Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Live Positively: Get The Ball Rolling

"Do you realize we are at risk of raising the first generation of young people who will have shorter life spans than their parents?" stated Representative Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) at The U.S.Capitol yesterday afternoon. "Think about it! We need to spend more time talking about childhood health and nutrition. We have got to spend more time talking about how to get more young people active. And that doesn’t mean just going out and riding a bike. We need to get them on a pattern, a pattern of behavior of being more active."

"That’s a shocking statistic," replied Our Washington Nationals Principal Owner Mark Lerner. " In this day and age for that to be the case is just incredible and that’s why we need to fight it."

Mr. Lerner was on Capitol Hill on September 28th, along with fellow Washington D.C. Sports Owners, Dan Snyder of The Washington Redskins and Washington Capitals, Wizards and Mystic leader--Ted Leonsis. In partnership with Coca-Cola, the Nationals, Redskins, Capitals and Mystic were kicking off the pilot program--Live Positively: Get The Ball Rolling. A high profile effort to bring local awareness to a nationwide problem--childhood obesity.

According to the Presidents Council for Sports, Nutrition and Fitness, 20% of all American children are obese. Most other countries in this world have figures in single digits. 75% of all kids with obese parents end up being overweight too. The numbers don't lie, nor has the outbreak of high blood pressure, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Obesity is the number one pediatric concern in The United States.

This problem so bad, Dr. Ian Smith of The Presidents Council for Sports, Nutrition and Fitness says: "Americans should be ashamed of themselves."

"This is a growing crisis," believes Senator Mark Warner (D-Va). "Childhood obesity is an epidemic in this country. Over half of the young people in this country today who are of age to serve in the military--couldn’t qualify to get through the basic fitness criteria. This is not just a health issue, not just a cost issue. Childhood obesity is a national security issue. And there are a whole graft of military leaders who have tried to elevate this issue more to the national consciousness."

As a call to action nationwide, Coca-Cola announced yesterday a series of fitness and healthy lifestyles clinics to be hosted by Washington's pro baseball, football, hockey and basketball (both men and women) franchises. In October, 750 to 1000 kids will participate in the four planned clinics. The sessions will touch on exercising the right way and eating a balanced diet. This kickoff press conference setting in motion a series of clinics planned by Coca-Cola throughout this country over the next year.

"It’s important for children to know that it doesn’t matter whether you are a professional athlete or a third grader attending an elementary school down the street--we all need daily exercise and balanced nutrition to lead a healthy life," said Ryan Zimmerman, who represented Nationals' players at the press conference. " As a Washington National, I am proud that the team has made a long-term commitment to promoting healthy lifestyles through The Foundation’s Baseball Academy and youth clinics--along with initiatives like this one here."

The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation will soon break ground on their long anticipated youth baseball academy which will provide three baseball fields and, eventually, educational outreach programs at The District's Ft. Dupont Park in Ward 7. A drawing card for Washington youngsters to stay active, have fun and learn new skills.

"Our focus is the baseball academy," stated Mark Lerner. "I think we can make a tremendous difference and that will bloom into other things. Everything we do at the park (today), with the youth clinics and everything else--makes a big difference too. It’s a thrill to see the kids having fun. They will remember those moments every day of their lives. Sports teams have a big responsibility to make a huge difference in people’s lives. And whatever we can do, we try to help."

Coca-Cola in one of over 200 corporations now involved in childhood obesity awareness on some level in The United States. Coca-Cola recently teamed up with First Lady Michelle Obama's initiatives to help bring more awareness to childhood obesity by assisting in the start up of "Clear On Calories". A program providing transparency in calorie labels on all beverage products. Coca-Cola also says it has removed all full calorie soda products from schools.

The Washington Redskins have hosted numerous football clinics over the past 10 years. They have also paid for many youth football fields in the surrounding D.C., Maryland and Virginia communities. The Washington Capitals regularly work with kids at their Arlington, Virginia practice facility and through street hockey tournaments and the Ft. Dupont Ice Rink. The Wizards recently committed to 25 youth clinics and The Mystics have 500 participants in their summer basketball program. And in cooperation with Sister To Sister, the Mystics handed out bicycles to needy youths a few months ago.

"Starting with the youth is very, very important," commented Ted Leonsis, the Monumental Sports & Entertainment Founder and CEO and majority owner of The Washington Capitals, The Washington Wizards and The Washington Mystics. "Owning, participating, playing for a professional sports team is a great social responsibility. People look to us for leadership. They look to us as role models and we can’t shun that. We have to internalize that. Young kids are very, very impressionable. So all of our teams have become very, very, active."

The goal of this unified front is to send a powerful message to kids and their families. And hopefully inspire youth in the D.C. area to lead a more active and healthy lifestyle. But as Representative Fudge stated at the press conference, adults need to take some of the responsibility too. They need to feed their children better. And they need to make sure their children don’t sit in front of a television or computer screen for more than two hours per day.

