Distinguished Senators, the Washington Nationals Blog That Is Great

Monday, June 29, 2015

Dedication

The Nationals are sending some pretty inadequate lineups out there lately. Ian Desmond batting third; Clint Robinson batting fourth; Matt den Dekker batting.

You can't argue with the results, but we've been lucky. Don't think it's anything more than that. When they inundate you with heart-warming stories about Emmanuel Burriss playing in his hometown, that's to distract you from the fact that Emmanuel Burris is in the lineup.

The Nats have problems. They're thin right now, brittle. Sending the International League All-Stars out there can work for a while, but not forever.

And this - den Dekker, Burriss, etc. - is it. This is what we got. The cavalry ain't coming.
The Nationals’ owners, despite being among the wealthiest in the sport, are reluctant to add payroll in the middle of a season, according to major-league sources. 
Never mind that the Nats committed $210 million to right-hander Max Scherzer last offseason; ownership’s stance also is influencing the team’s current trade discussions, sources say.
That's it, then. We have what we have, because improvement would cost money, and they spent all their money on Max Scherzer.

It's presumptuous to tell another man what to do with his money. So here I presume to tell the Lerners that this is not the time to get cheap. What we have now is a team good enough to win the division because the division is easy to win.

What we want - and we all want this, right? - is a team good enough to win a World Series before it falls apart over the winter.

It's easy for me - all I have to do to show how dedicated I am to that goal is talk about it. There are some people named Lerner out there on whom it is incumbent to spend some millions of dollars to show their dedication.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Merciless

I'm relieved. Kicking the hell out of the Braves was a vital thing to do at this juncture. They were within two games, and when a lesser rival tries to impinge on your turf, you have to deal with it mercilessly.

I'm guessing Jayson Werth picked that up back in February and passed it on to the rest of the team.

Seriously, it could have been bad. What if we'd lost that series? Disaster.

There were good signs even aside from the wins. The starting pitchers, for example, broke some kind of made-up-ass record. It's not like anyone actually cares about the franchise record consecutive scoreless innings by starters, but this last turn through the rotation does show that what was supposed to be our strength might actually be as good as advertised.
  • Fister? Back!
  • Strasburg? Maybe back!
  • Scherzer? Holy crap is Scherzer great. 
  • A couple other guys? Yeah sure!
And they even scored seven runs Thursday with the B-team.

Which brings us to the gloomy part of the post. The team was as B-ish as it was because Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon are hurting.

Rendon has a "little bit of an issue with the quad that he’s been playing with," no doubt ignoring his doctor's insistence that playing with it only makes it worse. Based on his injury history, we can expect to see Rendon back in time for Thanksgiving.

Harper is dealing with a similar issue. His leg hurts. This is worrisome, because frankly his legs haven't been doing a super great job of carrying him around lately. If they can't do that, what else are they good for?

Even if this particular quadriceps problem isn't a big deal, we're all expecting Harper to hurt himself for real at some point, right? This beautiful dream has to end sometime, and I don't think we're lucky enough that it'll wait until October.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Things That Don't Matter

"Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other." - Edmund Burke
Which is to say that if you replace Jordan Zimmerman with Drew Storen in the ninth inning with a one run lead and Storen then blows the lead once, you should learn that you shouldn't replace Jordan Zimmermann with Drew Storen in the ninth inning with a one run lead a second time.

I think a chimpanzee could learn this. I'm sure Bud Black could. Davey Johnson probably knew it already.

I don't want to dwell on that right now, though. I want to complain about things that don't matter.

After four innings in Wednesday's game, the Nationals were getting carved up by Shelby Miller, while Jordan Zimmerman was somehow preventing the Braves from scoring. Bob Carpenter was treating these performances as if they were equal.

Heading into the commercial break he said (more or less; I'm going with the Thucydides method of quoting people here), "Two pitchers being very efficient in what they're doing."

At that point, Zimmermann had thrown 61 pitches, five of which were turned into hits. Miller was at 49 pitches and one hit. One of them was definitely being efficient.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining about Zimmermann's results. He was getting the job done, and he was even better from that point until some idiot took him out of the game (he got through the fifth on maybe four pitches, which prompted F.P. to start singing "Smooth Operator").

Carpenter wanted to say something good about Zimmermann, but the tiny, underused part of his brain that is aware of the other team told him that the other guy was better at what he was complimenting Zimmermann for, so he just lumped them together.

I guess what bothers me about Carpenter is that he basically doesn't acknowledge the other team - everything is chalked up to the Nats doing good or the Nats doing bad.

 Actually, a more accurate Bob Carpenter rating system would go something like:
  1. NATS ARE AMAZING
  2. Nats do GREAT
  3. Nats do good
  4. Nats do their best
  5. Nats do bad
It's not evenly distributed - if you graphed it, it was peak at 2, and you only hear 5 a couple times a week.

Even beyond the homerism, Carpenter's reluctance to admit that there is another baseball team playing the baseball game makes the broadcast boring. I mean, I know the Nats. I watch them all the time. Let's hear something about the guys who aren't on my TV every night. Stay up late and watch a Dodgers game, Carp. Vin Scully can make even a visit from the Diamondbacks interesting.

It's tough, you know? I get all excited because the Nats are coming on, and then I hear that MASN music and get triggered because that's when it hits me that I'm going to have to listen to stupid crap for three hours.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Haruspicy

That was a fun weekend. It's fun to score runs, it's fun to throw an almost-perfect game, and it's really fun to kill another team's momentum. I'm not sure I have the numbers exactly right and I don't care, but the Pirates had won eight in a row until they stumbled into town just like a sacred cow.

