Great game tonight to close out the White Sox series. A few observations from the game: Beyond getting on base three times, which was great, Denard Span seemed to be in the perfect position every time a ball was hit his way. And the wind was tricky tonight. That same wind also kept 2 White Sox balls in the ballpark, which was nice. But it got even with us, by keeping 2 potential homers in the park from, of all people, Steve Lombardozzi.
Interesting interleague observation: did Robin Ventura forget that he could pull a double switch mid-inning? It’s understandable since these games are pretty rare for him, but it forced him to have to bat a pitcher at leadoff after he came in to get just one out the prior half inning.
Another random observation: it didn’t matter in the end, but because of a lazy tag by Chicago , it looked like Werth was actually safe at third on Harper’s final hit. Now it’s on to what should be a great series with the Braves.
Great first two games for the Nats so far. Let’s see if JZimm can keep pace with the rest of the staff and put goose eggs up there today.
Last night felt like a football game. I actually think I was colder last night than I was at any football game this past season. By the way, black mark for ownership on another promotion. They can never seem to get those right. If you are having dollar dog night, you should 1) start cooking them before the crowd arrives, 2) cook more than you usually do and 3) have additional staff since there will be a lot more business at those stands. If you don’t do that, it’s yet another addition to the long list of bait and switch moves by team ownership. Wouldn’t you rather have your fans in their seats rooting for their team instead of waiting on line in the concourse for 3 innings for a hot dog? If you did, last night’s situation wouldn’t have happened. But you want to give the appearance of a good promotion, without having to live up to the deal. I took a look at the lines and bought nachos instead. But really, if you’re going to do a promotion, do it right.
Joining Harper on the 2 homer game list already this season: Michael Morse. Yep.
Finally, it’s good to see that we re-signed Chris Young today. Nice to have someone like him stashed in the minors in case we need him.
The Nationals finish up their spring slate in Florida today vs the Mets, and return home to face the Yankees in their final exhibition game tomorrow at Nationals Park. It was great to see Zimmerman dial it in with 3 homers yesterday, and Ramos with 2. There is no need to talk in detail about Harper, as his stats this spring speak for themselves. A lot of the regulars have had solid springs. Some of the pitching has been rocky, but that’s not out of the ordinary for spring training. I won’t even freak out about the first start of the regular season for each if they are still settling in. But after that, I expect them to be true to form. Let’s hope Haren and our bullpen get it together pretty quickly.
I do think, or at least strongly hope, that we add a decent left-hander to the bullpen fairly early in the season. Maybe we can pick up someone that gets released during final cuts, and stash them at AAA until they are needed. No matter how good the big three are at the back of our bullpen, you can’t change the fact that they are all right-handed. We need a decent situational lefty. He doesn’t have to be an all-star. But we need one. And if Zach Duke (who has had a shaky spring) is supposed to double as our long man out of the bullpen, we can’t expect him to be the LOOGy all the time as well. We need another one, and he should not be that hard to find. I don’t think at this point that Romero will be the answer.
One final note: Michael Morse led MLB this spring with 8 homers, and is hitting .365. Go Mike. You deserve it, and I really do think at some point this season we’ll be sorry that we let you go. I hope I’m wrong and that we stay healthy, but either way, impressive start to the year for him.
My last comment on Adam LaRoche for a while. Promise. I’ve come to the conclusion that I almost hope he goes elsewhere, such as the Rangers or Orioles. Why? Because 1) he’s not worth that third year and 2) we will get a first round sandwich pick from whichever team signs him. I know we’ve only been to the playoffs once in this reincarnation of a baseball team in Washington, but we do need to think long-term if we’re going to keep this success going. Let Morse and Tyler Moore play. There is a lot of pop in those 2 bats. Not as much glove, but definitely more pop. And younger pop.
That comment brings me to this: For the second time in the past few weeks, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post has penciled in Bryce Harper as the cleanup hitter for the Nats next season. I will eat crow if he is correct, but I do not think the Nats will put that kind of pressure on a 20-year old guy who has less than 1 full season on his resume. You can pencil in Morse (or LaRoche) as your cleanup hitter next season. Write that one down.