"That is also why we have young people who can’t speak in complete sentences" criticized Ms. Fudge. "It’s because they tweet and text. We need to get young people moving. (and that might be some of y’all too, right?) It is time for us to take responsibility for our young people."

The final words from Ted Leonsis and Mark Lerner:

Ted Leonsis: "The young people are our future. The young people are our customers. The young people are really the bedrock of the foundation we are going to build in this city."

Mark Lerner: "And it is important to our team and our family that we do what we can for our home town. We need to be able to make a difference. Dan (Snyder) and Ted (Leonsis) are making a difference and we need to be active and do what we can too."

Our Washington Nationals "Live Positively:Get The Ball Rolling" Clinic at Nationals Park tentatively scheduled for the first week of October, 2010.

P.S.--Washington Redskins Tight End Chris Cooley was on hand for the event, as were Nicklas Backstrom from The Capitals, Crystal Langhorne from The Mystics and Josh Howard from The Wizards.

Here is the complete statement by Nationals Principal Owner Mark Lerner from the press conference:

As a native Washingtonian and lifetime sports fan, I recognize the impact professional sports teams and their players have on the youth in the Washington Metropolitan area. That’s why my family has made it a priority over the years to encourage our players and coaches to help inspire kids; to lead active and healthy lifestyles through the sport of baseball. In fact, promoting physical activity and recreation is one of the cornerstones of The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, as well as, a major priority for the team’s overall community outreach.

One of the primary goals of The Dream Foundation is to give local youths an opportunity to learn and play the great game of baseball. This dream will soon become reality when we break ground on The Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in Ward 7’s Ft. Dupont Park early next year. Besides teaching the fundamentals of baseball, the academy will operate as a year-round youth development program that provides after-school educational services for children in The District Of Columbia.

The 20,000 square foot, state of the art facility, will feature three fully equipped baseball fields, batting cages, bullpens, warm-up pitching mounds, and a clubhouse that will offer teaching, training, and mentoring opportunities. The entire venture has been spearheaded by my sister and chair of The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation--Marla Lerner Tanenbaum--who is here today.

Her optimism and resolve has been instrumental in keeping this project on track and in-line with the original concept our family and Major League Baseball first envisioned when we began this process back in 2007. When we approached Coca-Cola three years ago, the academy was just a concept. But because Coca-Cola recognized the importance of America’s youth by embracing a healthier lifestyle--they immediately signed on as our (The Nationals) first partner and have continued to support the academy ever since.

Today, I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of The Nationals and our family, to personally thank Coca-Cola for joining us in our efforts to create this wonderful facility. In addition to our youth baseball academy, The Washington Nationals have brought thousands of local kids to beautiful Nationals Park for baseball related instruction as part of a series of free youth clinics hosted throughout the season. We are thankful for Coca-Cola’s donations of Dasani water and Powerade for the kids to enjoy while learning a variety of batting, fielding and pitching techniques with The Nationals coaching staff.

With the help of Coca-Cola, these clinics serve as a motivational tool to succeed both on and off the field, while also promoting a safe and fun way to stay active. Of course, The Nationals are excited to expand beyond our own team’s efforts, work with other organizations within the Washington sports community to encourage our fans to make healthy choices. With the Live Positively: Get The Ball Rolling initiative, we see a unique opportunity to use our collective voice to inspire D.C., Maryland and Virginia children to remain active and eat a balanced diet--all while having fun. We are pleased to partner with Coca-Cola and our fellow D.C. sports teams to challenge you, throughout D.C. area, to get the ball rolling.

Punctuation Mark

For months the argument has raged throughout NatsTown, should Our Washington Nationals re-sign Adam Dunn?

Fans have teetered on both sides. Some believe his offensive production can't be matched on the free agent market this winter. Others believe his defensive liabilities at 1st Base can't be overcome. Washington's Franchise Player, Ryan Zimmerman, has publicly come out on the contract extension side, stating he wants Adam Dunn back in a Nats Uniform for the next few years.

Our General Manager Mike Rizzo says he wants Adam Dunn back in D.C.

Our Number 44 claims he wishes to be here too?

Yet, no deal has been consummated. So why not?

If Adam Dunn has any pull from the player's perspective, last night at Nationals Park he provided what Sohna immediately called--The Punctuation Mark. A bottom of the 9th, game winning, walk-off homer to defeat The Philadelphia Phillies 2-1. All on the very evening Mr. Walk Off himself, The Z-Man, celebrated his 26th birthday and Our Washington Nationals handed out Mr. Walk Off Tee-Shirts to the first 10,000 to enter the park.

Say what you want about Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena possibly being interested in signing as a free agent with D.C.'s Team come 2011. Or the continuing rumors concerning Philadelphia's Jayson Werth heading to D.C. to play right field. But remember, there are no power hitting, rbi men available for pure offense better than Adam Dunn this off-season. Pena and Werth can't do what Adam can--strike fear in the opposing pitcher and manager each and every time they step to the plate.

Is Dunn streaky? Yes.

Is his defense suspect at times? Definitely.

