I don’t like Jonathan Papelbon (and I don’t have to)

Let’s get this straight:


I don’t like Jonathan Papelbon. I don’t know the man, i don’t pretend to know the man, I wouldn’t presume to know if he is a good or bad person. I do know how I feel about him though, and I don’t like him. I’m not impressed with his crotch grab, I don’t think much of a guy who has two entrance songs for closing, and while I can understand a guy wanting to protect his payday, I’m not a huge fan of a guy who insists on being the star of the bullpen wherever he goes.

I don’t think this is an “out of context” situation. My gut tells me this is who Papelbon is. I don’t think this is a Yunel Escobar situation, where we can all hope (and that hope has been validated so far this year) that his transgressions of youth were just that. I think there is a very good chance that “Pap” (ugh, do I have to get used to writing that?) is a jerk.

At tension with this my dislike is that, well, he’s a good pitcher, and there is a good chance he’s made the bullpen better.

That doesn’t mean you have to like it, or I like it, or I’m going to try and convince you to like it. Baseball, at its core, is there to entertain you. It’s why the guys play, it’s why you watch. We can all be a baseball poet about it, but baseball is here to kill 3 hours of your day and give you something to talk about at the water cooler. You’re supposed to be enjoying yourself, and if you’re not you’re probably doing something wrong.

Adding a guy like this to the team sours it for me because I don’t like jerks. I like to think we can populate a sport with guys who aren’t jerks and we’d still enjoy it. Fantasy, I know. That doesn’t mean the feeling won’t change, or subside, or go away entirely once he starts pitching. I don’t know the answer to how I really feel, or how you should feel. I don’t have to have a hot take on how great/devastating this is for the team. I wouldn’t dare to pretend to know how this would affect the clubhouse (and i think any speculation one way or the other is dangerous, stupid and wrong).

I have some thoughts that I have organized though.


We’ve Done This Before….This Spring

There is a certain song and dance we all do when a new player comes to town. It’s a mix of hurt feelings (cuz it means our guys aren’t good enough), not really knowing a lot about the player coming in (Projection! Xenophobia! Tribalism!), and having a fixed idea as to what the team needs and doesn’t need (Cuz even folks who rip armchair managers are armchair managers).

We do these things because we all are pretty stupid, self included, and our caveman brains divide things up into very simple to understand directives that we apply to everything. But that’s another post for another day.

In the Spring, the Nats didn’t need a starting pitcher at all, but adding Max Scherzer happened and its been probably the most enjoyable thing about the Nats this year (this side of Bryce Harper, anyway). You can pretend it didn’t happen, but there was a litany of “Overpaid/We don’t need him/Rizzo is an Idiot/and What an Insult To Jordan or Straburg who deserve to be the ace” comments and thoughts and tweets from many, many people.

That’s all largely gone away. It really helps that Max Scherzer seems to be a billion times cooler and nicer than Papelbon, but I think there is evidence that stacking better players on top rather than looking for players to support the players we have is an approach we’ve seen before, and one that is working right now. (tho I do think its fair to ask if Papelbon is actually that much better of a closer than Storen.)

For a Trade, It was a Good Trade


I think its pretty clear that Papelbon wasn’t the Nats first choice.

This is a list of Relief Pitchers, by WAR, since 2011. You can hate WAR all you want, but its the metric I’m using to get a grip on the situation. The top two relievers are Kimbrel (12.1) and Chapman (10). Papelbon is 6th (8.0) Tyler Clippard is 17th (5.0) and Drew Storen is 25th with 4.0. You can argue that if Storen wasn’t hurt in 2013 (commonly thought of as his head-case year) and if the Nats hadn’t given his job to Rafa Soriano, he probably could be up a bit higher-but I don’t think he’d be 6th.

According to Svruluga, to get one of the top two closers you needed to give up more than one player that is likely starting as soon as next year. To get Tyler Clippard you needed to give up a young prospect A ball pitcher. To get Papelbon, a guy who is 3 WAR better than Clippard over the same period you had to give up a slightly more advanced prospect and the Phillies sent some money along to boot.

