Distinguished Senators, the Washington Nationals Blog That Is Great

Monday, May 16, 2016

Are You Not Entertained?

Man, how about that Rangers/Blue Jays fight, huh? My favorite part was when Rougned Odor punched Jose Batista right in his damn face.
Moments before this picture was taken, those glasses and that helmet were actually on that guy's head.
Is that bad? Should I not have enjoyed that? Here's a Craig Calcaterra piece that suggests that I shouldn't have without managing to say much of anything.
These takes [takes expressing the idea that the fight was rad] have one thing in common: for them to make coherent sense, players have to play roles to satisfy an audience rather than be actual human beings with feelings.
Here I run into a problem with empathy. Unless it's sympathy - I've never been able to keep those straight. I'm aware that baseball players are human beings who hurt when Rougned Odor punches them in the jaw, but can I actually care?

There are over 7 billion people in the world. How upset can you get about how many of them getting punched before that's the only thing you have time for?

Speaking only of baseball, I can barely bring myself to care about the 26 guys I'm supposed to (that's the Nats active roster plus Dusty Baker and Matt LeCroy minus Jayson Werth). Maybe it's just that my brain isn't big enough to maintain that kind of Monkeysphere, but Jose Batista's feelings aren't important enough to me that I'm not going to enjoy a fight in which he gets turned into a bobblehead doll by a tiny violent lunatic infielder.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Word

Having Alonzo Mourning as the best player on your team was less than ideal for a couple of reasons. The obvious one is that while Mourning was very good, he wasn't that good. He wasn't Hakeem Olajuwon.

The other problem is that Mourning allowed himself mentally to be taken out of games. All Dennis Rodman had to do was some light needling followed by a discreet elbow, and Mourning would go off like Krakatoa (too soon?) and have to go sit down for a while.
I guess a 6'8" dude with parti-colored hair and a lip ring doesn't qualify as a secret weapon, but Rodman brought more than rebounds to the table. He had less tangible skills.

I thought Bryce Harper was past the Alonzo Mourning phase of his career, but these umpires keep getting under his skin.

On Monday, Harper was pretty upset about the strike zone, and he antagonized the umpire to the point that he got ejected while in the dugout with his back turned.

It turned out to be a very brief 86, as moments later Clint Robinson hit a walk-off home run. Harper took time out from celebrating Robinson's triumph to look at the umpire and yell something at him. That something, I regret to inform you, included what is euphemistically referred to as "the Fuck Word." Followed by "you."

It was pretty churlish, and now he's facing a mild suspension. That is not, in my opinion, OK.

Harper is our best player. He is THE best player, and he needs to keep himself on the field. There are two major threats to his participation:
  1. Running into walls like a dumbass
  2. Getting himself thrown out like a dumbass
He managed to tame the first one - he hasn't injured himself through excessive effort in ages. I figured he was beyond the other one as well. Remember last May? He flipped the hell out, got tossed, and let Michael A. Taylor hit the Professor Bacon Bacon Blast of the Week. Shortly afterwards, he got ejected for basically nothing, which should have taught him that picking fights with umpires is no way to win anything.

Look, we all want to yell at umpires. They have undeserved power over things we care about, and they seldom seem worthy of it. But you won't win. I mean, Major League Baseball can win against umpires, but Bryce Harper won't. Soothing your own savage breast by yelling at them is short-sighted and ill-advised. Harper just failed the marshmallow test.

It's best to treat the officials like any other part of the game that's beyond anyone's control, like the weather. You can yell the Fuck Word at the weather, but that's not going to get the wind behind your fly balls.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Stephen Strasburg's going to be sticking around for a while, and what a pleasant surprise that is.

I figured the combination of Scott Boras' advice and the Nationals' organizational whateverness when it came to Strasburg meant he was bound to go the way of the Zimmermann, but maybe the organization wasn't as whatevery as I thought.

I was influenced by the fact that the fans all seem to hate him. I get it, I guess. He's never been as good as we all hoped, and I suppose he comes off kind wienerish. But it's nice that the team is run by people smarter than those cheering for it.

It's more puzzling from the Strasburg/Boras end. Boras is infamous for making sure his clients see free agency. Why does he do this? As bank robber Willie Sutton allegedly but probably didn't say when asked why he robbed banks, "That's where the money is."

What changed this time? For the answer to this question, we go to another fake quotation: I assume that at some point in the 1970s Tommy John said, "My arm hurts." Then he had his eponymous surgery, which we've learned can extend the careers but dampen the earning potential of major league pitchers.

That's my guess. You can feel free to chalk it up to Strasburg's fondness for the organization or the area or even you personally, but I'm going with the idea that unconventional placement of his ligaments makes him less inclined to gamble on free agency. All that deferred money that wasn't good enough for Jason Heyward or Yoenis Cespedes looks greener when you've got a time bomb in your arm.

I'm a fan of the extension (it ain't my money), and I especially like how it widens the Nats competitive window. When Max Scherzer signed on, I figured we had two years, and I based that on the assumption that Strasburg wasn't sticking around any longer than he had to. You can see why I was so upset when Year One was ruined by the Three Stooges.

I'm still upset by that, but now we have extra years. Stephen Strasburg is going to be our #2 starter for at least three more years, and all our foes envy our good fortune.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Karate Foreshadowing

The Nationals have been doing some excellent foreshadowing.

First, they underlined the fact that they are definitely going to win the division by going to Missouri and kicking ass across its entire expanse.

Then they ran into the Cubs, who it turns out are going to be this season's final boss.

It's just like in Karate Kid when Karate Kid meets the guy from those Buffalo Wild Wings commercials, and you're all like, "Ooh I bet Karate Kid is going to have to beat that guy in the big karate tournament after suffering some setbacks but prevailing because he believes in himself."

That's what happened to the Nats this weekend - they're just setting the groundwork for their triumphant comeback in the NLCS. After the Cubs walk Bryce Harper for the 42nd consecutive time, Ryan Zimmerman will step up to the plate hoping to improve his 1-42 record in at bats after the Cubs intentionally walk Harper.

And he'll do it, even though he can't really play anymore and Joe Maddon had Tommy La Stella or somebody intentionally injure his knee. You're the best! Around! Etc.

But we do need to talk about the batting order. Harper got the full on Barry Bonds treatment on Sunday - the Cubs walked him six times and hit him once. He didn't swing at a pitch.

The Cubs were comfortable doing this both because Zimmerman can't hit and because Joe Maddon doesn't give a damn about anybody's feelings.

I mean, that had to have been deeply humiliating for Zimmerman. I feel bad, and it's not because my favorite baseball team lost. I think there are managers out there who wouldn't have challenged Zimmerman like that just to spare his feelings.

But Joe Maddon is the Sensei John Kreese of baseball, so he did it and it worked.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon (left) instructs his pitching staff
And while I care about Ryan Zimmerman's feelings (seriously, I do - it's not like he's Jayson Werth), he's going to need to suck it up and get used to batting a little lower in the order. Batting Harper and Daniel Murphy back to back is the only thing that makes sense.