Can Our Washington Nationals work around such a deficiency? Absolutely.

Look, unless you can find a better option out there for the short term--and we are talking two to three years here on the contract--why not re-sign Adam Dunn? He's not the perfect player, but few are anyway. Clearly, the guy is popular in the clubhouse. Adam's got the backing of Washington's Franchise player. The majority of D.C. fans seem to love Dunn too.

"Sign Adam Dunn!!" is consistently heard now at Nationals Park.

So, what's the problem? What's the hangup?

Well, like everything, it's apparently about money. But it's also about value.

If Adam Dunn doesn't wish to be an American League Designated Hitter, his options to play National League Baseball are limited if he heads to free agency. Will The Mets with Ike Davis at 1st Base be interested in his services? No. Ryan Howard in Philly? No. Joey Votto in Cincinnati? No. Albert Pujols in St. Louis? No. Adrian Gonzalez in San Diego? No. Prince Fielder in Milwaukee? No. Or even Aubrey Huff (a free agent but relatively cheap) in San Francisco? No.

None of those seven N.L. teams are probably interested in Adam Dunn.

The Marlins, The Pirates, The Dodgers and The Diamondbacks have financial or rebuilding issues to deal with. None of those four are probably going to sign Adam Dunn either. That leaves Colorado, Chicago, Houston and Atlanta--along with Washington--as possible suitors of Dunn's services in 2011.

The Cubs are reshaping themselves after the sale of the team from Tribune Corp. to The Ricketts Family. They've been purging salary. Do you think they are willing to add more payroll to sign Dunn while trying to unload Alfonso Soriano? We doubt it. The chances of Adam becoming a Cubbie seem slim.

The Rockies have been perennial division contenders the past few seasons. Their offense has some great pieces in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. At Coors Field, Adam Dunn might hit 60 home runs. The Rox long-time All-Star 1st Baseman, Todd Helton, is 37 years old and nearing the end of his productive years. The chances Colorado might be interested in Adam's services--maybe pretty good.

Houston is Dunn's home town. The Astros are rebuilding too. This N.L. Central Team has fewer core parts in place than Washington. Would he accept a hometown discount to call Texas his home year round? Doubtful, since Dunn is 30 years of age, he's probably also looking for someone with a better chance to be a contender.

A position where Atlanta perennially is in the playoff hunt. The Braves' Derrek Lee is a free agent after this season. Would Lee consider returning to The Cubs? Derrek Lee is 35 years old. He's a better fielder than Dunn, but his offensive numbers have been down for this season--due to injuries.

Realistically, Adam Dunn may have the Rockies, Astros, Braves and Nationals to choose from this off-season if he wishes to continue playing in The National League. No one else is likely to be interested in his services. So what's Dunn waiting for and what are Our Washington Nationals thinking right now as this season comes to a close?

Adam Dunn referenced his credentials last night with a walk-off home run against The Philadelphia Phillies. The question remains whether Our Washington Nationals wish to make a punctuation mark of their own by re-signing Our Number 44 to a contract extension.

P.S.--Where was the curtain call on Dunn's 38th Home Run of 2010? Every Nationals Fan still in attendance wanted it. But Adam kept his head down and went directly to the dugout, briefly talked with Debbi Taylor for MASN and never reappeared again.

Photo Nats320--All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stephen Strasburg--Trying To Be As Patient As Possible

For the first time since his September 3rd Tommy John Surgery conducted by Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles, Stephen Strasburg spoke to the media this afternoon, via phone conference call, for about 10 minutes from South California. Here is the transcript from that conversation. We joined in as Strasburg was beginning to answer his first question.

Strasburg: I have been watching the team very closely. Everybody seems to be playing hard and it’s awesome to watch. At the same time, it is pretty hard to watch. I wish I was out there with everybody, but it is what it is.

Question: You made the transition pretty quickly from finding out you needed the surgery, accepting it and moving on to the next challenge. When the surgery did happen, was it still a tough thing to handle after you had the procedure?

Strasburg: I think the hardest part was that period of being back here and waiting for the surgery to happen. Once it was over with, it was definitely a sense of relief. I knew that everything was fixed and every single day it’s getting closer to getting back out there.

Question: Are you at the point now where you are looking forward to getting back to the physical part of the rehab? And making steps where you see progress every day?

Strasburg: Yeah. What they are telling me (The Doctors). The more boring it is the better. The first few months it’s all about letting the new ligament heal and just naturally recover. But at the same time, I am eating healthy. I am trying to do some sort of workout every single day--whether it’s core, or just going on the elliptical. So I am doing everything in my power to get stronger while this thing heals.

Question: Have you talked with other guys about the surgery and what sort of things have you heard in words of encouragement?

Strasburg: Yes, I have talked to a few guys. A few guys have reached out and I am very grateful for it. With the track record of the surgery, you have just got to be patient with it. You have got to let it take it’s course. As long as you don’t rush things, the success rate is through the roof. I am going to be patient through it. I am going to do what the Nationals trainers and doctors tell me to do. And I am going to follow it by the book. Hopefully, everything works out for the best.

