he throws, walks Stewart, then allows Pinch Hitter Seth Smith to FLAT OUT CLUB a fastball from Our Number 43--DEEP--over the right centerfield wall for the DECISIVE three run homer.

Of course--just like that this game was over. And the sight of THOUSANDS IMMEDIATELY getting up to leave--quite noticeable. Obviously, because Our Fans had realized this game was, Of Course, finished as well--even though the final out had yet to be recorded two innings from this point.

As has been the case for nearly two weeks, Our Washington Nationals continue to fail in the clutch and every single miscue comes back to haunt them. Of Course--that all means--Our Washington Nationals have now lost 10 STRAIGHT GAMES--the most in a row all season--in year of many lows. How badly do we miss Charlie Slowes SCREAMING "Another Curly 'W' Is In The Books!!".

Final Score from Gorgeous and Beautifully Sunny New Nationals Park--The Colorado Rockies 7 and Our Washington Nationals 2. Swept Again by their third straight opponent. Virtually impossible now to NOT LOSE 100 Games this season.

And Of Course--being the Fans that we are--Sohna and I stayed UNTIL THE FINAL OUT--as always. All 27 of them for Washington. We are not going to miss out on anything--no matter how good, Or Bad, Our Washington Nationals play. Because one of these days, The Team that calls The Nation's Capital its very home--will be a Good Team--A Possible Championship Team--and we want to always remember--We Stuck by Our Washington Nationals when the times were not as good. Just like today and throughout this just completed miserable 0-6 Home Stand.

Of Course those Winning Days--will be MEMORABLE DAYS--just like the poor ones The African Queen and I are experiencing right now during these most trying of times. Yeah, we know, it's comical, but Our Washington Nationals failures have yet to take away from all our fun. No--that's not going to happen--any time soon.

Game Notes & Highlights

If I could have gone out to the mound today, I would have told Odalis Perez--"THROW A STRIKE!!" Dibbling around the corners--Our Number 45 was frustrating to watch. There was this fellow sitting to the left of me in Section 218 that was a Big Baseball Fan. And an educated one. He was just exasperated with Perez. Just like myself, The African Queen, Our Manager, and just about every single one of Our Fans. I am sorry, there is no personal ill will toward Odalis Perez. I just don't see any further reason to have him on this particular poorly performing team.

The same for Jesus Colome. "The Human Rain Delay" adds little to our team these days. Everything he throws is the same speed. Every single hitter facing him, knows that. Remember, early in 2007, Colome couldn't throw 100% and he learned how to mix up his pitches. He finally understood, for the first time in his career--how control and off setting velocities can HELP HIM. There was this one night at RFK STADIUM where Colome struck out Chipper Jones on arguably the greatest looping, sinker, off speed pitch, he had EVER THROWN IN HIS LIFE. Jones swung and missed so badly that after he struck out--Chipper stood at home plate staring at Colome--IN DISBELIEF!! At that point in time, there was a revelation--that Jesus Colome might have finally become A REAL PITCHER. A GREAT MOMENT--never to be forgotten by me. Colome was a Phenomenon at that time--nearly Our All Star Selection in 2007. He was so deserving. Then, an unexpected surgery to his rear end--changed his season and ultimately his career changing year--became a disappointment. He's never been the same since. Our Number 43 has now lost all of his learned knowledge of early 2007. How sad, but true. Because for three months last year--Jesus Colome was A GREAT FIND--A Keeper for Our Future. But, no longer.

I have no problem seeing as many of Our Youngsters as possible getting their opportunities come September, if not this coming Tuesday. Far more interesting seeing YOUTH hustling and wanting to be there, instead of Veterans just taking home a paycheck.

Enthusiasm which Lastings Milledge is bringing to the park every day of late. Our Number 44 a far different player in performance and attitude since the early days of April & May, 2008. Still, Milledge SHOULD BE A CORNER OUTFIELDER, and he has his moments of despair--but Lastings has slowly changed my opinion of his skills. He seems to care now and less about his Off Field and Behavior Puffery. That pleases us--TREMENDOUSLY. Good for him. At least Lastings Milledge is making the effort.

Caring--which Willie Harris bring to the ballpark every single day. Has there been a better Veteran Influence on Our Youth more than Our Number 1? Harris comes prepared, today two more hits. He runs out everything and NEVER GIVES UP. Willie Harris may never have a prosperous career with Our Washington Nationals, but hopefully, some other Winning Major League Team will see his effort and reward him with the opportunity to succeed on a grand scale. That man is a late bloomer. Sohna loved him since day one. And she was right. Harris can play.

