Thursday, June 11, 2009

Firsts From Early This Morning

There is nothing like standing between the first and third base dugouts at Nationals Park--nearly everybody in the first few rows with less than 125 of your closest baseball friends--and CLEARLY HEARING THE PHONE RING IN OUR WASHINGTON NATIONALS BULLPEN!!

A telephone over 350 feet away sounding as if it's right next to your ear--and the game is still playing out.

No, that is special, and a first while attending any Major League Baseball Game.

Just like that wonderful sound of baseball popping into a catcher's mitt. This time the gloves being used are inside The Cincinnati Bullpen--another 350 feet or so away beyond the leftfield fence from where everyone is standing and watching the game.

Also a first while attending any Major League Game.

And of course--what could be more special than to be watching a Major League Game in a nearly empty ballpark--and hear Charlie Slowes & Dave Jageler on WFED broadcasting this extra inning affair while you are standing behind home plate?

Also--a first.

Yeah, it was one of those nights when the aura surrounding the game outdistances the play on the field. Another rain delay in the bottom of the 9th--this time for two hours and 10 minutes. A re-start at 11:40PM. An announced crowd of 19,790 dwindled to "Friends & Family" Status. The ability to talk or yell at any player on the field--knowing EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the ballpark could hear you. Cincinnati Fans behind the 3rd Base Dugout. Washington Fans behind the 1st Base Dugout. The Front Office of Our Washington Nationals all standing behind home plate in Presidents Club.

And, Oh Yeah, Charlie & Dave getting up to dance in their broadcast booth to Wil Nieves' Salsa Batting Music in the bottom of the 11th. Hysterical when you realize EVERYBODY SAW IT!! Nobody with a better view than Reds' Centerfielder Willy Taveras.

On and on and on Our Washington Nationals and The Cincinnati Reds played. If you lasted through this latest rain delay--you were staying until the end--no matter the bad taste this latest loss left in your mouth.

Final Score from Nationals Park where I doubt anyone that left the ballpark before the re-start felt this game WOULD EVER BE COMPLETED TONIGHT--The Cincinnati Reds 4 and Our Washington Nationals 2 in 12 odd innings. The last four of which where quite intriguing--simply due to the weirdness caused by the lateness of the hour. A lot of firsts early this morning on South Capitol Street--well worth The African Queen and I staying until the 12:50AM finish. Too bad these season's firsts don't include this latest defeat--Number 42 in 57 Games Played.

Just A Few Game Notes & Highlights:

Not a lot of time with an early work call this morning, but Shairon Martis pitched well, allowing a two run homer to Jay Bruce, his only mistake. Mike MacDougal pitched a fabulous two innings of relief in the 10th & 11th--striking out three, throwing nothing but smoke and gaining the attention of Washington Staff standing behind home plate watching.

Again--no offense for Washington. Unable to get runners home from scoring position--including Cristian Guzman standing on 3rd with a triple with one out in the bottom of the 3rd.

Ryan Zimmerman with The Defensive Play of This Game when he dove for a hard stroked smash off the bat of Ramon Hernandez. With the ball nearly past him, and The Z-Man completely stretched out--somehow, someway, Our Number 11 got his glove hand on the ball--snared it--and threw out Hernandez at first base in the bottom of the second.

Finally--and fitting for this odd night--Our Washington Nationals turned a double play in the top of the 12th that resulted in this official scoring: 4-3-6-4-6. Yes, that's right--Ronnie Belliard to Nick Johnson to Cristian Guzman to Belliard to Guzman. Yes, that's pretty cool. Too bad Jason Bergmann followed that fine effort by allowing the game winning hit to Jonny Gomes one batter later.


SenatorNat said...

In 2009, MLB held its longest Spring Training ever. Nationals elected by necessity to extend theirs to include the entire regular season. The rain delays and the fact that we have grown accustomed to games ending with several hundred in attendance is a metaphor for what is going to be the longest trudge of a season in baseball history.

