Monthly Archives: July 2011

Stephen Strasburg in 2011? Suicide.

June 8, 2010 is a day that Nationals fans remember.  It’s a day where we can recall where we were and what we felt like.  I was at home, a single fan among thousands watching on TV screens across the DC area as Stephen Strasburg threw a 97 mph fastball to begin a career that will be under more scrutiny than any in recent memory.  June 8, 2010 was a day where the energy at Nationals Park was so palpable that the radio announcer for the Pirates proclaimed, “This crowd is unbelievable.  It is like the seventh game of the World Series.”

Fast-forward to July 29, 2010.  Miguel Batista shuts out the Braves in a spot-start win, allowing three hits in five scoreless innings.  It was fun to watch, but this was supposed to be a Strasburg Start.  It was supposed to be an Event.  It was the first sign that something dreadful was happening to the Nationals’ ace.

Then, August 27, 2010.  I was in the car, driving up to Chicago for move-in at DePaul.  Jordan Zimmermann had pitched the night before, his first start since returning from Tommy John surgery.  As I listened to ESPN radio, my satisfaction with Zimmermann’s outing quickly dissipated as a news flash mentioned how the Nationals gained Zimmermann but lost Strasburg – until 2011.

Photo courtesy of duelingcouches.blogspot.com

It was the Apocalypse for the Nationals.  It had happened, the one thing that couldn’t possibly happen – the worst injury short of a line drive to the temple, an injury that has crippled careers and turned potential greats into tragic flameouts.

But good news has arrived: Strasburg could return by mid-September to galvanize a franchise that has been surprisingly good this season.

My question: Why are people even considering allowing him to start in 2011?

In this blogger’s humble opinion, it is utterly illogical for the Nationals to start Strasburg at any point in this season regardless of the situation the team finds itself in.

I don’t care if they need a jolt in fan interest.  I don’t care if they need an uptick in attendance.

I don’t even care if they need a stud pitcher for a 163rd, winner-take-all play-in game for the final wild card spot.

Every time Strasburg toes the rubber, he is shadowed by a unique moniker – The Franchise.  Say what you want about Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper, the truth is that the Nationals’ future rides on Strasburg’s young shoulders more than any other player in the dugout.  And that’s saying a lot since there is so much young talent on the roster and in the farm, much of which would be deserving of such a burden if Strasburg were not here.

Stephen Strasburg, The Franchise, is coming off a devastating injury.  To start him before next season would be organizational suicide.  One more unfortunate snap, tear, or break could spell the end.

Think about that.  The end of The Franchise.

The Starting Rotation – 7/12/11

Yesterday’s Big Story – Yankees 2B Robinson Cano outdueled Red Sox 1B Adrian Gonzalez in thrilling fashion at the 2011 Home Run Derby.  Gonzalez tied a record by hitting 11 homers in the final round, but Cano came up clutch and set a new record by blasting 12 shots into the outfield seats at Chase Field to pick up his first Home Run Derby win.  (Disclaimer: Cano has hit 15 HR on the season.  Fellow 2B Danny Espinosa has hit 16 HR.  Go Nats!)

Yesterday’s Star – In a day where not much happened, the star would have to be the aforementioned Cano.  A shout out to yours truly, Next Year, D.C., as we set an all-time page views record for our blog thanks to japersrink.com!

Yesterday’s Fail – The National League team in the Home Run Derby.  Hand-picked by Milwaukee Brewers star Prince Fielder, they were outslugged in epic fashion by the American League team 76 to 19.  SEVENTY-SIX TO NINETEEN.  (This doesn’t include the tiebreakers round)

Yesterday in Washington – Honestly, NOTHING happened in Washington.

Today in Washington – The Washington Mystics take on the Seattle Storm at 3 PM.  Let’s go ladies!  Also, look out for the Nationals’ own Tyler Clippard in the All-Star Game tomorrow!  Go Clipp, shut ‘em down!

Grading the Nationals at Midseason

Forget Stephen Strasburg’s injury.  Forget Jayson Werth’s invisibility.  Forget the offensive struggles, and forget Jim Riggleman’s ill-timed departure.