Again to honor The 2008 Summer Olympics--Our Racing Presidents ran a HURDLE Relay Race. Now, having personally run the race twice in 2006 and 2007 as ABE and GW, you have to give THESE ATHLETES serious credit for jumping the hurdles set up today by Race Coordinator Tom Davis on the outfield warning track. Those heads are HEAVY, HUGE, and quite UNBALANCED. The very fact that all four Rushmores completed the race without falling was mighty impressive. Of course--ABE WON AGAIN, Teddy Finished Second. Nice adaptation of a current event.

There is a very interesting promotion coming to New Nationals Park on August 31st when Our Washington Nationals play The Atlanta Braves. Any Adult purchasing ANY TICKET VALUED AT $33 or ABOVE can bring along two kids (12 Years of Age or Younger) for just $1 A Piece. We are talking $35 for three good seats to that Sunday Game against The Bravos. That's a good deal.

Finally--I was not surprised to see Luis Ayala traded. He had never been the same since foolishly pitching in The World Baseball Classic for his home country Mexico in 2006, and seriously hurting himself, just a few short months after elbow surgery for Washington. Thanks to pressure from Former Washington Nationals Vinny Castilla and Esteban Loiza, Our Former Number 56 made the incorrect decision--and sadly--it transformed his career for the worse. Before late 2005--Luis Ayala was one of the best setup men in the game. A terrific slider, at times, untouchable. A perfect compliment to Chad Cordero.

I have always liked Luis Ayala and I always will. He has always been kind and gracious to The African Queen. Ayala really digged her--enjoyed talking with her. Our Now Former Number 56 stopped and talked with her--every single time he ran into Sohna. And I always appreciated that. We only wish he could have had continued his success in a uniform representing Our Washington Nationals. Today, not surprisingly, he was traded to The New York Mets for infielder Anderson Hernandez. Being a betting man, Our Former Starting Catcher, Brian Schneider, will find a way to harness some good out of Luis Ayala in New York. They were quite the pairing in Montreal and Washington.

No--we did not know him well, but he was always Our Friend. Sohna and I can only wish him the best. Luis Ayala is a fine young man. We always enjoyed his efforts for Our Washington Nationals. He cared, but as of late, just could not do the job. Good Luck, Luis--may your career resurrect itself.

Today's InGame Photos--(AP) Nick Wass
Luis Ayala Photo--(AP) John Rauox
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Anonymous said...

Great Post, SBF. You're right that the fun of a winning season will be all the better for those of us who were loyal on days like today -- when there really isn't much to root for. Your comments about Milledge and Harris -- guys who go out and play to win -- are also dead on. The other veteran who's impressed me of late is Belliard. He's actually having a tremendous August, and also seems to bring a sense of professionalism to whatever role he's asked to play. Can see why contender might want him -- even with his reduced defensive range. While it's hard to see much of a role for him after this season, it would be great if there were a plausible way to keep him around.

Anyway, keep up the good work. There are still lots of us who keep rooting for our Nats, and keep reading your insightful comments.

I'm still a BELIEVER!

Anonymous said...

One observation. Read today's quotes by Jim Zorn in the Post.

What struck me is that Zorn breaks down the player's performances (star or up and coming young person) and then states what he expects in the future in terms of improvement.
No Media Speak. No 'well he's young' No 'he's a professional, he'll have a bad day from time to time' Jim Zorn takes them down to earth and says what he wants to see them improve on next. And he tells everyone what the expectation is. I like it. Wish Manny did it.

Anonymous said...

Anderson Hernandez is a perfect fit for this sad sack franchise. He has a career batting average of .136 with the Mets. The last thing we need is another no hit infielder clogging up our farm system. Why not just give Ayala to the Mets for a buck or two? That would have made more sense.

Anonymous said...

SBF said...Every single time of late--when Washington has a chance to actually turn any game around--a setback occurs. Impetus which takes away all the momentum earned and sets up that "Of Course" Moment.

Well said SBF. We are the tale of 2 teams. Rewind to beating up on the Reds, and then Colorado on their turf.

Each game in this 10 game losing streak has had a setback like yesterday with Langerhans getting called out at home. Add to that bad luck (ground rule double instead of a straight double) or not getting the close calls even on balls and strikes has spelled issues for us to the misplay the other night with Milledge.

Let's hope we take out our frustrations on Philly!!!

SenatorNat said...

Acta seems implacable, impassive, immobile, intractable. He does not seem to be teaching as the game is progressing, the way Zorn has exhibited thus far in his very short tenure - good observation. His moves are very predictable apparently to the opposing dugout, too, pertaining to when he is going to send a runner. Of course, it would help if our batter would know enough to swing to protect the runner.

