Talking Points: Different Weekend, Same Story

Atlanta

Look gang, this week’s talking points…I”m not in a super chipper mood. I know normally I’ve taken on the tone of “hey it’ll all be okay” but I’ve got to admit, this has got me spooked. As such the talking points I’m giving you this week may be a bit more dour than you are used to.

It’s not that they got swept by the Braves, it’s that they got themselves hurt doing it.

  • It’s true. Friday I was engaged in several twitter chains talking about the relative “worth” of a game against the Braves. In my mind, the games are not much more important than against any other NL East team. So with only 6 games done, and 13 to go I wouldn’t say I’m happy about the Nats being 1-5 against the Braves, but I’m not ready to panic yet.
  • Although, I guess while we are on the topic the only reason I have to not panic is the larger, grander scheme of baseball. Things tend to even out, and good teams tend to go in peaks and valleys. So I’m really just sort of betting black here because it keeps coming up red and it just has to come up black sooner or later, right? right? (Translation: The Nats have certainly given me very little reason to believe they can beat Atlanta…but I felt that way about the Nats/Phillies series for years, so it could happen!)
  • No, the real problem is that the Nats added to their walking (or not walking) wounded. Doug Fister has yet to make a start, Scott Hairston pulled a lat and Wilson Ramos is also out a month before the series started.
  • By the start of the game on Sunday Denard Span was put on the 7 day DL as an overly cautious move to protect against concussion, Jayson Werth (who is still playing) pulled his groin, and Ryan Zimmerman broke his thumb getting tagged out on a slide back to second base.
  • The only way I saw the Nats losing was through extensive injury. Go ahead, look through our 2014 player previews. This is how it starts.

There is no good time to miss players, but April is better than September for sure.  Plus, the Nats are in much better shape than last year to deal with injuries.

  • As Citizens of Natstown tweeted above, and most reasonable baseball people agree, the Nats bench this year is much better suited to deal with a month long injuries.
  • The infield depth is much better than the outfield depth, so having to shift guys around there is a little easier. Nate McLouth profiles very well to replace Denard Span in CF (particularly given Denard’s slowish start…again) for the short term.  
  • And yeah, all the games count equally, so missing Zim, Ramos, Span, Fister, etc. is never a good thing. But if you could choose to to get them back in a month and still have most of the season to go, or lose them to injury near the end of the year during a playoff push…well I’ll take this version. The 2012 Nats were successful in large part because they managed to tread water for about 2-3 months while starters recovered from injury. The post-all-star-break Nats were in good shape down the stretch because the team got more talented without having to trade for it.
  • Unfortunately, my mindset is changed. I don’t expect the Nats to go out there and own it for the next month (though I’m happy to be surprised). I’m now in full “tread water” mode. I expect they’ll be keeping pace, rather than setting it, and hopefully pouring it on starting in June or so.
  • Yeah I don’t know what Mike Rizzo is thinking here. I mean you’re the GM, you have to stick up for your guys…but maybe not say it like that.
  • Not that I think the Braves are scouring for bulletin board martial, nor do I believe that is really a “thing,” but I think you can say “we have full confidence in our team” and “We know we can win these games.” Without having to posit you are both “not scared” and are better than the team that has handed your team’s ass to it over the last going on two years.

Nationals101 has it all wrong. James O’Hara was the only voice of reason all weekend during that series. 

  • James is another wonderful writer over at CitsofNatstown. He wrote this on Saturday and you should read it. here are his tweets from when I was indulging in full on panic mode:

  • All of these things are completely true and ought to give Nats fans smarting from an ass-kicking in Atlanta. Take solace in the young man’s wisdom, and follow him on twitter.

Talking Points #5: #Wedgegate, Four Outta Six and Improved Depth.

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Don’t like baseball? Don’t feel like you know very much about it? Don’t think that should stop you from sounding like you do? Nats101 presents Talking Points, a weekly series designed to take advantage of the BSing nature of Washington D.C., and make you sound like a seamhead on your very first try. (And maybe learn ya some baseball while we’re at it).

