Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Manny had never been so agitated in his two years as Our Manager. Yes, that's right, Manny Acta was giving Home Plate Umpire Rob Drake the business. Raising his left arm HIGH ABOVE his head. A motion to signal that he well believed that Saul Rivera's just thrown high pitch HAD NOT glanced off The New York Mets' Damian Easley's Helmet, but instead had bounced off his bat.

Important for one very good reason.

Because when Umpire Drake ruled Hit By Pitch-David Wright came trotting home from third base with the go ahead run in the top of the 8th inning for New York. A crucial error. A set back that sent Manny into a Tizzy. Was Our Number 14 ever pissed!! Yelling and screaming into Drake's Face. Something NEVER WITNESSED BEFORE by Our Fans. Yet, incredibly, Acta did not get tossed. Not even after continuing his argument with First Base Umpire--Mike Reilly--The Crew Chief.

Manny wasn't giving in. And he wasn't letting up. And everyone on hand watching--was getting into this spectacle.

A moment never seen before at New Nationals Park. Maybe--it was about time Acta got mad.

Of course--The Umpires weren't giving in as well, and they weren't letting Our Manager's words change their opinions.

As the announced crowd of 32,186 rose to their feet watching, The Washington Fans were cheering on Manny's unexpected outburst. New York Fans were cheering The Mets Good Fortune. And every single TV monitor in the entire viewing area for fans--went blank. This expected for a controversial call. But what was strange to see was the blackout that took place inside Andrew's Suite on the 3rd Base Side of New Nationals Park. Visiting with Our Friend Tonight, we were all sort of stunned that The MASN Broadcast was taken away even there. Usually, in the suites--all the plays are shown--even the controversial ones.

So, The African Queen, Andrew, all his invited guests and I had no real idea whether Our Number 14's complaints rang true. But, what was clear as Manny Acta slowly walked off the field--STILL YELLING AT CREW CHIEF REILLY (so much so, for the briefest of instances it appeared The First Base Umpire was THAT CLOSE to tossing him from the game)--was that Our Washington Nationals were in hole--of their own doing--and no turning of an arbiters decision was going to help them tonight.

This top of the 8th inning had started as a tie game--three apeice, but Saul Rivera had quickly gotten himself in a big hole--when he allowed consecutive singles to David Wright and Carlos Beltran with no outs, then walked Fernando Tatis after striking out Carlos Delgado. Our Number 52 was struggling again, with the game on the line and it was about time to get someone up in Our Bullpen to bail him out.

No One from Our Washington Nationals came to Saul's Assistance.

And The Umpires were not going to assist Rivera either. The Hit-By-Pitch Stood and, as it turned out became The Game Winning Run.

Once again, Our Washington Nationals had tormented themselves. Lost another winnable ball game because when most all the crucial moments came tonight--they squandered their chances.

More cases in point.

In the top of the 3rd--with Wright on 2nd base with a two out double--the switch hitting and dangerous Carlos Beltran was stepping to the plate to bat righthanded against lefthanded throwing Odalis Perez, Our Starter this evening. With the lefty swinging Carlos Delgado scheduled next for The Mets--why pitch to Beltran, especially after falling behind 3-0 in the count? Beltran was looking for something to drive. Delgado would have been a better choice to pitch to--under the circumstances. As it turned out--Carlos Betran would smack a double down the leftfield line scoring Wright with New York's third run of the evening. An avoidable score--if Washington had pitched to the percentages--played the odds. There were two outs. Why not pitch to our advantage, not theirs?

Later, in the bottom of the 6th, Lastings Milledge bunted for a base hit just down the first base line from home plate. The Mets Catcher Ramon Castro pounced on the ball--and with Our Number 44 running directly toward first and slightly in on the dirt path--Castro rushed his throw and threw down the right field line--past a diving Delgado covering. A ruled single and error that sent Milledge to second base with NO BODY OUT. Then, inexplicably, Our Washington Nationals TOP RBI MAN--Jesus Flores--BUNTED. Yes, BUNTED!! with a fast runner in scoring position against Johan Santana--New York's Ace.

Why in the world did Our Number 3 attempt a bunt? A bad one as it turned out. The hit ball dribbling right back to Santana on the mound--who quickly threw Flores out at first base--giving Lastings no chance to scurry to third base. A waste of an out. A giving up of Our Top RBI Guy. If that signal to bunt came from Our Dugout--there is something wrong. There is no excuse for Jesus Flores to be bunting in that situation with the tying run already in scoring position with Washington down one run.