The Washington Nationals are 46-46 at the All-Star break, their best record this late in the season since their inaugural season of 2005.

And with that, I present my Washington Nationals Midseason Awards.

MVP: Michael Morse, 1B – There are many candidates.  This spot is usually reserved for Ryan Zimmerman but he simply hasn’t played in enough games.  Danny Espinosa is also worthy, but his batting average is too low and he still has a lot to learn.  Morse has been the guy that everyone can’t wait to see at the plate.  He has a .306 BA with 15 HR and 49 RBI.  His fun-loving style and hulking figure have made him a fan favorite, and his defense at first base has been nothing short of superb.  His inclusion on the ballot for the All Star Game’s Final Vote speaks to how good he has been. Honorable Mention: Danny Espinosa, 2B 

Photo courtesy of ph.cdn.photos.upi.com

Least Valuable: Jayson Werth, OF - I was always going to defend Jayson Werth.  I loved the guy in Philadelphia and when he signed that $126 million contract, I said that I would defend him to the death because he would never be able to live up to that money and it wasn’t his fault.

I didn’t exactly have this in mind.  Werth’s numbers are mind-bogglingly low for such a talented player – .217 BA, 10 HR and 31 RBI.  His defensive play has been solid if unspectacular and he continues to struggle batting with runners in scoring position.  He also has annoying tendencies, like taking every first pitch known to man and showing little emotion when getting called out on strikes.  And if he mishandles one more ball in the outfield, I’LL teach him how to do it.  Honorable Mention: Sean Burnett, P

X-Factor: Laynce Nix, OF/1B - Zimmerman is the perpetual X-factor, but if I had to pick one that seemed to always come through with some kind of play it would be Nix.  He has shown surprising power and excellent plate discipline, and he is one of those guys that looks like he could beat you up if you got in his way.  I just love Laynce Nix.  He also showed good potential as a replacement first baseman despite the fact that he’s never played until this year.  Honorable Mention: Brian Bixler, OF.

Cy Young, Nats Style: Jordan Zimmermann, P – Zimmermann has been superb.  Look at the article I wrote earlier in the year and you’ll see why.  In fact, I could make an argument that with decent run support, Zimm2 could be in the conversation for top-five pitcher in the National League.  His numbers are stunning.  In four of his last six games, he’s allowed 0 ER.  His ERA of 2.66 is good for sixth in the N.L. and he has become an ace without a doubt.  It’s unfortunate that he gets such little support, because he could easily have 10 wins right now instead of an unfair record of 6-7. Honorable Mention: Tyler Clippard, P.  He’s an All-Star, and get used to it.  He’ll be good for a while.

He’ll make the next five years worth watching.  Singlehandedly: Danny Espinosa, 2B – Espinosa is unbelievable.  Honestly, if you take out his horrid batting average from the beginning of the year, he should be in the conversation not only for Rookie of the Year, but as the best second baseman in the National League.  His defense is impeccable, he can hit from both sides of the plate, he can steal bases, and he can hit for power at a position that is historically bad at hitting for power.  The kid can do it all.  He’s going to be a perennial All-Star for a long time, I can personally guarantee that.  The Nationals have a rare gem patrolling their infield.  Honorable Mention: Zimmermann, and also Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper and everyone else the Nats have. Just watch, it’ll be exciting.

WHAT GRADE WOULD YOU GIVE THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS IN 2011?

They are 46-46 and a surprisingly good team in a very good division.  The pitching has been superb and the managing, despite turmoil, has been very respectable.  The biggest bone to pick is the fact that the offense has been nothing short of putrid for the better part of the season.  There are many good hitters but they just can’t seem to put it all together for long stretches.  My final grade for this team would be a B.

Let us know what you think.  Vote below!

Starting Rotation – 7/11/2011

Yesterday’s Big Story:  The United States women’s soccer team played an incredible game yesterday against Brazil winning it in penalty kicks, 2-2 (5-3), despite being down a player for the final 55 minutes of the match.  Abby Wambach scored the game tying header in the final seconds of the match and Hope Solo performed admirably in the shootout propelling the U.S. to victory.