Look – I hated that call, but Justin Upton wasn’t being lazy, he was playing a gamble that paid off. If you want to be mad at anyone, be mad at the Umpires. 

  • Hopefully you made it to Opening Day and had some fun despite the 2-1 loss to the Braves. The play of the day was Ian Desmond’s inside the park home run turned ground rule double that had to do with the picture above. It drew great ire from the home crowd, as it should have. Still why just sound like everyone else?
  • Federal Baseball did a great write-up of what happened and how the rule 7.05(f) affected the play. Credit where credit is due, you should read their article.
  • Upton, as an MLB outfielder, knows that if a ball is “lodged” he can raise his hands and the play is dead. He had nothing to lose as Desmond is a fast runner and this hit was at least a triple. If he indicates he can’t get the ball he’s going to put it into the mind of the umpires that the play should be ended. It paid off
  • The problem, of course, is that the ball was easily picked up and tossed in after Upton indicated the ball was lodged. In the picture above you can see is not lodged under the padding. it must have rolled forward enough that it wasn’t “under” the padding.
  • As such, in your talking points, you can take pains to say that Justin Upton made a smart, if dirty, play. The history of baseball is built upon plays like that. Save your ire for the umpires who didn’t make a quick call on the field nor got it right in review.

Forget how they got there, if I told you on March 30 the Nats would be 4-2 after 6 games you’d be pretty happy about it. 

  • The common wisdom in baseball is to “win the series at home and split on the road.” Given the usual three game structure of a series, winning 2 and losing one at home is okay. If you have two road series (6 games) winning 3 of those 6 is really good.
  • Expectations can get a little pumped up after a 3 games sweep of the lowly Mets. It’s also pretty easy to get deflated after the Nats drop two out of three to the not so lowly Atlanta Braves at home.
  • But that’s baseball. It doesn’t come in actual neat little 3 game packages. Yes, 3-0 is great opportunity to shoot for 5-1 with a home series, but if you fall short that’s what the extra win in New York gets you. Winning two-thirds of your games will get you 108 games. (That’s a ton of wins).
  • The Nats will play 15 more games against the Braves and Mets each. They won’t lose each series to the Braves, and I’d be surprised if they won each series against the Mets. Going 12-6 against either team ought to be considered the outer limits of “great job.” Anything less than that can still be really good, including 10-8 or even 9-9 against the Braves.

The Nationals need some of the guys to come back healthy, but at least they are in a much better position than last year to absorb some of the injuries. 

  • Sunday featured the sixth different line-up in six games for the Washington Nationals. While some of that is juggling by Matt Williams, a chunk of that is injury. The big blow was to Wilson Ramos in game one who’ll be out 5 weeks. After that though, the Nats have had a series of smaller injuries take their toll.
  • Ryan Zimmerman has a sore shoulder (though no structural damage). Scott Hairston hurt himself in batting practice and is on the 15-day DL. Oh and Doug Fister, of course, hasn’t started the season yet.
  • The good news is flash forward to Sunday: On top of no Hairston, Ramos and  Zimmerman, the Nats gave Denard Span and Bryce Harper the day off. Instead of Kurt Suzuki, Chad Tracey, Roger Bernadina, Steve Lombardozzi and… gosh…I don’t even know, Tyler Moore?, the Nats have a solidly deep bench that didn’t really flinch on Sunday. Sure, Danny Espinosa, Jose Lobaton, Nate McLouth, Kevin Frandsen and… well….okay, still Tyler Moore is a serious step up.
  • Sunday’s lineup isn’t built to win a lot of games, but they are built to be competent in games occasionally (and even more effective when all five of them are not in at once). With the news that some of these injuries are already looking better (and that some guys were just pulled for rest), the Nats ought to be in a much better position to weather short term injury bugs.
  • Particularly if Zim misses a few days. His bat is a big loss, but the flexibility to move Rendon to third and put Espinosa at second is a huge help…as long as that stays short term for now.