That happened to the Nats in Cincinnati at the end of May, and things hadn't been quite right since.

Are they quite right now? That remains to be seen. We're back in first place, but that has as much to do with the cruddiness of our rivals as our own quality. Between them, the Nats and the Mets have let Atlanta get to within two games of first place.

All the Braves have done to deserve that is not implode like the rest of the division. They haven't had their second baseman standing in the middle of the diamond yelling at their befuddled coaching staff, and they haven't hired some random hillbilly to be their manager. That's good enough for almost first place in the National League East.

So, you know, we'll have to see. I know that's not a satisfying answer, but I have the luxury of giving unsatisfactory answers since I don't do this for a living. I had the radio on yesterday, and someone was asking Mark Zuckerman if the Pirates series was a turning point, like the big comeback against the Braves.

The obvious quibble there is that if the Braves comeback were a turning point, we wouldn't be asking if this is another one. Did all that momentum or whatever only last a month? And now, like, the Nats beat up on the Pirates so bad that it refilled their spirit meter, so they're good until August?

But Zuckerman had to pretend there was something to that idea, because that's his job. You have to imagine that the ups and downs of a baseball season are telling a story, and that the last chapter can help you predict what's going to happen next.

That's not how it works in real life - Chekhov's gun probably isn't going to go off. If you're trying to figure out what's going to happen tomorrow based on what happened yesterday, you might as well open up a sheep and see what it looks like in there.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Items

The Nationals aren't very good. Maybe you noticed! They keep losing baseball games. I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming they know they shouldn't do that.

Recent developments may offer us a way out.

Item: The Nats have talked to the Cincinnati Reds about Aroldis Chapman. They won't get him, but wouldn't that be great? Chapman throws harder than two Livans put together, and that's part of the reason that getting him won't be inexpensive.

Even though this probably isn't going to happen, it is a sign that Nats management realizes that this is the time to go all in and make sure they win the division. The bullpen could definitely use shoring up, although my priority would be left field. Chapman, though, is good enough that you don't really worry about that. Get him.

Item: The Padres just fired manager Bud Black. I don't stay up late enough to watch a lot of Padres games. Actually, what makes me think I'd watch Padres games if I were up at three in the morning? I need to stop making excuses for why I don't watch Padres games. Gotta be true to myself. About Padres games.

Anyway, I can't speak from personal observation, but Bud Black seems to be a well-regarded manager, even though that can't possibly be his real name. He must have gotten started in a punk band, right? The point is that he's available, and he's apparently pretty good.

Which works out great, because my list of areas where the Nats need improvement goes like this:
  1. Left field
  2. Bullpen
  3. Whatever it is Bud Black does

Friday, June 05, 2015

Stand by for News

Anthony Rendon's back! That's great. Rendon is my favorite Nat for two reasons:
  1. He came up through the system. I saw him in a game with Harrisburg. He didn't do anything, but he was there. Well all like dudes our team drafted more, right?
  2. It was a mere nine years ago that I told Nats fans that we were going to love Matt LeCroy because of his miles of smiles. The first thing I noticed when Rendon came up was how cheerful he seemed. He was always smiling, and his body language seemed to say "Yay I'm in the majors!" It was really endearing.
And then he turned out to be the best player on the team last year, so it all worked out pretty nicely.

Now he's back, and they decided that he's a second baseman again. According to the dude on the MASN broadcast that they got to replace Debbie Taylor, the Nats' reasoning here is that they want to keep Yunel Escobar in the lineup, but they don't want him to switch positions because it might make him uncomfortable.

Who cares if Yunel Escobar is uncomfortable? Sure, he's been a pleasant surprise. He's jacking all kinds of singles and probably scoring on a lot of Bryce Harper homers, but you don't move Rendon out of his natural position for a guy like Escobar.

It only lasted an inning before Escobar came out of the game and Rendon was playing third anyway, but still. I don't like the thinking there.

By the way, when I saw Rendon with Harrisburg, his manager was . . . Matt LeCroy.

And now you know the rest of the story. Good day.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Infested with Lice

So the Nats are lousy now. I was there on Tuesday night, when Tyler Moore hit cleanup. I'm glad I didn't pay for those tickets, because paying money for a professional baseball game and finding out Tyler Moore is hitting cleanup is like . . . well, it sucks.

I did pay like fourteen bucks for a sandwich, but it was really good. Plus I got a "commemorative coin," which is going to sit at the bottom of my junk drawer until the next time I need a little tiny screwdriver to adjust my glasses, at which point it will commemorate the time I got to watch Tyler Moore hit cleanup.

I noticed that when Casey Janssen came in to serve up some meatballs, the Blue Jays fans gave him a standing ovation. It's nice that someone loves him, because as far as I'm concerned he can just get the hell right out of here and never throw another pitch while wearing a hat with a W on it.

Stephen Strasburg has a strained "trapezius," which is just damn good writing. Seriously, a couple posts ago I was trying to think of a joke about the Nats inventing a body part to pretend that Strasburg injured just so they could make it so he doesn't pitch anymore. I couldn't come up with anything, so I gave up.

But the Nats invented the "trapezius." Isn't that great? I guess whoever came up with it was at the circus or something. That's hilarious. "Ow, my trapezius!"

The important thing is that he's out of the way, and now Taylor Jordan can take his place and . . . oh hell. I briefly forgot that the Nats are lousy now.