Yesterday’s Star: Brad Peacock, Pitcher, Washington Nationals – Peacock threw a perfect second inning in yesterday’s All Star Futures Game, getting a strikeout, ground out, and pop out in only 9 pitches.  The 23 year-old righty was a 41st round pick of the Nationals but has become dominant this year with the Nationals’ AA team the Harrisburg Senators, sporting a 10-2 record, with a 2.01 ERA and an insane 129 strikeouts to only 23 walks.

Yesterday’s Fail: The Brazilian Woman’s Soccer Team – As mentioned above the Brazilians were defeated despite having one more player on the pitch than their opponents for almost half the match.  In addition the United States’ first goal was allowed 2 minutes into the game as an own goal by the Brazilians.  All in all a bad day to be a female Brazilian soccer player.

Yesterday in Washington: The Nationals avoided the sweep by defeating the Rockies 2-0 off another great performance by Jordan Zimmermann, a Roger “the Shark” Bernadina broken bat RBI single, and a Rick Ankiel home run.  With the win the Nats moved to .500 as we head into the all-star break.

Today in Washington:  Congress attempts to pass a debt deal and that’s about it; as baseball has broken for the All Star Break and D.C.’s only representative, relief pitcher Tyler Clippard, is surprisingly not a part of today’s Home Run Derby.

Washington Capitals Make All the Right Moves

Article by James O’Hara

If you were watching the NHL transactions going down on the first day of free agency you might have been wondering if someone had replaced the Washington Capitals with the Washington Redskins with all the deals they were making.  However unlike the Redskins these deals weren’t for flashy high-priced guys, it was for the gritty grinders that this team has sorely lacked in the playoffs the last couple of years.  Now let’s take a more in-depth look into the players the Capitals have brought in, hoping that they can bring them a championship.

Jeff Halpern, C:  While Halpern’s age, 35, is a bit of a sore spot in this deal, the amount of money that the Caps are paying him is actually not too bad.  Halpern instantly brings in a great veteran presence to a team that is incredibly young.  On the ice he is a more than serviceable fourth line center who will give you great production when short-handed, win draws, and won’t make too many mistakes.  As a one-year deal this is a good pickup, if it was for any longer than questions might have arisen.

Joel Ward, F:  Ward is one of those guys that may not contribute as much during the regular season, but when you get to the playoffs he gets noticed in a hurry.  Last season with Nashville, while he only had 10 goals and 19 assists in the regular season, Ward had seven goals and six assists in only 12 playoff games.  Ward is the grinding forward who can muck it up in front of the net that the Capitals have been missing in their last playoff runs.  While the contract is a little bigger than desired, GM George McPhee admitted that he overpaid by about 16%, he should be a great contributor once the more important second season comes around.

Roman Hamrlik, D: This move is similar to one’s seen all the time in the NBA, a great player who is just a couple of years away from retirement and still without a title latches on to the hot team for one last shot at the Cup.  While Hamrlik is at a more advanced age, telling reporters “I’m not getting any younger” at his introductory conference call, his game has not diminished by much as he has been a shutdown defender for the Canadiens for the past four years.  He has collected no fewer than 26 points in his last 13 seasons; he finished with 34 points last season while still averaging 22 minutes of ice time, more than any other Caps defender.  In addition Hamrlik brings a wealth of experience to a youthful blue line, and could be a great partner for Mike Green who has gone through his struggles as of late.  As long as his age doesn’t catch up with him the Capitals will have a savvy veteran who is a consistent contributor.

Tomas Vokoun, G:  Like Halpern and Hamrlik, Vokoun brings in experience to a young unit, in addition to being one of the NHL’s elite goaltenders, possessing the best save percentage in the league since 2005-06 at .922.  Despite being considered the top free agent netminder the Capitals were able to get him for a relatively bargain price of one year, $1.5 million. Perhaps the best thing for Caps fans is that Vokoun was the one who initiated the discussions, as McPhee explained “We were told early yesterday that Tomas Vokoun wanted to play on a top team and that he would forgo a big deal to do it.”