 Did you read David Huzzard’s piece on MASN? I mean, I usually read him on Citizens of Natstown too, but his post on the myth of the 25 man roster was very insightful. 

  • Dave Huzzard is a smart damned baseball dude. The only thing new followers need to be aware of is that sometimes he’s sarcastic with no remorse…as in he won’t clue you in that he’s being sarcastic, he’ll just let you hang there. (I can almost see his “I am never sarcastic” tweet right now).
  • He writes for the Citizens of Natstown blog, a network that we are happy to say we got our start under three years ago. He’s such a good blogger though that he also writes for MASN-the official TV Network for the Washington Nationals.
  • He wrote a very clever piece outlining the myth that who makes the 25 man roster out of spring training is particularly important in the long run of a full season. You should read the article, and you should follow Dave if you’re not already.

Talking Points #4: ZOMG it’s Opening F!!$*&^$ Day! (With GIFs)

Don’t like baseball? Don’t feel like you know very much about it? Don’t think that should stop you from sounding like you do? Nats101 presents Talking Points, a weekly series designed to take advantage of the BSing nature of Washington D.C., and make you sound like a seamhead on your very first try. (And maybe learn ya some baseball while we’re at it).

ZOMG it’s Opening F#($*#$ Day!

  • Okay, depending on where you are and who you are with, you may want to temper the language a bit. The point is, this is it: The day every baseball fanatic has been waiting for since the end of last October. (Hence my happy GIFs and Videos in the post today).
  • Your Washington Nationals open the season today, Monday, in the fair city of New York. They will play their National League East rivals the New York Mets. Their first home game is Friday, against their other National League East rivals (and much better competition) the Atlanta Braves.
  • The Mets are likely not to be very good. However, when you play 162 games in a year, and 18 against the Mets, the bad teams are going to win a few. The goal for the Nationals is to win 2 of the 3 games they plain in New York before they come back to DC. Winning all 3 would just be gravy.
  • Try and put the radio (or TV if you can) on at work, 1 p.m., and listen to the game. Here are your TV and Radio listings.
  • If you’re going Friday, great! Be sure and let everyone know that while you’re disappointed that Doug Fister’s health is stopping him from getting the start, you’re excited for Tanner Roark (Row-ark) to make a start.
  • If you’re not going Friday, that stinks. Clearly it is because you can’t get off of work and you’re so jealous of the people who are going.
  • There are more GIFs and videos and things below the line. Click it!

Continue reading

Talking Points #2: Starting to Come Together

Let’s face it. You don’t really like baseball (yet). Or maybe you do like baseball, but you don’t feel like you know very much about it (yet). The point is you find yourself out of your depth when the conversation turns to the Nats and you wish you could just throw out a few bon mots to sound like you know what you’re doing. 

Nats101 presents Talking Points, a weekly series designed to take advantage of the BSing nature of Washington D.C., and make you sound like a seamhead on your very first try. Whether you’re a casual fan or just having a casual encounter with the sport, give the following sound bites a try. 

“Nice to see Zimmerman working over at first finally. Lots of people think playing first is easy, but it does take some getting used to. The sooner he can fit in over there, the better.”

  • Nothing too crazy here, this is just nice little bit of banter to show you were paying attention this week. (To be honest, a lot of baseball regulars tune out a bit here as it’s caught between the excitement of Spring Training starting and the excitement of Opening Day. When a team like the Nats has most of the roster already figured out…well…things can dragggg even for some very passionate fans).  Continue reading

Talking Points #1: How to Fake Nats Talk With Most Anyone

Let’s face it. You don’t really like baseball (yet). Or maybe you do like baseball, but you don’t feel like you know very much about it (yet). The point is you find yourself out of your depth when the conversation turns to the Nats and you wish you could just throw out a few things and sound like you know wassup

Whether you want to fake it til you make it, or just fake it, we got you covered. Nats101 presents Talking Points, a weekly series designed to take advantage of the BSing nature of Washington D.C., and make you sound like a seamhead on your very first try. Whether you’re a casual fan or just having a casual encounter with the sport, give the following sound bites a try. 