Cordero; Rauch; Ayala; Rivera - that was the reverse set-up team for an outstanding relief team. Now, it is Rivera alone. Hard to see how this is fulfilling a plan, since the average age of the four very young. Ayala was in a contract year, and he had not earned a tender from Nats, certainly. Perhaps this unloading is designed to somehow permit Nats to actually tender to Cordero, correcting the blunder Bow-bow made. Who knows, anymore what they are thinking - they "save $500k" by not meeting Crow's demand for $4 million with a midnight offer of $3.5 million and then give $1 million to a 15th rounder 30 seconds later!

If you take all their moves in the aggregate, you can see that Payroll Minimization is King. Every time they pay more, they save the equivalent with the next move. They are stuck with D.Young and Kearns, so they shall mitigate by unloading Belliard, I would bet. The Cardinals picking-up Lopez certainly helped too...

The stockpiling of young Hispanic surnamed middle-infielders with no stick is getting a little bit humorous - all at the lowest end of the scale paywise, of course...

Guzman signs for $8 million - means we have to somehow make up his extra $4 million is my thinking. Nats are running out of places to find these savings, though. And he has nagging little injuries, especially to his hand, which keep him out of games more than his counterparts in NY Phil Florida, etc...

This team is so unbelievably lackluster. Is the brass willing to spend for two legitimate free agent hitters and one established starter? Very, very doubtful. Even if it were - would they sign here?

This is a team on its way to 105 losses, putting it among worst ever in Washington MLB history. Will that shock management into spending $$$$$ - and, if so, is it too late to work?

Trust in the Yankee Dollar (pun intended). All Patriotic.

An Briosca Mor said...

The Cardinals picking-up Lopez certainly helped too...

Helped the Cardinals, you mean? The Nats are still paying Lopez's contract through the rest of the season.

Remember, senatornat, when going on a rant about the team's cheapness, do not be too cheap yourself to get your facts straight first. Spend the time, even though I'm sure your time is money, and do the due diligence. Otherwise your rant is cheapened.

paul said...

SBF, I really always appreciate your summary of the game and the team, but I have a nit to pick about strategy.

Down by a run with 1st and 2nd in the 6th, you don't need the big bazooka (Zimmerman). You need a sacrifice bunt. With a short bench, Perez himself, a pretty good bathandling pitcher, could have done the job and then yielded to Shell in the 7th.

In the comic relief department, I met John, the security guy outside the press box. No doubt you got a chance to meet him, too. He alone might be worthy of a post one day. I had gone up there, in sheer boredom the other day, to let them know two games were missing from the out of town scoreboard.

John was really nice, and I went back to the game, sure my message was delivered. When only one game was added by the 6th inning, and hearing thet John had left his post, I thought, "Here is my chance! I'm going to actually GET INTO THE PRESS BOX." So I dashed back up, only to find John there. I told him he was reported AWOL, and he erupted in laughter. We had a good laugh.

It was the highlight of the homestand.

Anonymous said...

Amen...Jim Zorn is a straight talker while Jimbo, Stan and the Lerner's are double talkers, if the Nats were political candidates we'd have the best SPIN team behind us, instead we have the worst SPEND team!!! :(

Anonymous said...

Let's not anoint Jim Zorn a genius just yet - he's got a rough road ahead of him.

The Nats....well, we just need to be patient, VERY patient until things turn around one day...or decade.

Seriously, now's the time to go to your Nationals "happy place" until next year. Mine:

-- the 2004 announcement baseball was returning to DC
-- the stadium vote going through I
-- the stadium vote going through II after Marion Barry saves the day!
-- Opening Night 2005
-- Closing Day 2005
-- 50-31 2005
-- Soriano's 40/40, 2006
-- Zim's Father's Day HR to beat the Yanks
-- Zim Opening Night 2008
-- 64-64 last 128 games of 2007
-- Sweeping the Orioles in Camden Yards, 2007
-- Belliard saving the day to split series with O's, 2008
-- Livo
-- Jamie Carroll
-- Chad Cordero in 2005 and closing out RFK with a win 2007
-- Knocking Philly out of the play-offs, 2006
-- Knocking NY out of the playoffs, 2007

Lots of others, but you get the idea. None of this happens unless baseball returns to DC.

Soon, 2008 will be over!!

Anonymous said...

Jamey Carrol, sigh. BOy do I wish we had him back......... A player who's entrance into the game caused the rest of them to step up their performance. Imagine that....

Willie Harris on today's team does that, but not anyone else this year.

SenatorNat said...

Stand corrected on Lopez - did not realize that when a player is released outright, the team picking him up does not pick up his contract. Seems contradictory - more logical to pay him, unless and until someone else choses to employ his services. Some form of mitigation. (Is there any reason for ABM to always be nasty - it takes the fun out of this stuff, somewhat...) I concur with all Happy Thoughts and would include the MeatHook's GrandSlam last season (July 4th?)

Trust in Happy Thoughts. All Play Nice.