Question: Can you tell us who some of the guys that reached out to your are?

Strasburg: When I first found out the news, I was able to talk to Chris Carpenter and (Albert) Pujols because The Cardinals were in town. Then just a few of my buddies back here (in California) who have had the surgery, a few of my coaches. They have had the surgery during their playing careers. I have talked to Jordan Zimmermann a little bit too. It’s a very common surgery and, like I said, the success rate is really, really good. So I am just going to follow everybody else’s path.

Question: Who are the main doctor or rehab specialists you are working with?

Strasburg: I am just working with the people The Nationals have set up for me. I am talking to Nationals trainers and just going from there.

Question: I know you looked into the surgery and done a lot of research on the process. But is there anything in these past few weeks that has surprised you about it?

Strasburg: No, not really. The fact that so many people have had this surgery, it’s almost down to a science. They’ve told me everything I am going to experience, coming up right after surgery. When I get my caste off, the whole nine-yards. I haven’t been surprised by anything. It’s healing very nicely. Everybody says Dr. (Lewis) Yocum did such a nice job because the scar is so thin. So I am pretty excited about it and I am just going to do whatever they tell me to do.

Question: Has how the season ended for you overshadowed your season?

Strasburg: You guys can decide that. I am chalking it up as a great season. It’s unfortunate for it to happen. But I came up there. I stirred up the baseball world well enough to have more people to become Nats Fans. And I know they are going to be there when I get back in a year, so I am not too worried about it. And I am going to work as hard as I possibly can to get back out there and show everybody what I have to bring to the table.

Question: What do you miss the most being away from Nationals Park and your teammates?

Strasburg: I miss my teammates, obviously. Playing in the Big Leagues it’s a learning experience, but at the same time, there is time when you are sitting back at home just letting your body recover, catching up on your studies, it’s a little bit slower of a pace. I am having baseball withdrawal, that’s for sure. But I’ve got a great support system and they are really helping me through it.

Question: Do you happen to see the game last night (Phillies clinching of the N.L. East Title at Nationals Park)? And what did it feel like, if you did see the game, seeing The Phillies celebrating on your home field?

Strasburg: It didn’t look too good, that’s for sure. It happens, unfortunately. We weren’t able to get the win last night. (Roy) Halladay pitched very well. But we could very well be doing that to them on their home turf--so it would be nice to have some payback.

Question: You said catching up on your studies. Are you talking about baseball or are you taking courses at San Diego State?

Strasburg: I am definitely working closer to getting my degree. It’s not too far away. I definitely want to get it and getting back to that whole student life--as well as rehab.

Question: You seem to enjoy being around your teammates and the camaraderie. Does that make this rehab difficult for you because you are sort of doing this solo?

Strasburg: I get what you are saying. It is a tough process, but I keep telling myself that as each day goes by I am going to be closer to being out there, battling, and trying to win some games. So patience is a virtue and I am trying to be as patient as possible through this process.

Question: Is the rehab process so detailed that you know what you are going to be doing three weeks from now? A month from now? Or is there fluidity there? How detailed is the plan?

Strasburg: They have it all mapped out, all the way up to when you throw your first professional pitch. So it’s kind of just going on what they tell me. If I do well, everything could get sped up, but I might take a couple of steps back--you just never know. There is a target date, but right now it is way too early. We are going to start the actual rehab process soon and see where that goes.

Question: Do you literally have that date marked on the calendar (throw the first pitch)?

Strasburg: Definitely not, that is a year from now. A lot of things can happen, but I am just going to take it day by day.

With that final answer--Stephen Strasburg’s Phoner Press Conference with the media concluded.

Photo Credit--Getty Images

Monday, September 27, 2010

Amen To That!!

The Mob Mentality of Philly Fans never ceases to amaze.

Tonight at Nationals Park, well after The Philadelphia Phillies had clinched their 4th consecutive National League East Title;

Well after The Phillies Team celebrated on the field and donned the customary "Champion" Caps & Shirts;

Well after Manager Charlie Manuel's team left the field to spill champagne all over each other in the visitor's clubhouse;

And well after even the media covering The Phillies latest Division Title went inside as well--their fans STILL WOULD NOT LEAVE THE SOUTH CAPITOL STREET BALLPARK.

They wouldn't calm down. They didn't shut up. They wouldn't go away.

They continued to swarm around the 3rd base concourse and Center Field Plaza areas of Nationals Park as if they owned it. Even the turning off of the stadium lights didn't temper their spirit. And the fact that Johnny Holliday and Phil Wood were still broadcasting on MASN--didn't quell the histrionics either. MASN's Nats Extra Post-Game Show may well have been drowned out by Philly Fans lingering in Center Field Plaza.