I may dislike Papelbon. Papelbon may not work out. But as far as trades on paper go, the Nats did really well for themselves.

This Is Nothing To Do With Drew Storen…But it all falls on him.

Read James O’Hara who is a much better and clearer writer than me.

I will add that I think a lot of Drew Storen’s success came from Tyler Clippard setting him up. We don’t have managers that pitch their closers against the hardest parts of the line-ups, we have managers that pitch closers in the 9th. It is incredibly helpful to have a guy who is as good a pitcher in 8th as is in the 9th. That’s two Storen caliber guys covering 6-7 batters, not one crappy guy and one good guy in the 8th and 9th.

You don’t get to win games if you don’t get through the 8th inning. Those three outs are just as important as any other three outs in the game. You need them all. Period. End of Story. Keep your “closer mentality” and “tougher cuz of the pressure” crap out of my feed-pitching the 8th is not easier than pitching the 9th, so stop it. You need as many good pitchers in the bullpen as you can find, and you fit them in where you can.

So Storen becomes the new Clipp and there is no disgrace in that. Rather than all of saying how this is a demotion for Storen and it is insulting to him (which I understand), let us simply chose not to insult Storen. Let us recognize he is the same pitcher he was yesterday and nothing has changed. If anything, let us throw recriminations on a system that artificially inflates the value of one pitcher over another based on which inning he pitches in. This is a great opportunity for Nats fans to get behind a set up guy and really appreciate what they do.

Don’t hate the player, hate the Nth Inning Guy mentality.

What are you going to do, not root for the Nats?

At the end of the day, the Nats added a guy who is good at baseball and, at worst, is a total jerk. This isn’t like a guy who was accused of committing a crime or some truly morally reprehensible act. He’s just, probably, a jerk-just like a lot of people. Including baseball players. Including many Nationals, actually. Including many Nationals you probably didn’t even know were jerks. We’ve all almost certainly rooted for a guy who is a jerk and didn’t know it. Which is to say, at some point you can’t let jerks ruin a good thing you enjoy watching. And if it is going to ruin it, better to jump off now than stick with it because this is just going to keep happening for as long as you watch baseball.

Seriously. Not to get all tough guy on you, but are you going to get into the fetal position and cry all day about this? You know who’s not doing that is Drew Storen, and this affects him a thousand times more than you do. Ultimately, there needs to be an aspect of putting ones lower garments on and getting out of bed to face the day. We are here, whether we like it or not-and frankly, it is not even close to the end of the world or all that bad.

It’s just baseball, and there is no crying in baseball. Just pitching, hitting, and (ugh) the occasional crotch grab (and really, to be fair, who hasn’t wanted to make an obscene gesture at a bunch of Phillies fans?)

Love it or leave it, I don’t imagine I’ll be turning off Nationals games anytime soon. So I plan on getting used to it.



Friday Wrap-Up: NATS COLUMNIST BINGO!!?!?!

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Let’s not bury the lead. There will be lots and lots of Hot Sprotz Taeks about the Nationals this week because they lost a few baseball games. In fact, there have already been a few, and James O’Hara did a great job of taking them down. Read that. It’s really, really well written.

Still, even the might O’Hara cannot turn back the tide. He’s just one man cursing at an ocean that will eventually crash a wave of nonsense right on his head. All of our heads, actually. So rather than do that, here is a handful of Nats Columnist Bingo Cards I made on the Internet. Read a columnist, listen to a radio host, and play along. Mark your card and report back when you get a hit 🙂

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The Nationals didn’t fare as well as hoped against the New York Mets this week. The reason for losing is simple enough: The Nats in two of the three games gave up more runs than they scored. The Mets benefited from a surprisingly good performance from Bartolo Colon, and a much less surprisingly excellent performance from Matt Harvey. The Nationals had two great performances of their own from Scherzer and Zimmermann, but without their top three hitters in the lineup, the Nats offense sputtered. Much will be made of their 3 total hits with runners in scoring position (both came after being down 6 runs late on Thursday). I’m a thinking that the team’s meager 180/232/315 doesn’t exactly speak to an offense that stalled but barely got going.