With a busy first two days of free agency the Capitals brought in the veteran leaders that they usually wait until the mid-way point to trade for, signaling that this team is playing for nothing less than a championship this year.

Starting Rotation – 7/4/11

Happy Independence Day everybody!  Here’s all you need to know:

Yesterday’s Big Story – At Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic won his third Grand Slam title, and first at the All England Club, by defeating top ranked Rafael Nadal in four sets.   Djokovic showed the poise and all-around excellence that had him start the year off 41-0, winning the match 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.  With his win Djokovic will rise to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, overtaking Nadal and Roger Federer, who is considered by many to be the greatest of all time.

Yesterday’s Star – Michael Morse, 1B, Washington Nationals:  Morse is one of five candidates up for the MLB All-Star Game final vote along with Shane Victorino, Ian Kennedy, Andre Ethier, and Todd Helton.  As a D.C.-centric blog we highly recommend that you go out and vote for Morse to earn a well-deserved All Star Game selection.

Yesterday’s Fail – It was Nickelodeon Day at Nationals Park yesterday for reasons unknown, which meant some of their most popular characters were at the game.  Unfortunately somebody made the SpongeBob SquarePants costume too big and he had a lot of trouble maneuvering his way down to the field and back up.  Nationals Inquisition has pictures. 

Yesterday in Washington – The Nationals lost a rather forgettable game to the Pirates 10-2 as Jason Marquis was chased from the game before getting out of the second inning.  The Nationals fell to 2-5 under new manager Davey Johnson, no doubt leading to a few internet commenters calling for him to be fired.

Today in Washington – The Nationals break open a new series against the Chicago Cubs with an unusual Monday day game;  Jordan Zimmermann will be going for the Nats, looking to continue his 11 game streak of quality starts.  Also it will be America’s birthday, so enjoy the holiday and Go America!

The Starting Rotation – 7/2/11

Yesterday’s Big Story – The Atlanta Braves’ Jair Jurrjens no-hit the Baltimore Orioles through seven innings and finished with a one-hit shutout.  Jurrjens has arguably been baseball’s most consistently good pitcher from day one.  The 25-year old star is 11-3 with a 1.89 ERA in 15 starts.

Yesterday’s Star – Matt Stairs, 1B, Washington Nationals: Since Jurjjens already got his kudos, let’s hear it for the 43-year old Stairs, who knocked in his second RBI of the season – the 899th of his career – with a walk-off single against Pittsburgh.

Yesterday’s Fail – There were no big-time fails yesterday, so here’s a shout out to the Mexican women’s soccer team.  They were shut out 4-0 by Japan in the Women’s World Cup Group Stage.

Yesterday in Washington – Matt Stairs crushed a pinch-hit, walk-off single off the right field wall to give the Nats a 2-1 win against the Pirates.  It was the Nats’ seventh consecutive win against the Bucs.

Today in Washington – The Nats have a day-night double header against the Pirates.  John Lannan (5-5, 3.48 ERA) pitches in the 3:35 PM EST day game (which due to MLB restrictions, will not be televised) and Livan Hernandez (5-8, 3.81 ERA) toes the rubber in the nightcap.

The 5 Worst D.C. Sports Moments in the last 5 years

After struggling to find five moments worthy of being called “the best of the last five years,” it was understandably less difficult to find five that could be called the worst.  As many of my friends back in Chicago so eloquently put it: “It must suck to be a Washington sports fan.”  Well, i can honestly say that it doesn’t suck – it just tugs at your heartstrings and often makes you wonder why we are forced to go through this, year after year after year after year.

5. Redskins lose to the Eagles 59-28.  The score says it all.  The numbers speak for themselves.  All you need to do is listen to Chad Dukes’ rant on 106.7 The Fan.  Ladies and gentlemen, below is the greatest (and most deserved) sports rant in the history of Washington radio.  GET ‘EM.