None, whatsoever. Johan Santana was in trouble--why make it easier for him?

And finally, down 4-3 to The Mets after Damian Easley was hit to score Wright in the controversial call of this game--Milledge and Flores stepped to the plate against side arm throwing Joe Smith in the bottom of the 8th and proceeded to swing at every single off speed pitch thrown by the big righthander. With Austin Kearns on first with no one out--Our Numbers 44 and 3 waved at Smith's slop. They had no chance to get a hit, because they had no idea how to face Smith's natural upshoot on all his pitches.

Just like that--any last momentum was wasted, and Our Washington Nationals had absorbed another loss--their fifth in a row--and 76th of 2008.

Final Score on one of the nicest August Summer Nights (Weather wise) you may ever spend at New Nationals Park--The New York Mets 4 and Our Washington Nationals 3. A close game lost--because Washington squandered every good chance. Even after Our Manager Manny Acta SHOCKED EVERYONE with an emotional display, so rare, you HAD TO BELIEVE he was right in his argument. Whether he was or not--I have no idea. But, his blowup was good to see.

Game Notes & Highlights

Odalis Perez just sort of hung in there tonight. But he did give up all three of his earned runs with two outs. New York scoring their first two runs in the 1st when Beltran doubled down the line scoring Nick Evans (who had singled) and Delgado flared one to center scoring Beltran. Perez would allow his third run of the evening on Beltran's Two Out Double in the 3rd, when Odalis should have intentionally walked Their Number 15 to reach Delgado.

Of course Our Number 45 was saved BIG TIME in the top of the third--moments before Beltran knocked in David Wright with that third run. Jose Reyes had led off the top of the 3rd with an infield single. A dribbler that Odalis poorly played and rushed a backhand toss to first. A play where Perez had more time than he believed to complete the play. Safe, nonetheless, New York's Leftfielder Nick Evans would then step to the plate and DRILL A DEEP LINER over the head of Willie Harris in leftfield. Running hard toward the warning track, near The EXXON MOBIL Sign on the green padded wall--Our Number 1 leaped at the very last possible second with his left hand, his glove hand, and SNARED THE BASEBALL just inside the padded portion of his mitt. While stumbling, but not falling down, Willie Harris had the moxie to quickly turn and throw a good toss to Emilio Bonifacio cutting the baseball off just behind second base in the outfield grass. Jose Reyes was running on the play and despite his speed, had no chance to return safely to first base. A Willie Harris to Emilio Bonifacio to Ronnie Belliard combination had produced a miraculous Double Play and easily The Defensive Play of The Game. In fact, one of the best of this season. And for Our Number 1, once again, this effort made him a DEFENSIVE STAR.

You have to appreciate the hustle Willie Harris brings to the ballpark Every Single Game. Every Single Day.

Jose Reyes would also be robbed on a sure double by Ryan Zimmerman in the top of the 9th--when he slapped a laser down the leftfield line. Our Number 11, showing his catlike reflexes--quickly down to his right and caught the baseball, moments before it hit the ground and scooted past him--for the out.

Washington would score their first two runs of the evening in the bottom of the 1st when "The Guz" doubled down the leftfield line, Zimmerman followed with a liner to center for a single--scoring Cristian Guzman. Austin Kearns followed with a single of his own and Jesus Flores--one out later--would produce his 52nd RBI of the year with his own single to center, scoring The "Z" Man.

Ryan Langerhans tied this game up in the bottom of the 7th in unexpected fashion. Facing the hard throwing and lefthanded Santana, Lefthanded swinging Langerhans JACKED OUT his first home run of 2008 in style with a shot over the rightfield scoreboard wall that set off the fireworks, and at least temporarily, got Washington's Fans back into this game. New York Mets Faithful providing the majority of the noise tonight on South Capitol Street.

Since leaving Denver last Thursday, Emilio Bonifacio has gone Hitless in every game since. As talented as he is, Our New Number 7 (And he changed his number tonight from Number 6) needs to work on hitting the off speed stuff. Emilio chases too many pitches out of the strike zone--getting himself out--on the pitcher's pitch.