And that point leads me to one more thought. The Nats made a good move in acquiring Span to bat leadoff. But compare his last season to Harper’s first season. In 139 games, Harper put up a .270 average, 9 triples, 18 stolen bases, 56 walks, and a .340 OBP. In 128 games, Span had .283 average, 4 triples, 17 stolen bases, 47 walks, and a .342 OBP. Harper had significantly more strikeouts, but made up for it in HRs and OPS. Just think of what he’ll do with some more seasoning and better pitch selection. It’s scary. He could bat anywhere in the lineup, but my guess is it will be 2nd or 5th, not 4th.
Sunday’s game was an interesting September game for a couple of reasons. The Nationals, particularly Davey Johnson, have said that they plan to play a lot of the younger guys and September callups as the season winds down so that they can have a better idea of who might help them in the bigs next season. Fair enough. People acknowledge that this might have an effect on wins and losses. But others argue that you need to keep one eye on each objective, so you can finish strong and show potential free agents that this team is indeed on the rise so that they might sign here (and not have to be wildly overpaid to do so).
Back to Sunday. When Wang gave up the 2 run homer to make it 4-3, a lot of folks groaned that Davey left him in one pitch too long. But hey, he wanted to see Wang pitch under pressure, and see how his shoulder would hold up going deep into a game. Fair enough. When he took Wang out, he was forced to make a double switch because the pitcher’s spot in the order was due up the next inning. so Jonny Gomes came out and Ankiel trotted out to right field. I wouldn’t have thought much of it until Bernadina subsequently replaced Morse as a defensive substitute.
If you’re protecting a one run lead and have no problem taking out your best power hitter for a defensive replacement late in the game, the manager is asserting himself and putting a defensively superior outfielder out there to try and help secure the win. So then why did Ankiel and Werth not switch positions? For the majority of the game, sure, play Werth in center because you want to find out if he can play there in a potential outfield of Morse, Werth and Harper. But late in the game, if you’re taking your big bat out of the lineup and putting egos aside, why can’t you do that to Werth? The Nats aren’t the Yankees; they don’t have players that are “protected” from that kind of stuff. Everyone knows that Ankiel is a superior CF to Werth, and I don’t even recall Ankiel playing in right field previously this season. Werth played right field for most of the season. If you are intent on winning the game, you make that switch. No brainer. The cherry on top is the number of incredible plays that Ankiel has made out there in just the past 2 weeks. But nope. Werth is now protected because of his $126 million dollar contract, and not even Davey Johnson had the guts to make that move. If he’s around and making clouded decisions like that next year, it will be a real disappointment.
It’s been a while, and no better place to get back in than to address the minor controversy swirling about Bryce Harper blowing a kiss at a pitcher after hitting a long bomb off of him. I got a little fed up with all of the armchair analysts out there knocking him, without taking this entire episode in the proper context. Boswell is the only one so far who has at least connected the dots (unless you count Cowherd, who himself garnered some ‘publicity’ with his assessment of the situation).
Did Harper step outside of normal MLB-bounds by his maneuver? Sure. But he’s not in the majors yet. He will quickly figure out that you cannot get away with that because you’ll alienate fans and also get fastballs aimed at your chin. But in this instance, most people are uninformed about the fact that a day earlier, he had been drilled in the knee by the same team, which could have led to a significant injury. Then the following day, the day of the incident, he was brushed back from the plate during an earlier at-bat. For the chain of events that happened next, you’d have to spread some blame around. Harper hits a long homer off the pitcher, and admires it a little long before beginning his home run trot. The admiration was rubbing it in after Greensboro had provoked him with a beanball and a brushback. But instead of being even, the pitcher then jawed at him all the way around the bases. So upon rounding third, Harper blew the guy a kiss. Harper is not the only one to blame here. Although he could have taken the high road here, he did not and that’s ok. It should not make him a pariah. Cut him some slack. If he doesn’t learn over time, then people can get after him about his antics.