4. Gilbert Arenas brings guns into the Wizards’ locker room.  This wasn’t a soul-shattering event by any means, but it was probably one of the most embarrassing.  One can only imagine would could have possibly been going through Gil’s head when he brought six unloaded guns into the team locker room, put them next to Javaris Crittenton’s (who?) locker with a note emblazoned with the insane words, “pick one.”  And then to go out in the next game and do a gun-shooting pre-game ritual?  There’s a reason why Agent Zero wore out his welcome in D.C.  Based on his performances with the Orlando Magic this season, it looks like the Hibachi needs a new tank of gas.

3. The Capitals lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7.  I was proud of the Caps.  They survived the Rangers in the first round.  They got a 2-0 lead on the Penguins.  There was the game of dueling hat tricks between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby (which I consider one of the best sporting events I have ever witnessed).  Then, it came down to Game 7.  At the Phone Booth.  Where the Caps never lost, where they always seemed to get the crowd to piggyback them and crush the opposition with talent and sheer atmosphere.  But Ovie was stopped by Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on a breakaway early in the game and the rest is history.  The Penguins grabbed a 4-0 lead before the second period was over and the Verizon Center, sitting in stunned silence, watched as their beloved Caps bowed out in the most shocking manner in a 6-2 shellacking.

2. The Redskins end the Detroit Lions’ 19-game losing streak.  I don’t care what anyone says about that Eagles game, this was the most embarrassing moment as a Redskins fan I have ever experienced.  The Lions had finished the previous season 0-16.  They had lost 19 games in a row.  And they were facing the Washington Redskins. Needless to say, I was already worried about this game.  The previous weekend, the Skins struggled to beat the flailing St. Louis Rams relying on three Sean Suisham field goals in a 9-7 win that felt like a loss.  And in the Lions game, while Jason Campbell threw for 340 yards and Santana Moss caught 10 passes for 178 yards, it was still the ultimate embarrassment to be known as The Team That Lost To The Lions.

1. The Capitals are stunned in 7 games by the Montreal Canadiens.  There are three things that I have never watched the highlights of: Carlos Rodgers dropping that interception against the Seahawks in 2005, the aforementioned Game 7 loss by the Caps to Pittsburgh, and all seven games of the series against Montreal.  To put it in perspective, here are the numbers:

  • The Caps finished the season with 54 wins, 121 points, and the No. 1 seed in the NHL.  Montreal finished with 39 wins, 88 points, and the No. 8 seed in the East.
  • The Caps scored a total of 101 (yes, 101) more goals than Montreal during the regular season.
  • Infamous Canadian television personality Don Cherry didn’t even think Montreal could win.

And what happened?  Well, we all know.  It hit me harder than most, though.  See, my dad is a die-hard Canadiens fan.  And while I was facedown on the ground, tearing up and praying it wasn’t possible, he was taunting me.  I will never forget that day.  It was one of the worst days of my life.

Welcome to ****ing Washington.

The Starting Rotation – 7/1/11

Yesterday’s Big Story – Like the NFL before it, the National Basketball Association announced yesterday that a new collective bargaining agreement could not be agreed upon before the current CBA expired, leading to a lockout.  While this lockout seems to have understandably gotten less publicity than the NFL’s version, the general consensus among basketball experts is that the NBA lockout is much worse.

Yesterday’s Star – Geovany Soto, Catcher, Chicago Cubs: Soto delivered a pinch hit, three-run walk-off homerun to cap a four-run rally and send the Cubs to a stunning 5-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants.  It was Soto’s first career walk-off hit.

Yesterday’s Fail – The Texas Rangers: Got shut out 7-0 by the 29-53 Houston Astros.  ‘Nuff said.

Yesterday in Washington – Happy Birthday LaVar Arrington!  And that was about it for yesterday.

Today in Washington – The Nats are back in town against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Fresh off a three game sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Washington turns to Tom Gorzelanny (2-6, 4,18 ERA) to stop the bleeding.

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