America's Worst Fans invaded Nationals Park this evening and turned it into a home game for the visitors once again. Officially, only 14,309 posted up on a rainy, dreary night. But we are here to tell you, the great majority of those in attendance were Phillie Fans, not Nats Fans. The Philly Faithful cheered the announcement of Philadelphia's Starting Lineup. Of course, they booed Washington's. They roared with delight the very moment Roy Halladay stepped out of the bullpen after his pre-game warm ups and walked slowly to the visitors dugout.

And they began chanting "Let's Go Phillies!! from the very first pitch.

And they didn't stop. Not once.

Strangers in their very own ballpark, Our Washington Nationals didn't have a chance tonight. They were beaten soundly by the better team. D.C.'s Team also played one of the worst top of the 9th inning's ever competed on South Capitol Street. How in world were no errors charged by The Official Scorer when both Nyjer Morgan and Adam Dunn made defensive miscues that allowed extra runs to score--we may never now?

But we do know this for sure.

Heading to the elevator lobby in Club Level tonight well after this game had ended--clearly throughout Nationals Park was heard: "Let's Go Phillies!! Let's Go Phillies!!"--never letting up.

As the elevator door opens, The African Queen and I see a fellow Die Hard Nationals Fan inside. Happy to see another Nats Fan still in the park (a rare commodity tonight), our friend nods his head back and forth while showing his frustration of what was being witnessed and heard.

"No Comment!!", I stated in response to his gestures. "Amen To That!!", he replied.

"Amen To That!!

Now, that's the proper response.

All three of us just had to laugh about everything going on surrounding this particular game because there is truly not much more to say about this one--which is nothing good.

Final Score from Nationals Park were Roy Halladay pitched a complete game shutout for his 21st victory of the season--clinching the playoffs for Philly: The Philadelphia Phillies 8 and Our Washington Nationals Zero. No one wants to see an opposing team win a championship in their very own park. The fact that The Philadelphia Phillies were the opponent made this evening that much more uncomfortable. The Phillies are a good team, no one can take that away from their very talented group of players. But having to put up with their obnoxious fans, once again, is getting pretty hard to take. They were unruly on Opening Day, 2010 at Nationals Park and they were again so tonight as The Phillies wrapped up their latest title. Washington's home schedule going virtually full circle this season. Philadelphia to begin and Philadelphia to end.

Make no mistake about it, we NEVER WANT TO SEE The Philadelphia Phillies win another title at Nationals Park EVER AGAIN because it's simply not fun to watch.

As our friend had stated so correctly: "Amen To That!!"

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

Sunday, September 26, 2010

True Grit

The Atlanta Braves were still in the playoff hunt as the penultimate Sunday of the 2010 Baseball Season commenced today. Tied for The National League Wild Card Lead, the Tomahawk Choppers need to play with poise and patience the rest of the way in order to maximize their opportunity to participate in baseball's greatest showcase, the post-season and The World Series.

As far as Our Washington Nationals are concerned--now just playing out the schedule--early fall is the time of the year to impress, show the baseball bosses why you deserve to play again in a D.C. Uniform in 2011. Or if not, pique the interest of some other team--let someone else know you are still capable of playing Major League Baseball next year--maybe even for a few more seasons to come.

Whatever side any player currently resides on under such late season circumstances--composure, perseverance and fortitude are the definitions that define everyone's approach. No question, you may well be out there on the field for a team goal, but continuing your baseball career--and playing a significant role in the game--is many times what September's are all about.

The showing of grit is important. The understanding that one can be depended on when it counts the most.

And that's why this afternoon's bottom of the 7th inning at Nationals Park stood out so glaringly.

Every one of these late season affairs is important for The Atlanta Braves, not as much so for Our Washington Nationals. But look what happened in a tie ballgame after two were out and the home side apparently down for the count? D.C.'s Team displayed a capacity to endure. The resolve which agitated The Brav-OS and their Manager Bobby Cox to another frustrating loss--leaving Atlanta wondering whether they truly belong in this upcoming post-season?

The score was 2-2. Pudge Rodriguez and Alberto Gonzalez both had already made harmless outs against The Braves Journeyman Reliever--Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth had begun 2010 as a Kansas City Royal. In fact, Kyle came to Nationals Park earlier this year with The Royals (although he didn't play in the series). Since being traded to Atlanta to bolster a bullpen in need of a veteran presence for the stretch run--Farnsworth has been anything but impressive. The holder of a 5.79 ERA, one loss and one blown save in 20 games since coming over to The National League.

This afternoon on South Capitol Street--Kyle Farnsworth fell apart when his Braves teammates needed him the most. He had no poise. And when his bullpen mate, the young Johnny Venters, entered in an attempt to stave off another late season loss for Atlanta--Our Washington Nationals played like a playoff team willing to endure, not a ball club just playing out the string of games.

After Willie Harris walked on five Farnsworth pitches, Danny Espinosa stepped to the plate and had his best at-bat of his young career. Down 0-2 in the count, Danny gutted it out through six pitches from The Braves tall righthander before also walking on a pitch so low and out of the strike zone, Espinosa had to leap out of the way. The final toss thrown by Farnsworth before Venters entered.