As The Relievers for Our Washington Nationals walked to the bullpen before tonight's game--Rookie Steven Shell was sporting a very nifty PINK BACKPACK. He may have been wearing this for some time, but I have never noticed it before. Must be some sort of Rookie Hazing by The Pitchers.

On Teddy Tee-Shirt Tuesday, The African Queen and I stopped by to greet Our Lovable Loser before the game and share race tactics with him. Chatting "Let Teddy Win!!" to spur Teddy on--we apparently had no effect on Our 26th President. During tonight's 4th Inning Presidents Race, Teddy came out--storming into the lead--had the race won--but first got distracted by fans waving his tee-shirts, then turned around and noticed that Large Cat had returned, once again, from previous engagements this year. When Teddy saw The Cat take out Tom at the right field corner--Teddy backtracked and barreled into the cat--losing the race--to Abe.

Teddy 0 for 177 Lifetime in The Presidents Race.

Finally, it was quite the night in Andrew's Suite at New Nationals Park. Always the gracious host, not only was "Doc" Walker in attendance in a Full House, but so were some young ladies from The Washington Glory.

Four Players from Washington's Professional Softball Team. The Defending League Champs. On hand--Team Manager Lauren Person, Pitcher Desiree Serrano 2007 NPF Pitcher of The Year, Infielder Jessica Dignon and Pitcher Taryne Mowatt--Former All American and Most Outstanding Player, 2007 ESPY Award Winner for Best Female Athlete and Best Female College Athlete.

And of course--Sohna and I can't forget Marc--who just moved into the area from Sarasota, Florida. He and The African Queen hit it off well.

Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Luis M. Alvarez
All Other Photos--Nats320


Anonymous said...

Late night!!! Early morning! It was a pleasure having you and TAQ again last night---wish the outcome could have been the other way!

3 runs against Santana obviously wasn't enought!

Tune into Doc's radio show at 12 Noon today!

An Briosca Mor said...

Flores made the decision to bunt on his own. I was listening to Charlie and Dave as I watched the game from Section 310, and they pointed that out almost immediately after the play. Perhaps fearful of invoking the bad mojo of the departed Nook Logan, Charlie did not say What was he doing? What was he thinking?, although surely he could have.

Unfortunately it appears that Bonifacio has completed his adoption of the Next Nook Logan mantle by now wearing Logan's number 7. This was my fear when the trade for Bonifacio was announced. Blinding speed, but can't get on base to save his life.

The pink backpack is definitely a rookie hazing thing. Last September Detwiler wore it on the trek out to the bullpen every single night.

And finally, the President's Race. They really just need to turn it into an actual contest and drop the whole "Teddy will never win" thing. All this schtick they have to keep doing to preserve that is getting really, really old. Last season I cared enough to pay attention to the race, but this season I rarely even look up to see how Teddy will lose yet again. I don't notice anyone around me in the stands getting into it either. If it was a real contest there would be an opportunity for interesting story lines to develop around each of the four presidents over the course of the season. Cults could develop around each of the four to pique interest anong the fans, so more might pay attention to the bit. But now, the only benefit to the race that I see is that it keeps Clint off the screen for a while.

Chris Needham said...

I know, I know. I'm going to go read a Baltimore blog now.

Anonymous said...

I was watching Manny berate the umpires through my long lens and am certain that he used some choice language to describe his perceived injustice -- multiple times. Remarkable indeed that he did not get tossed. We know now that he was wrong, but it was still great to see him get fired up like that.

Nice pic by the way!

ABM, you should take note that the stands were filling more than an hour before the game for Teddy Roosevelt t-shirt night. I can tell you my 9-year-old daughter would not have insisted on attending last night just because Johan Santana was pitching. Do you think there would have been 32,000 in the stands on a Tuesday night during the Olympics if it weren't for Clint and Teddy? They don't interrupt the game, so give the team credit for filling the stands and starting to build a fan base for the future.

Chris Needham said...

If I'm following your argument, you're saying they're going to have way fewer than 32K there tonight?

Is that a 'buck says'?

Anonymous said...

How can the Nats be expected to score runs when their cleanup hitter is batting .220 with six home runs and 30 RBIs? That tells it all.

JayB said...

Nice night at the park last night. I enjoyed the effort.