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Exactly How Good a @MASNCommenter #Nats Team Would Be #MLB15THESHOW



UPDATE: I’ve determined I should be able to broadcast a computer simulated game featuring the MASNCommenter Nats vs. The Mets in an “Opening Day” Tilt. I will post the link here and on twitter. Should be a 1:05 start.

I am new to the world of Playstation, but I got one around Thanksgiving and I do enjoy it. As a baseball and video game fan, I’ve been anxiously waiting for MLB The Show to debut its 2015 edition, which did indeed “drop” on Tuesday. I’ve never played this game before and, frankly, I’m terrible at it.

Like with most baseball games you can play whole seasons at a time, or even set yourself up as the GM of a franchise and build your team from the ground up. I was iffy on whether I wanted to start that particular campaign last night, but a thought occurred to me:

There is a whole cottage industry of video game simulations being used to demonstrate theoretical concepts in sports. Breaking Madden being king amongst them. Routinely, as a blogger and a baseball fan, folks ask me “well, what about…” or “what if…”.

Some ideas are crazier than others, and there is perhaps no greater repository of don’t-know-it-all Nats thoughts than those archived by @MASNCommenter. We profiled MC last year, who faithfully copies the comments section of fans on the MASN Facebook page, generally the crazy/insane/overly emotional/poorly spelled ones. James O’Hara wrote a piece theorizing what a Nats team might be like if we made many of the trades proposed in tweets.

So here I am: Holding back the real bullpen and bench preview posts until the dust settles a bit more, a week away from baseball starting, I have this video game I am terrible at…why not turn to the experts for help?

So, yes. I created the 2015 season for the Washington Nationals in MLB the Show 15. I then proceeded to put together the most MASNCommenter 25-man roster I could. My plan is to then simulate the whole season (I won’t be playing the games, just telling the computer to play itself) and see how the Nats do.

Mike Taylor in CF. Nice, young, up and comer.

What Kind of Roster Does MASNCommenter Like? 

When I solicited help from twitter, I got one answer over and over. MASNCommenter would clone 25 Steve Lombardozzis and field them all. Sadly, the game won’t let me do that.

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Friday Roundup: Late Sunday #Nats Edition

Thank you for accepting my delayed round up. In appreciation of that, here is a Bryce Harper Home Run.

#NatsClubHouseSocial: Tuesday night, the Washington Nationals social media team invited a handful of highly visible, highly social, highly interactive Nationals fans for a presentation regarding the new bells, whistles, and giveaways at the park this year. It was preceded by a free happy hour with appetizers, and personalized jerseys custom made for the invited fans featuring their surname, the #15 (for 2015) and the exclusive 10 year DC patch.

If you don’t know already, I was one of those lucky, unworthy, happy people. I instantly felt nervous about my Matt Williams post from that morning, but too late to go back! (Also, no one asked me to write anything about this event or anything else, just so you know.)

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Podcast! 2015 Nats Season Preview with @NoahFrankWTOP

EDIT: I fixed the audio so it is properly mixed.

Noah Frank joins our show to talk about where the Nats are right now and how they look for 2015. On the show: the 25 man roster, the rash of injuries suffered by the team, how good is the Nationals rotation, is this bullpen sustainable, Strasburg, Harper, a little Matt Williams, an NL East preview, a rest of the MLB preview, and plenty more. Enjoy!

Friday Round Up: #DCisReady

The 1895 Washington Senators 43-85 in the National League. via Cool Old Photos (Click for link) but H/T to @GhostsofDC

The 1895 Washington Senators 43-85 in the National League. via Cool Old Photos (Click for link) but H/T to @GhostsofDC

The Walking Dread: With any luck, this tweet from Chelsea Janes bodes well for the Nationals walking wounded:

-or, lightly running, as the case may be. But too bad, I wrote all of this out before I saw this tweet, so I’m going to continue with my “how ugly could this get?” post.
The worst news first: Anthony Rendon went from sitting out for a few days to having no timetable. That’s really scary.  CL strains (of any kind) can get ugly quick, even if they are mild. As HarperGordeck from Natsbaseball blog points out, the prospect of Kevin Frandsen at third for a month, or longer, is laughably scary.

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