The established team, in need of a veteran reliever, was now in need of a rookie reliever. With their playoff push on his mind, Atlanta's Closer-In-Waiting (as Billy Wagner is about to retire) yielded as well. Venters wasn't capable of finding his edge, either. Nyjer Morgan greeted Johnny and walked on four straight pitches to load up the bases. And Ian Desmond followed with a single up the middle scoring both Harris and Espinosa with the go-ahead and all-important insurance runs needed by Washington that eventually won this game.

All season long--Desmond has shown the backbone to hit with the game on the line. The legs to stand on that The Atlanta Braves failed to get out of their bullpen this afternoon at Nationals Park when they needed it the most. Fine spirit shown by Our Washington Nationals on the very day the tenacity needed by Atlanta for their continuing playoff hunt was lost.

The team needing victory the most had not won because the heart and composure of Willie Harris, Danny Espinosa Nyjer Morgan and Ian Desmond far exceeded the endurance and staying power of Kyle Farnsworth and Johnny Venters. The virtue of patience doesn't always rest on the side of the team with the better record. It is practiced by everyone. It also comes down to who wants it more. That's the True Grit displayed by Our Washington Nationals this afternoon in the bottom of the 7th with the game on the line that The Atlanta Braves were powerless to resolve.

Final Score from Nationals Park where remaining calm and cool under pressure was shown by the home side: Our Washington Nationals 4 and The Atlanta Braves 2. Curly "W" Number 67 was important in that D.C.'s Team has now won the season series from Atlanta (10-8, only the second time since baseball returned in 2005--2008 was the other season). And significant for showing Washington Fans their team has not given up. This late in a lost season, many teams don't play like one anymore.

But as The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! were heard over The South Capitol Street Ballpark late this afternoon, individuals in Nationals uniforms had shown they may be wishing to impress for a 2011 job, but they are also willing to fight it out for their team. Back-To-Back-To-Back walks with two outs showed determination. And Ian Desmond's game winning single up the middle--true grit. Washington's Rookie Shortstop proved today he can be depended on for not just now--but later, while spoiling Johnny Venters and his Atlanta Braves Teammates chances of advancing to the 2010 post-season for not just now--but later as well.

Game Notes & Highlights

Livan Hernandez pitched into the 7th inning, eventually giving up two earned runs including a solo home run clubbed to centerfield by Atlanta Outfielder Rick Ankiel. Livo was his usual self. He pitched well enough to win but wasn't involved in the final decision. By hurling two strong shutout innings, Sean Burnett gained his first personal win of 2010 against seven losses. Drew Storen picked up his 5th save by finishing off The Braves in the 9th.

Nyjer Morgan and Michael Morse both had rbi singles today. And Danny Espinosa had two singles and a walk. Desmond now has 64 RBI on the season.

In his final appearance at Nationals Park in an Atlanta Braves uniform--Our Washington Nationals honored Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox in a pre-game ceremony. 4th All-Time on the win list with 2500 victories, Cox has managed for 28 seasons in Atlanta and Toronto. After a video of his career accomplishments was played on the HDTV Scoreboard, Nationals Principal Owner Mark Lerner, Team President Stan Kasten, GM Mike Rizzo, and Our Manager Jim Riggleman joined Braves Chairman Emeritus Bill Bartholomay in presenting Bobby Cox a special U.S. Flag flown over The U.S. Capitol in September, 2010. The United States Navy Band then performed on the field to finish off a very touching ceremony.

With Teddy fast approaching the finish line apparently to win the 4th inning Presidents Race--The Grinch That Stole Christmas stole Teddy's chance at glory by knocking him down to the ground. Tom ran past to take the victory.

And finally, today was "Shirts Of Their Backs" Day at Nationals Park. Fans could buy $5 raffle tickets in hopes of winning a game worn jersey from a Nationals player or Coach. Those present were rewarded on the field during a post-game ceremony.

Today's In=Game Photos, Ann Heisenfelt (AP)
All Other Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Statement From Ted Lerner On Stan Kasten's Resignation

"Stan Kasten will always be an important part of the history of the Washington Nationals. He was vital to ownership winning its bid from Major League Baseball and his agreement to serve as the team’s chief executive for the last five years has been critical to building the Washington Nationals franchise.

Over his tenure he has positioned the Nationals to become one of the most exciting franchises in baseball and we thank him for all that he has accomplished.

We certainly respect his decision to pursue other interests at the end of the regular season, but will continue to call upon him for his vast knowledge of the game, the league and the franchise. He will remain a friend and valued partner of the team and ownership group."

Theodore N. Lerner
Managing Principal Owner

Not All The Usual Suspects

With the opening and sitting of the United Nations General Assembly this week, Sohna and I haven't had a lot of free time outside of the ball games. But here's a few notes from last night's come from behind victory over The Houston Astros.