On Acta, I think his approach for the past two years, that is a belief that questioning and arguing calls is counter productive has now come back to haunt him. This team has been screwed by a string of bad calls for the past several game. I think some umpires have taken the approach when those when in doubt go against the Nationals because Acta will not confront them. This is not likely a conscious process for umpires but rather a learned, re-enforced behavior over several hundred games.

Acta's past actions also just made him look foolish and ineffective last night. As pointed out by Sutton, he finally let the frustrations of two years of losing get to him. The call was correct by my eye watching it on HD DVR this AM. Also the pitch was not near the bat so either way the run was coming in. Acta’s choice in relievers (ones that his overuse of the pen and Jimbo’s failure to manage the DL/Roster has killed anyway) was to blame. Acta must tell Jimbo he needs arms from AAA and hurt position players on the DL when they are sitting for 10 days.

Bottom line is that Acta picked an approach that has now backfired on him and the team. He conditioned Umps that he is not going to stand up for his players or fight for a win after so many loses. Total frustration led Acta to the wrong call to finally pick a battle over. He looked weak; he could not even get tossed.

Again, it was a nice night at the ball park and I had a great time, but hey, the issues with Acta and bad calls are problems of his own making.

An Briosca Mor said...

If anyone is coming to the games solely to see Clint, they should be shot. (That would include Clint, who is obviously coming to the games solely to see Clint.) I'd venture to say that Clint has driven more folks away from the games than he has brought to them. Way, way more. The truest words I ever heard spoken about Clint are these, uttered by a woman seated behind me at the 3/29 exhibition game when he made his first appearance at Nationals Park: What? That douchebag is back again this year?

Teddy on the other hand is indeed a lovable loser, and I'd never suggest that he be thrown out along with Clint. But let him compete (I mean really compete, not just be "allowed" to win as you advocate) and give him a chance to separate the two. He can still be lovable even if he manages to win every now and then. Or he can be a real lovable loser, not just some trumped-up one. Why cater to just the children when you can please both the adults and the kids? The Presidents Race, an inspired idea when it was conceived two years ago, has already grown stale. Why not instead build it into an even better entertainment event, in parallel with building a winning team?

An Briosca Mor said...

JayB, your perspective on the manager-umpire dynamic is about as grounded in reality as that Lou Piniella and the ump TV commercial. But at least the commercial is worth a chuckle, the first few times you see it anyway.

Anonymous said...


Actually, the pink backpack goes back to 2005 (if not to the days of yore in Montreal). I remember Jason Bergmann lugging it around after he got called up until he happily passed it on to Darrell Rasner when DR came up later in the year.

Earlier this year, I remember Charlie Manning as the proud possessor of the backpack before it got passed on to Steven Shell. Shell, who by the way is very nice to the fans, usually lugs the backpack from the clubhouse to the dugout in a (non-clear) plastic bag before heading out to the bullpen with it strapped to his back. Last night he told a couple of us that he was eagerly awaiting September callups, so he could pass the heirloom along to another pitcher.

Also, we noticed last night that the Mets, too, have a pink backpack, which we saw making its way to the visitors' bullpen on the back of an unidentified pitcher.

JayB said...


Is that so? I have been a player, Umpire and manager......have you?

SenatorNat said...

At the current rate, Nats should win between 30-35 games at home this inaugural Nationals Park season - should total attendance be 2.4 million, based on current 30k average per game, then average attendance per win would translate to as high as 80,000. That is a mind-blowing statistic, and would not be sustained in 2009 and beyond. It is a convoluted way of saying that attendance falls off for chronic losing teams, who have NO stars.

Zimmerman is a nice player - a very good fielder and a .265 hitter who would of course improve with a clean-up hitter behind him. On a good team, he would bat no higher than 5th, in any case. Only Dukes looks like he has the potential to break-out and be a star. Flores and Milledge look like nice players, like Zimmerman, on a team with two-three stars - they would certainly help round out a balanced team, the way the Angels do it around their star players...Bonifacio could be a bust, or a .250 hitter with speed, but how can he be a lead-off hitter with no walks? He looks like an 8th spot on a good team...{Clint should be replaced by a young woman, or Mark Lerner.}

Expansion Senators had no personality until the Frank Howard trade going into the 1966 season, their 6th: it seems that Nationals are on the same trajectory - no star in 2009 - perhaps someone in 2010. Yes, the Nats finished last in 2006 with Soriano, but there was some buzz, for sure. Star power matters, and the Nats put the LACK into lackluster right now, including their manager, who argued one call in his tenure - and he was dead wrong...