“I know its only Spring Training, but I really like what I see out of Danny Espinosa. I don’t know if he’ll start this year, but he’ll make the team for sure.” 

  • This is a great little tid-bit. First of all it makes clear you are aware that Spring Training is going on, and that it has something to do with players earning their spot on the team.
  • Second-it’s a bit of a controversial position, but a realistic one. Espinosa showed promise a few years ago absolutely stunk the joint out last year. He hasn’t got a ton of hits in Espinosa, but his mechanics (how he swings the bat) does look better.
  •  Whoever you say this to will probably go on and on about how terrible he was last year, and all the strikeouts, etc. When they do blow off their points and remind them he was injured (wrist and shoulder), he is an elite defender, and if he can “find his power stroke” again, he’ll be a fine “bat of the bench.”
  • If folks mention Anthony Rendon, the guy who will likely start at second base instead of Danny Espinosa, you’re allowed to like him. He’s a good player and a young kid and probably deserves to start-but that doesn’t devalue what Espinosa might mean for the team over the course of the season.

“You know, I was skeptical of the Matt Williams hire at first, but I really like how aggressively he’s managing the team. This could be just what the guys needed after ‘Club Davey.'” 

  • Ah yes, you clever baseball fan. You’re totally smart enough to know that the Nats needed a little discipline after last year when manager Davey Johnson retired in his mind about 6 weeks before the end of the season. A senior citizen with senior-itis shouldn’t be managing a baseball team.
  • This bald guy, Matt Williams, from Arizona? He’s eager to prove he’s got what it takes in his first year managing the team. Players are stealing bases left and right*, and that’s all part of the new aggressive Nats. (*well actually they only steal bases in one direction, counter-clockwise, but yeah).
  • Most folks will agree with you on this one, so for a little added trivia throw out there that Washington won its only World Series title under another first year manager, Bucky Harris-who was still playing on the field at the time too!

“Man, I’m glad it looks like Doug Fister will be okay. A little inflammation in his elbow should be no big deal. What a great trade for him, right?” 

  • WARNING: This is a bit of a test question for the person you are talking to. You may get a very heated response, so be careful.
  • Folks who like the trade for pitcher Doug Fister are likely to be worried that the inflammation will get worse, or something is wrong. This is because they know the trade to get him was unbelievably one sided (in favor of the Nationals) and assume something must go wrong.
  • The rest of the people believe the Nationals are complete idiots because they gave up Steve Lombardozzi, patron saint of “little engines that could,” for this guy from Detroit they never heard of. To put it nicely, these people…think with their hearts. I’ve written about the psychology of loving Lombo repeatedly, I won’t rehash it now.
  • The truth is Steve Lombardozzi was one of three players sent to Detroit for Fister, and he was kind of the “add on” to the deal.
  • You don’t want to get to argue with these people about the merits of Lombo because they believe he is the second coming of Ty Cobb. Their position is roughly “I really love my 1999 4-door sedan with the oil leak and 200k miles that doesn’t get warm in the winter. I would never sell it for $250k.”
  • While, yes, we all DO love our beat-up little cars, not one of us would pass on a quarter million dollars for it. (Doug Fister is the quarter million dollars in this scenario).
  • Again, don’t engage these people on this topic and say something about how its a shame and move on.

“So, do you guys read Nats101.com? It’s such a good blog!

Look, I’ll give you other Twitteratti and great Nats blogs names to throw out there over the coming weeks, but right now I’mma get a bit shameless here. Follow the blog by clicking the follow button or entering your email address at the top right of the page. Follow us also on Twitter (@Nationals101) and Facebook (facebook.com/Nationals101). And then tell everyone that’s what you do and they should do it too cuz the site rocks.