Nats on track to win 42-43 games based on their overall record; extrapolating their last 23 games, however (3-20), they could conceivably win as few as 35!! The Amazing Mets of 1962 will then look like a juggernaught!

I have been beating my drum that this is the best starting line-up ever for a team destined to lose 110 or more games in the modern era. On paper, no one would trade our line-up for the Reds, for example, yet the Reds are only one loss more than Central leading Brewers, with 16 more wins than Nats.

Nats will put a line-up on the field today, presuming Hernandez and Nieves start that hits about .260 with some power. Compare this to last year's team at this point which averaged 20 points lower and carried virtually no power.

They added two more errors last night and a passed ball and left two more runners in scoring position with less than two outs: I am convinced that they are on record-setting pace for errors; wild pitches; passed balls; and runners left in scoring position with less than two outs.

The team's overall pitching seems to have steadied however: starters are going 5-7 innings regularly with quality starts, and some in the bullpen are darn-right reliable.

Yet, there is a sense that the Nats cannot win in the major leagues - that every game is the equivalent of pitting a college team v. a MLB team. You can sense it as a fan.

I am beginning to vacilate on the wisdom of firing Acta in the middle of this lost season - the longest Spring Training ever, if you will. It may just contribute to the sense of the Lost Colony. But, if you were the manager, and you finally decided to try Williamham in right for the first time in his baseball life, would you also put no-range Belliard at second, and no-catch Bard behind the plate (DH Dunn is in left!)? While the line-up did not cost the Nats in the field (Josh's error did not hurt), one still wonders if Manny is going to be a good manager for the Nationals...

Wilbon's column today criticizing the selection of Strasburg shows he should leave baseball writing to others: 1. Boz already chronicled the high-risk, low reward track record of "can't miss" starter picks; 2. Nats cannot get a lot of everyday players they purportedly need in lieu of drafting Stasburg - it ain't the NFL draft, where you can trade down to get quantity. Indeed the first 12 MLB picks were virtually all pitchers, as it was a pitcher heavy draft, according to the combined scouting consensus.

Nats spending $22.5 million in signing bonus for Strasburg, as I have explained, is already paid for by the savings on Kearns, Young, Belliard, Cabrera next year and not signing Crowe last year. Note that Storen took $1.6 million, a big reason Boone and others could convince brass he was best at 10 pick, which is $2.5-4 million less than Crowe wanted last year, I am sure. He intends to wear flat brim and pitch this year at Nationals Park - and he will. He is the cleanest-cut closer ever!

Trust in Spring Training. It Happens Every Summer. And pray for sun!

Bryan said...

I hope those firsts were at least some reward for your dedication to the Nats this year. I have to admit, I left after the rain delay started but regretted the move as soon as I saw the game start up again once I was home and then go into extra innings.

Hopefully the rain will hold off for this afternoon's game but the forecast isn't too great.

An Briosca Mor said...

"On paper, no one would trade our line-up for the Reds, for example, yet the Reds are only one loss more than Central leading Brewers, with 16 more wins than Nats."

The problem with our lineup is that it's not consistent from day to day. How can any manager expect his players to play together as a team when his team looks different from one day to the next? Manny should pick a lineup and stick with it through thick and thin - at least for long enough for it to become clear who can do the job and who can't. Manny idolizes both Joe Torre and Terry Francona, yet picture how Manny would handle the Manny Ramirez/Juan Pierre situation in LA and the Ortiz situation in Boston. Acta would be platooning Ramirez and Pierre once Manny's suspension is over, and he'd be absolutely refusing to move Ortiz down in the batting order no matter how badly he hits. Either that, or he'd be leading him off.

I think Manny's failure to put together a consistent lineup is a big reason for this season turning into extended spring training. Last year he could claim injuries as the excuse for doing that, but not so now. It's all on him. Maybe that's where Manny Acta should be managing for the Nats next yesr - extended spring training in Florida. I'm sure his wife would welcome the opportunity to have him home for dinner every night!