I believe the tee-shirts need to be changed from Let Teddy Win to Let the Nationals Win!

Trust in Next Year. All Promising.

An Briosca Mor said...

"Is that so? I have been a player, Umpire and manager......have you?"

So which major league (or even minor league) teams have you played on and managed, and in which leagues have you umpired? Do you even know any current or former major league players, managers or umpires? (Or perhaps a better way of stating that would be do any of them know you?) If so, then some citing of information they have given you about the manager-umpire dynamic at the major league level would greatly enhance your credibility on this issue. Of course, you can tell the stories without naming names. But until you can bolster your posturing with some hard facts, why should anyone treat you as anything other than just another internet blowhard?

One does not need to be an actor, a director or a critic to know whether or not a play is grounded in reality, you know.

Keith said...

Look at you, ABM. Throwing the roundhouses! Down goes Flores, down goes Bonifacio, down goes JayB! Taking all comers!

"Hey Davis! Your presidents race marketing strategy is sophomoric and banal! Yeah, I'm lookin' at YOU, Tom!"

No, I like it. I can hardly wait for your retort.

JayB said...

ABM asks

Do you even know any current or former major league players, managers or umpires?

Yes and Yes...but then why do you care based on your final point that one does not need any expertise to know what they know.

For me the bottom line is this that at every level of the game the personalities matter and Umps and Managers are just people and they get conditioned based on past behaviors......While they might like Manny because of his past lack of action some seem to be letting Acta’s reputation for accepting close calls affect there split second decisions……You do not need to agree with it but you also do not need to attack it….but hey have at it if you like, at best it makes you look consistent.

An Briosca Mor said...

While they might like Manny because of his past lack of action some seem to be letting Acta’s reputation for accepting close calls affect there split second decisions……You do not need to agree with it but you also do not need to attack it….but hey have at it if you like, at best it makes you look consistent.

Ah, JayB, as Ronald Reagan once said in lieu of arguing with the debate moderator, there you go again. Of course I don't have to attack you to disagree with you, but what's a guy to do if you interpret every disagreement with you as an attack? (Sure would help if you had a sense of humor, but I guess one of those can't be developed past the age of 23, eh?) So, you seem to be saying that those calls went against Manny last night because the umps knew subconsciously that they could make a split-second wrong call and get away with it? Okay, if that's your reality, the basics behind it should be fairly easily traceable. How many times over the past two years has last night's umpiring crew worked a game that Manny managed? Were there any controversial calls in those games that he could have argued but didn't? And if it's his reputation among umpires that's the problem, then how has that reputation spread over the past two years? How many games have there been where Manny wimped out on arguing a call? Who umped those games, and when did they transmit their assessment of Manny's lack of guts to last night's crew? Have at it, show me some hard data.

What? You give your perception of events based on a complete lack of supporting data and it's automatically right, but when I give my perception of the same events based on the same lack of supporting data I'm automatically wrong? That's what you're saying? Well, at best it makes you look consistent.

Anonymous said...

Manny may have argued the call in the heat of the moment but he admits after the replay that is was the right call...not the reason the Nats lost!

Anonymous said...

It was definitely pink backpack night which also one of the Mets pitchers had an oversized pink backpack last night too. (Don't know who he was)

When the Cubs were in town, a Cubs pitcher had a pink Dora the Explorer backpack.


paul said...

I was scratching my head at the following move by Manny. Apparently his "book" has Shell in the 7th, Riviera in the 8th, and Hanrahan in the 9th? (I wonder if that book was available in March. Possibly in the rare section?)

So Shell is lights out in the 7th on only 12 pitches, but instead of having swapped the pitcher's spot with Harris/Langerhans, Manny forced his own hand by having Shell be the leadoff person in the 7th. Why not keep your options open, Manny???

Langerhans was going to be the leadoff man anyway; why not have Rivera only IF NEEDED?

I'm surprised no one else noticed this.

And by the way, if the umps had overruled the HP umpire on the HBP call, it would have been an unjust dead ball and not a wild pitch, as it should have been. Either way (HBP or WP), the run should have scored.