When Our Washington Nationals won last night much of their 26th come from behind victory of 2010 had mostly to do without the usual suspects. Ryan Zimmerman, Pudge Rodriguez and Adam Dunn did not lead the way last night, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Michael Morse, Jason Marquis, Sean Burnett, and, especially, Joel Peralta all did. If Washington is going to make any strides forward, they need to win more often when their three star players are not contributing offensively. That happened last evening at Nationals Park in actually one of the better played games all season on South Capitol Street.

Despite his 33 errors in the field in 2010, Ian Desmond has proven to be a solid contributor at the plate. He's going to finish this year with double figures in home runs, over 60 rbi's and a batting average in the .270 to .285 range. If anyone told you Desmond would accomplish that in 2010 during spring training, we'd bet you'd take that. Last night, Ian with an rbi single among his two hits--raising his average to .280. He's going to get better.

Does anybody play harder than Danny Espinosa? He never gives up on anything hit near him in the field and again proved he's clutch at the plate with the game-winning two run homer off Jeff Fulchino in the bottom of the 8th yesterday. Espinosa also tripled off the right centerfield wall and scored earlier in the game. The young man's got five home runs, four doubles and 13 rbi in just 19 games. The Southern California Native is still prone to striking out, but he's going to be a good player for years to come. Danny Espinosa has some nice tools.

"Mikey Mo" power drove a line shot home run to dead centerfield again last night for his 12th home run of the season. The more Michael Morse plays, the better he's become. His bat speed through the strike zone can be mighty impressive. Everything Morse does hit, is hit hard.

If Washington's starting rotation is going to stabilize in 2011 in the wake of Stephen Strasburg going down to Tommy John Surgery, Jason Marquis has to pitch more like he did last night--not like he's thrown most all season long. Marquis doesn't strike many hitters out, but he kept the ball down last night, giving up two earned runs and putting himself in the position to get a personal win--which did not happen.

As the season has progressed, Sean Burnett has pitched with more and more confidence on the mound. Never considered a closer type pitcher before Matt Capps was traded to Minnesota for Wilson Ramos, Washington's southpaw is becoming more than just a situational lefty out of the pen. The question now is whether Burnett can develop the mindset to become a closer?

And finally--does any player currently on Our Washington Nationals roster play with more passion than Joel Peralta? The journeyman reliever is completing a career season in the Big Leagues in 2010. Each and every time he's been handed the ball to pitch by Our Manager Jim Riggleman--it's like watching a mini-drama series unfolding on the mound. Last night was the perfect case in point. After warming up, there is the taking off of the cap and a brief prayer. There is the looking up and slightly pointing to the sky, briefly, after each out. And then there is the walk-off the mound at the end of each inning, or appearance, with a repeat of the entire performance.

Oh yeah, there is also the slamming of the baseball into his mitt after every out is made as well. That's great stuff, entertaining too.

Every pitch Joel Peralta throws is a production, and quite frankly, it's very fun to watch. Did you see the dance and jig he preformed with the BatBoy last night after he was removed in the top of the 9th inning during a standing ovation from the crowd? Classic!!

Numbers don't lie and Our Number 62's WHIP (Walks Per Innings Pitched) is quite outstanding--0.80. In 45 total innings thrown, Peralta has given up just 27 hits and 9 walks. At times, he's been susceptible to the long ball (five home runs), but at 34 years of age, Joel might be one of those late bloomers that finally figured out how to use his fastball, curve and changeup to his best advantage. Good teams win with guys like that.

And one final point about defense. Last night's game was cleanly played. Zimmerman, Roger Bernadina and Justin Maxwell all made some really nice defensive plays in the field. Up the middle (catcher, 2nd base, shortstop, centerfield), Washington is developing some pretty solid "D". All over the field, this team is much better defensively. So much so, re-signing Adam Dunn is looking more and more like a better option. Espinosa has such exceptional range he could make up for some of Dunn's defensive shortcomings. And besides, Washington could still use Dunn's power in the middle of their lineup.

Bottom line--Our Washington Nationals need Zimmerman, Dunn and Rodriguez but they can't depend of all the usual suspects to win each and every night. Last evening at Nationals Park, Curly "W" Number 64 was garnered thanks to some young bloods and a few veterans (needing to prove themselves again), showing what they are capable of when they have their acts together.

PS: What was going on with Marquis & Pudge last night? Early in the game, they had an extended conversation on the mound that made home plate umpire Tony Randazzo head out and break up. Then later, in the fifth inning, Marquis sort of stormed off the mound after a pitch which brought Ian Demond toward him and Pudge, Pitching Coach Steve McCatty and Randazzo eventually to the mound too. Sort of strange, but pretty interesting.

Last Night's InGame Photos--Evan Vucci (AP)
All Other Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Killer Instinct

Pudge Rodriguez's two-strike, two out, two run home run with Our Washington Nationals down two runs in the bottom of the 8th inning last night against The Houston Astros at Nationals Park set off an epic series of plate appearances for the home side not seen often in the Nation's Capital since baseball returned in 2005.

Seven more Washington batter's reached base after Pudge's dramatic blast off Felipe Paulino--leading not only to victory from what seemed like certain jaws of defeat, but also gave D.C. fans a glimpse of what the good teams in baseball always do, something Our Washington Nationals have never consistently accomplished--finding their killer instinct.

Whether it's The New York Yankees, The Boston Red Sox, The Tampa Bay Rays, The Philadelphia Phillies or any very good team for that matter in the game, what the players on all those teams have in common is the ability to feed off each other. When opportunity comes, they recognize the vulnerability of the competition. They feast on weakness. And they pound the other team into submission. That's a outcome seen by Washington fans from the losing side too many times over the past three years. But last evening, D.C.'s Team played the aggressor.

Pudge's deep blast off the leftfield foul pole only got things started. Roger Bernadina and Justin Maxwell kept The Ultimate Two-Out Rally going with a single and a walk. Adam Kennedy then pinch hit for Tyler Clippard and lofted one of his patented bloopers down the right field line scoring "Bernie" with the go ahead run. And after Danny Espinosa walked, Ian Desmond, Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman greeted Houston's latest reliever on the night, the ever hard throwing Matt Lindstrom, with back-to-back-to-back singles that put this game away for good.

So well, not even another shaky performance by Drew Storen out of the bullpen could makes this latest Curly "W" any less savory. Whatever the score, no matter how late in the game, the good teams can find a way to rebound. They keep themselves in every affair--looking for what sometimes is the only chance to pull even and then ahead. That's why The Yanks, The Red Sox, The Rays and The Phillies do so well. They have the talent to understand what they are capable of doing together in any situation--as a team. They never give up and take advantage of opportunity like few others in the game.

Our Washington Nationals haven't reached that point yet, but last night on South Capitol Street, D.C.'s Team gave their fans one terrific bottom of the 8th inning to remember. A completely unexpected come from behind victory that had what was left of the 11,893 standing and applauding this ultimate two out rally.

Final Score from Nationals Park where baseball proved again why any fan should always expect the unexpected: Our Washington Nationals 8 and The Houston Astros 4. Curly "W" Number 63 ended a four game losing steak and a 10 out of 12 game skid. It also meant that D.C.'s Team will not lose 100 games for the third consecutive season. But The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! provided in the bottom of the 8th dramatically put on display what's been missing all season long for Washington--The Killer Instinct.

Good teams can find a way to rally. The great teams do it often. No question, talent has a lot to do with it, but so is the belief that each and every single person in the lineup is capable of contributing in the clutch. Washington did so last night after Pudge Rodriguez seized an unexpected opportunity and his teammates followed in suit. The result: Our Washington Nationals, for one night at least, played like the good teams do. They had found their own Killer Instinct.

Game Notes & Highlights

After allowing a three-run homer to Jason Michaels five batters into this game and a double to Chris Johnson--Houston's very next batter--you had to figure John Lannan was not long for this game. Then, as badly as his latest start began, Our Number 31 completely changed direction and finished seven strong innings on the mound. At the end of his performance, he retired 14 of the last 15 Astros he faced, including 12 in a row at one point. Lannan wasn't involved in the decision, but he continued to resurrect his Major League career after been demoted to AA Harrisburg earlier this season. Once again, John Lannan is looking like a keeper.

Tyler Clippard recorded his 100th strike out as a reliever last night. The first to do so in a Nationals Uniform. Clippard also recorded his 10th personal win of the season--tying Livan Hernandez for the team high.

After blowing a save in Philadelphia in dramatic fashion this past Sunday, Drew Storen trotted to the mound in the top of the 9th to finish off this game. Our Manager Jim Riggleman didn't allow him to do so after Storen visibly looked flustered after allowing a solo home run to The Red Porch Seats to Chris Johnson and a two-out walk to his former Stanford teammate, Jason Castro. Washington's rookie closer has been shaky of late. And that comes with the territory. We've stated it before and it's worth repeating here again--there is a learning curve to the Big Leagues. Some guys understand it earlier than others. Drew Storen is still in class. His education just beginning.

In the top of the 2nd inning, Houston centerfielder Jason Bourgeois attempted to steal 3rd base off John Lannan with two outs. Pudge Rodriguez would have nothing to do with that. Pouncing from the crouch on the delivered pitch, The Future Hall Of Famer threw a perfect strike to Ryan Zimmerman covering 3rd base for the inning ending out and The Defensive Play Of This Game. Pudge thrust his right fist in the air in celebration while Lannan looked over, while walking off the field, and gave Rodriguez a congratulatory and thankful nod of approval.

And finally, when Our Washington Nationals rallied in the bottom of the 8th inning last night, the supportive crowd was extremely loud. There might have only been a few thousand still on hand watching, but our fans were letting their team know they appreciated the effort. As I mentioned to Sohna earlier in the evening, the weather could not have been nicer. A crisp, not too cool, late September evening that made just watching baseball enjoyable in it's own rights.

Last Night's In-Game Photos, Evan Vucci (AP)
All Other Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved