A Salute to Steve

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“It’s been weird,” Buckhantz said. “I’ve just kind of been watching everything from afar, and it just feels a little weird to think that after 22 years since 1997 I may not go to training camp, I may not be involved in anything the Wizards do, I may not talk to the players, or you know, have meetings or any of that.

“It just feels really, really strange.”-The Athletic

Try describing the role of a play-by-play broadcaster to a non-sports fan.

So that person tells us what we are seeing already with our own eyes?…

And in a way, they are right. It is a strange job to grasp, but a role that somehow is interwoven into the heart of the sports landscape. They are with you at your team’s lowest lows and highest of highs. They gasp with you at amazing dunks and shake their head with you at sloppy mistakes.

They become part of your viewing family. You, me, and Buck. All of us sitting around and watching a franchise that just can’t quite ever get it right.

Steve Buckhantz has been that voice for Wizards fans for over two decades.

From Agent Zero game-winners to Javale McGee missed dunks to John Wall alley-oop passes he’s been in your home. You may not even have paid a lot of attention to him. And really, in broadcasting, that’s a good thing.

If he is a seamless integration into your viewing experience, he’s done his job. Provides a little bit of clarity, provides rising levels of excitement when necessary, and makes you feel a part of the action no matter where you are watching. That’s the gig. Mix in some analysis and stories from his counterpart and you’ve got yourself a broadcast team.

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But beyond the logistics and job duties is a person. And with any public-facing position, a lot of it comes down to likeability. Do I like this broadcaster? Do they seem nice?

Morals aren’t the qualification for basketball broadcasting, but listening to Buckhantz over the years you looked at him as the friendly optimist who was fiercely loyal to the team that he spent his career describing over the air. He combined his signature calls with a grandpa-esque demeanor. He was smooth, unruffled. He had fun. And we did too.

And now, unfortunately, things have come to an end.

NBCSports Washington will roll out their shiny new team of former Fox broadcaster Justin Kutcher in combination with a duo of Drew Gooden and Caron Butler this upcoming season. Things will be different, very different.

Kutcher is good, he’s been in the business a while himself, and he, unfortunately, has to bear the burden of replacing such a beloved figure in local sports. I am not envious of that gig.

Things are changing fast for the Wizards. Their long-time GM is gone, the team shuffles rosters around faster than a Vegas dealer, and the ownership group is focused on unveiling new Sports Books and higher-end dining options.

For a fanbase that already struggles with identity, the team seems to be providing no clear path to follow. Is the team tanking? Is the team going for a title? Who is the GM? Who is making decisions? So many questions, so little answers.

But Steve, we’ll miss the stability and grace you brought every single night on the air. Hopefully, this isn’t goodbye, but if it is we wish you the best of luck and we’ll think of you anytime a Wizards player hits a game-winning shot at the buzzer.

Dagger

 

The Snarling, Muttering, Foaming Wonder of Max Scherzer

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That snarl is the first thing that catches your eye. It can appear at random, sometimes in the first few innings, other times when the tank is just begging to be empty. Every team has gotten familiar with it at this point. Cincinnati being the latest victim to experience the psychotic stare from 60 feet, 6 inches away.

It is truly remarkable the company Max Scherzer keeps now, in his 12th season, among the greats.

We’re talking Randy numbers, we’re talking Nolan numbers, Clemens, you name it Scherz is there.

Did Dodgers fans know what they were getting when Koufax took the mound? Do we Nats fans realize what we are witnessing right now? In the words of the great Andy Bernard, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.’ THESE are the days we’ll be telling our kids about.

In a season of futility, with the Nats straddling the line of “Blow it all up!” and “We can still win the division!” there stands a lanky 34-year-old who is the walking definition of leave it all out there on the field. He grimaces. He snarls. Sometimes he even foams at the mouth, a junkyard dog just waiting for the steak to be thrown through his doggie door.

Hell, even his own manager faces the wrath on a start-by-start basis:

Unfortunately for Max, every pitcher has a ticking clock that constantly is waiting for the end. He isn’t there yet, but the retirement devil is doing burpees, just waiting to claim its next victim. The scary part is will he get a chance to pitch another World Series game before that happens? His last was in 2012 for Detroit. Ask around and I don’t think any Nationals fans are confident that they’ll be purchasing their World Series tickets any time soon.

So alas, we must instead just soak it in. Soak in the spitting, raging, lunatic that pitches now not only with his lightning right arm, but with his full and entire heart. I’d take Max Scherzer over any of the Bellingers, Harpers, or Yelichs of the world.

THAT’S the face of the franchise.

And that face is scowling his way into the Hall of Fame.

Stop Killing the Fun

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In the 4th inning of yesterday’s White Sox vs. Royals game, twenty-five-year-old Tim Anderson launched a ball to the moon.

Let’s think of the stakes a little bit here. These are two teams at the bottom of the AL Central, it is a Wednesday day game in the middle of the week, and it is April. Reportedly 14,358 people showed up to a stadium that fits 40,000. This is not what you would call a “big-time” ballgame.

And yet, this longball did not please everybody.

Because in today’s game, if you “show up” an opposing player there are repercussions.

What exactly qualifies as “showing up”? Well, since these rules are technically unwritten, nobody really knows. Over the years we can muster any sort of exaggerated celebration after doing the thing you are paid millions to do falls under that category. A loud roar, a forceful fist pump, a flip of the bat, all of these are actions that some baseball players deem as “not allowed”. You CAN’T be happy. You CAN’T have fun.

There were multiple quotes after the game from a few Royals players.

“Keller did the right thing,” Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier told MLB.com. “He aimed for the lower body. Hit him. It should just be like ‘OK, go to first and move on.’ It shouldn’t have been as big of a situation as it was in my opinion, but I could be wrong. I don’t know.”

Well Hunter, THAT is exactly the problem in the first place. The “correct” response in the game to a guy celebrating a home run is to send a 90MPH+ fastball at him? Okay sure, and you said in the lower body, right? Because Keller, who has 12 walks in his last three games, is always super accurate right? Pitchers never miss their spots, right?

The issue is not the location of retaliation, it is the act itself. A batter has no recourse in the situation, no way to defend themselves. They are at the pitcher’s mercy in every at-bat they have, so basically we are letting one position dictate the rules of the game?

Baseball is CRAVING personalities. The game viewership is skewed much older than they would like. The younger fans need flash, they need emotion. Look at the competition: NBA has dunks and long bombs, NFL finally reinstated TD celebrations, NHL has big hits, home runs is one of the biggest draws to the game itself. Do you know any casual fan who is just dying to watch a 1-0 pitcher’s duel? The long ball is king, and the game is punishing those who wear the crown in a way they don’t like.

You know what would be a great way to get back at a guy who just took you deep? How about doing the thing you are supposed to do on your end in the first place: strike him out.

Don’t take the cowards way out. Why would anyone in their right mind respect that decision? Imagine explaining that entire fiasco to a non-sports fan:

Why are those two teams fighting?

Well, that guy hit a home run and celebrated too hard

Tim Anderson, to his immense credit, doesn’t seem to be fazed by the situation. He is going to continue to “give the fans what they want”. He understands that as a young flashy personality in the game he helps usher in new fans to find a reason to watch the 7-10 White Sox play the 6-12 Royals on a Wednesday afternoon.

The highlight clips of him getting hyped after demolishing a baseball may lead even one younger fan in Chicago to go “oh wow, that dude is COOL”. That fan may then decide let me watch the next time that guy comes up to the plate. Boom, a new baseball fan.

Regardless, there are a zillion games every week. A bunch of new highlights crop up every day. The Royals and White Sox weren’t even going to play again until the end of May, this was a passing moment of fun in a marathon of a season.

Brad Keller seems to think his job is to govern the sacred unwritten rules of baseball.

Time Anderson wants to put on a show.

At least one of them gets it.

 

A List of Things I Trust More Than The Nats Bullpen

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The Nats Bullpen has been disastrous to start this season. A wonderful case in point was on Sunday when a 12-1 lead almost evaporated into thin air. Below I have listed things I trust more than the Nationals bullpen right now:

Oreo will keep cranking out hits

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I mean the box says it all. Not “a lotta stuf” or “a large amount of stuf” but the MOST stuf. Throw away the Oreo cracker part and just give me ALL THE STUF. I’ve tried desperately to shop for this but haven’t had any luck. Instead, the shopkeepers keep asking me to stop crying and let them leave.

I will continue to tell people “Yeah, I’ll watch Game of Thrones soon” and not watch it

I have nothing against the show. I’m sure it is very good. I hear there is a lot of graphic sexual scenes, and a lot of dragons breathing fire, and some seat that has knives on it. This all sounds lovely. I mean, literally every baseball team has a “Game of Thrones” night at the ballpark now. I understand I am very very late to the party. I’ll just be honest: I’ll tell you I’m going to watch it soon, but I’m not going to.

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Papa Johns will continue to be an overrated pizza chain

Facts are facts. Dominos has stepped up their game with the crust. Pizza Hut created an entire section of their restaurant dedicated towards Wings. They are showing the effort. I appreciate it. Papa Johns meanwhile has what to their name? A little cup of melted garlic sauce in the box and a few peppers that I always forget are in there before I stomp the box to put it in the recycling and get stuff everywhere? Plus the Papa of Papa Johns was kind of a psycho.

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People will not let you leave the metro car before they enter

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It is supposed to be a relatively simple situation. The metro stops, the people who need to get off do, the people who need to get on then enter, then we move on to the next station. Instead, I have seen the two groups basically smash into each other, limbs everywhere, each side attempting to push forward. I assume this resembles Game of Thrones, but without the dragons.

There is that panicked moment, even when you know for sure you have plenty of time to exit the train before the doors close, when you worry that you won’t make it. Give credit to the operators, they don’t wait around. If just an arm made it on, then that arm is headed to Foggy Bottom, regardless of if the body made it too.

The Metro stop Foggy Bottom will continue to make me chuckle

I mean, come on. Foggy BOTTOM. That is hilarious.

Dairy Queen employees will never forget to turn the Blizzard over

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I mean look at that guy in the picture. Is he smug or what? “This is what you came to see right? This is the GREATEST SHOW” as he gives a quick flick of the wrist and turns that bad boy upside down.

I’ll be honest, I dream of the day the employee does that and the blizzard spills all over the counter. But it never. freaking. happens.

Disney Channel Original Movies were cinematic perfection and will always hold up

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Look at that tagline: Kid today. Leprechaun tomorrow. 

Incredible.

Some of the hits:

-Motocrossed

-Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century

-Halloweentown

-Smart House

-The Thirteenth Year

I mean you could put basically stack any of those up against some piece of trash like Suicide Squad. 

My dentist will never say “your gums look good”

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I’ve tried really hard! Okay, maybe not really hard. But I have those little floss pick things, and I bought the water jet thing, I swear I’ve done everything they’ve asked. But it’s just not good enough. I feel like I’m trying to impress my dad every time I visit the Dentist.

“Didn’t I do good papa? Don’t my teeth look shiny!”

The hygienist will sigh as she continues to poke as hard as she can into my gums, blood gushing like I just slammed my face on a railing. I smile in pain, red streams pouring through the gaps in between each tooth.

Nope, you need to do better. Now stick this gigantic piece of plastic into your mouth without crying, we need to take X-Rays.

I will never know how to dress “cool”

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I’ve never liked wearing unbuttoned shirts over t-shirts. They always flap in the wind as I walk. A lot of the clothes I  wear were given to me for free over the years from various sports teams or organizations. One time in college, my roommate raided the lost and found bin at the gym where he worked, that provided me enough outfits for the rest of the year.

I once wore a zip-up that I thought was “cool” in high school. I walked in proudly, strutting around. My friend immediately came up and starting listing all the things that made that zip-up the most unfashionable thing he had ever seen.

This Baby could save me in a fire

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Look at that guy. The confidence, the swagger. The boy is a HERO.

 

Those are all the things I immediately can think of that I trust more than the Nats bullpen right now. I’m sure I could go on all day, but this is a solid start.

Mea Kulpa-What Ron Kulpa’s Power Trip Tells Us About the Current State of Officiating

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I can do anything I want!-Ron Kulpa to Astro’s Manager AJ Hinch.

Baseball twitter has been ablaze since the incident, so I’m sure you’ve read ten stories about it already, but here is a good companion breakdown of the Kulpa incident from Twitter:

Being an official at any level, in any sport, is not an enviable gig. When I was 13 I donned the powder blue polo, dark pants, and cautiously stood behind a nine-year-old catcher who appeared to be fairly surprised that he was going to be behind the plate that game.

“Have you ever caught before?” I gestured towards his worn catcher’s mitt. He quickly shook his head. Wonderful.

I umpired only for a few seasons, much more satisfied with being up in the press box running the music and scoreboard. But even in my short time umping I knew it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t the pressure of making calls, it was the constant swirl of annoyance being hurled at you at all times. From coaches, from players, from fans, at any given moment SOMEONE hated your guts.

It was an unpleasant feeling. And it didn’t seem to matter if you were doing a good or a bad job, they would be annoyed regardless. I remember one of the breaking points for me. Keep in mind I was again only like thirteen, but there was a play at the plate, bang-bang, and I called the runner out on the tag. Was he out? Who knows, but to me it sure seemed like he was.

Out trotted a grizzled 50-something-year-old coach, going ballistic.

No way was he out! How could you call that? He was clearly under the tag! That is a BAD call!

I decided immediately that the 15 bucks a game wasn’t worth being screamed at by this guy.

There are plenty of people that can get past the screaming and yelling, and make their way through the officiating circuit. You work your way up, go to clinics, attend camps, you get better, you gain more experience. Guys like Ron Kulpa have spent most of their lives doing a job that nobody wants to do. There is respect in that. And yet what Ron Kulpa did this week is part of the swing of officials in all sports to flex their reffing muscles, and show who is “boss”.

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If you are an avid sports fan you’ve noticed it. The ejections and technical fouls are coming hard and fast. Hell, Spurs coach Greg Popovich just set a record with his latest ejection.

We are in an age where officials everywhere are done being just rule-enforcers and are now the behavior-police. They seemingly are tired of being background characters, and now are itching for leading roles. Should we REALLY know the name Ron Kulpa? Do we REALLY buy tickets to see the Astros play, or do we buy them to see Kulpa ump?

My father umped for a while, and he reported back to me how militaristic the training sessions felt. How it didn’t feel like a cohesive plan to just enforce the rules and call a good game, it felt more like it is YOU vs. THEM. Them being the players and coaches.

Are there going to be times when an ejection is called for, when a player/coach takes it too far? Of course. Cursing up a storm, physically threatening, being an absolute nut, these are all things that I am completely okay with officials determining that particular person is not welcome on the field or the court at that time. We all lose our heads sometimes. But that should be a LAST resort, a final straw. Popovich was tossed before the Spurs even had a chance to score a basket.

I remember going to old RFK stadium to see the Nats take on the Cardinals. Albert Pujols was on the team then, and in his prime. We bought tickets to go see Albert, one of the greatest hitters of our generation. He was ejected in the bottom of the 2nd inning while discussing his previous at-bat with the field umpire. Just like that, our purpose of even buying tickets was headed off to the showers.

If the MLB truly cares about the players, about the fans, then Ron Kulpa should be suspended for a decent amount of time. Send him back to the minors, bring up someone else who isn’t here to look for fights. The goal of an umpire should be to call the best game he or she can, not to tussle with managers.

The MLB needs to send a message to Kulpa and to officials everywhere:

No, you CAN’T do anything you want.

 

 

Life of Luxury: A night spent with the upper class watching Bryce Harper’s return to DC

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When the Harper to Philly announcement was made, I had my phone out ready to go. I knew that the Phillies were going to come to DC on the 2nd of April, and tickets were a must. I purchased my usual 300 section, and was set. When the day finally arrived, I casually perused the StubHub listings to see what else was available. I spotted a pair of Delta Sky360 Club Seats, 7th row, behind home plate. These were typically $500+ per seat, but on a cold and rainy Tuesday someone was listing them for around $170 each. So I went for it. I sold my original tickets and snagged those bad boys. This was going to be a pretty big moment, why not live it up in style? Here is a quick diary recap of my experience.

I’m a big fan of getting to the ballpark early. Then again, I’m a fan of getting anywhere way too early. I think that comes from my mother. Growing up we would all pile into the car for Christmas Eve mass. I always thought it was strange that she would suggest we pack a book with us, but that was because the plan was to sit in the parking lot for two hours before anyone else decided to start getting their seats. I think even the priests were still sleeping.

The plan was to hop on the metro after work, get to the ballpark right when they allow you to start entering your seats at 5:30. Since we were going to be newbies to the home plate scene, I wanted to make sure to give us plenty of time to adjust to our surroundings and not look out of place.

My favorite part of riding the metro is the fact that the people who run the metro truly do not care about what the inside of the cars look like.

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My favorite seats are the weird yellow ones in the back. Sometimes they have a wall dividing them so you can pretend you are on your own little personal train and not the DC metro where the guy two seats ahead is throwing up in his mouth.

I also enjoy the game that the conductors play. It’s called “How terribly can I talk in this microphone to ensure nobody understands what I am saying?”

The move my wife and I typically do with Nats games is to take the train all the way to Capital South station and walk. It’s two stops past where most people get off to switch trains to the game, so you get a lot of confused and panicked looks from other Nats fans as they glance back at you when getting off. It involves having to walk a while, but it’s a fairly pleasant hike as you pass by million-dollar townhomes. In fact, it helped me mentally prepare myself for the sort of people we would be mixing in with at the “Sky Clizzub” (that’s what I have renamed the Delta360 Sky Club)

I’ll skip past the minor details of going through security and take us right to entering the clizzub. We had to enter some doors initially into a hallway with elevators that were supposed to take us down to where we needed to go. They must have been those types of elevators where they don’t actually work, so we took the stairs instead. BUT the stairs were carpeted, so I already knew we had entered a different rich world.

At the entrance there was a big machine to scan your ticket, and then a lady puts a wristband on you. I’m not sure why they needed to spend the money on a giant machine, when they could have given the lady a scanner, but then I remembered I was in the world of wealth.

I had done a little scouting ahead of time, and knew that it was basically a giant room with a bar, tables, buffets all over the place. Upon entering, a nice hostess escorted us to a small table that had plates and silverware. They even put the silverware in the correct order on the table which is something I constantly struggle with. It was slightly confusing because while the food was buffet style, there was still a “waitress” who could also get you things. So in theory, while the food was only 20-30 steps away, you could have her get it for you. Man, what a dream.

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I tried to take a picture of the food on my first plate, but I ate it already. There’s a chicken bone in the picture so you can get the idea. They had a few buffet sections in the middle with your higher end items like a meat board and potstickers. Then on the outside, because they know peasants like us occasionally make it through the gates, they had staples like pizza, wings, and a basket filled to the brim with chicken tenders. I snagged my first bud light of the night (classy), stacked multiple pieces of pizza on my plate (because I’m not a buffet amateur), and headed back to my seat.

I finished that plate within maybe 30 seconds, but wanted to give it a little bit of time before I got up again. My bud light seemed to disappear rather quickly, and the “waitress” asked if I would like another one. I nodded, but then she asked to see my ID. I thought this was a little strange. One, because I’ve looked 26 since I was 10. Two, I already had a beer. I hate to display my ID because I’ve been too terrified to go to the DMV and get a new picture, so it is still my 15-year-old mug. I had so many great ideas and hopes and dreams in that photo, now it gets laughed at by bartenders across the country. I seemingly passed the test because she went to fetch me another brew. Meanwhile, I went to fetch me another plate.

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I decided to class it up a bit and added a few potstickers and one thimble-full of rice (healthy). These chicken tenders were 100% different than the normal ballpark tenders offered. These must have been a different breed of chicken. Or perhaps these were actual chicken tenders, not whatever they sell at the normal vendors.

After finishing up this plate and beer, my wife and I hopped over to view the batting cages. The club has a giant window where you can watch the players hit a few baseballs in preparation for hitting baseballs in a game. We got to see Victor Robles and Matt Adams hit, which was a delightful treat.

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I tried to get their attention to see if it was cool if I took a few hacks, but they mostly ignored me. I should have kept one chicken tender to wave in their direction. I also forgot to mention that if you watch a lot of Nats games you may notice the two guys that sit behind home plate at every game. Those are the Itkin brothers according to an article I read. We were sitting at the table nearby them so my wife snapped a quick stealth picture.

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I think they are multi-millionaires, which is why I thought it was strange that one year they were apparently voted “fan of the year”. I don’t think you should give millionaires a “fan of the year” title. Save that for someone who survived the DC metro, walked a bunch of blocks in the rain, and ate your not real chicken tenders.

The game was delayed so I used my time wisely. I scarfed down a small bag of popcorn, a soft pretzel, a few mini cupcakes, and then my stomach started hurting. But I couldn’t show any sort of pain in front of the other club members, so I just fought through it.

My favorite part about rain delays is how many times fans will go up to random employees and ask if they know when the game is supposed to start. This question is usually met with confusion, as if the front office radios down to every single Nats Park employee all the pertinent information. Let me go ask the janitor about Howie Kendrick’s injury recovery.

The delay ended up only being until 7:45, which gave me plenty of time to eat another hot dog. There was literally a small shelving unit whose purpose was purely to hold hot dog buns. It was nicer than any shelves I have at home, and it was for buns.

It was finally time to start taking our seats, so we awkwardly waited while a nice lady took a very wet rag to wipe off our wet seats. It wasn’t effective at all, and I accidentally slipped her five dollars instead of just a few bucks.

 

There were a TON of Phillies fans all over the place, including all around us. This was great because they are widely known as super rational and kind fans, so I was sure we would be fine. In fact, I expected us all to be arm-in-arm humming songs by the end of the game.

 

I snagged a vid of Harper’s first plate appearance

The great thing about these seats too was a person comes around and takes your order so you don’t have to miss a pitch! I requested another hot dog and beer, as my stomach pleaded with me to stop the madness.

The game itself was not noteworthy and I don’t care to write about any of it. But my friends and family texted us constantly to let us know we were on the TV shot. I considered various things I could do to go viral but instead just crossed my arms and looked displeased.

Once the Phillies scored their 100th run of the game, we left. I considered snagging a few more hot dogs for the road but thought better of it.

Overall the experience was truly incredible. I mingled with the 1%’ers, ate my weight in food, and also got to watch some bad Nationals baseball. Maybe I’ll get back to those seats again someday. But for now, I’ll be dreaming of those cupcakes…

 

Well, that was ugly: Thoughts and Grades on the Nats Opening Series

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It took a heroic effort from Trea Turner on Sunday for the Nats to avoid an opening weekend sweep by the Mets. Let’s dive into some grades:

Starting Pitching

Grade: B-

Scherzer (0-1): 7.2 innings, 2 hits, 2 runs (both earned), 12 K’s, 3 BB’s.

Strasburg (no decision): 6 innings, 7 hits, 4 ER, 8 K’s, 2 BB’s.

Corbin (no decision): 6 innings, 7 hits, 2 ER, 4 K’s, 2 BB’s

Overall the starting pitching was okay. Scherzer and Corbin both gave the Nats a chance, and even Strasburg recovered after a really shaky first inning.

This isn’t a great sign from Strasburg in his first start, especially with the Mets hitting .292 against him. We have spoken highly on what we hope will be a “comeback” year for Stras, this did not make me super confident yet.

Corbin shined in his debut, a lot of fly balls, some hard contact, but overall was impressive on a very windy cold day in DC.

Scherz was Scherz. He struck out a ton, gave up signature opening inning bomb, and put his team in a position to win a ballgame and they spoiled a great outing.

Bullpen

Grade: D

Yikes. This was the area I was worried about from the start, and this was the area that let the Nats down this weekend.

Barraclough: 1.2 innings, 2 hits

Sipp: 1.1 innings, 2 hits, 2 ER, 1 K, 1 BB

Miller: 1 inning, 1 hit, 2 K’s

Suero: 1 inning, 2 hits, 2 ER, 1 K, 1 BB

Grace: 0.2 innings, 2 hits, 1 ER, 1 K

Rosenthal: (didn’t register an out) 4 hits, 5 ER, 1 BB

Doolittle: 1.2 innings, 3 hits, 2 K’s

As a bullpen, they combined for a 12.27 ERA.

Rosenthal, Suero, Grace, and Sipp all had the most trouble this series. I’m genuinely scared about this bullpen situation. There are no go-to arms. Barraclough and Miller handled things well, and Doolittle got thrust into a scary Sunday finale, but overall this is a bad look for yet another Nats team that is lacking reliable bullpen arms.

We’ve heard this song and dance before.

Offense

Grade: C+

Obviously, the opening day game was dreadful offensively, but the Nats were able to turn it around and put up 14 runs total in their 2nd and 3rd games in the series.

Turner: 13 AB’s, 5 hits, 4 Runs, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K’s, 4 SB, .385 avg, .429 OBP, .923 SLG

Eaton: 12 AB’s, 4 hits, 2 Runs, 4 K’s, .333 avg, 429 OBP, .333 SLG

Soto: 12 AB’s, 3 hits, 1 Run, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 7 K’s, 1 SB, .250 avg, .308 OBP, .333 SLG

Zimmerman: 12 AB’s, 2 hits, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K’s, .167 avg, 231 OBP, .250 SLG

Rendon: 11 AB’s, 4 hits, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K’s, .364 avg, .462 OBP, .455 SLG

Robles: 11 AB’s, 5 hits, 3 Runs, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K’s, .455 avg, .455 OBP, 1.000 SLG

Dozier: 10 AB’s, 0 hits, 3 K’s

Gomes: 7 AB’s, 2 hits, 1 Run, 3 K’s, .286 avg, .286 OBP, .429 SLG

Suzuki: 4 AB’s, 0 hits, 1 RBI

Adams: 3 AB’s, 0 hits, 2 K’s

Robles and Turner both with fantastic starts to the year. The speed with those two, plus Eaton’s ability to reach base sets the Nats big boppers up with plenty of RBI opportunity. Unfortunately Zim, Soto, and Rendon were not great out of the gate.

Too many K’s for young Soto, Zim is useless at the plate, and Rendon with a slow start. Again I declare I want more opportunities for Matt Adams. I’m tired of Davey using him in late-inning situations, give the man a full start and let’s see what he does.

Honestly, Trea Turner salvaged this series. If it wasn’t for him destroying the baseball, stealing bases, and saving the day this would have easily been a 0-3 team.

Overall

Grade: C

This was supposed to be a great tune-up opportunity for the Nats before they have to welcome back their former star Bryce Harper, and instead it exposed some immediate flaws with the way this team is built. Offense does not matter if your bullpen can’t contain the other team, and the Nats failed. Saturday and Sunday were both very winnable games (the Nats obviously did take Sunday in walk-off fashion) and now they take on the red-hot Phillies.

It is not time to panic, but this was not exactly the way this team needed to start in order to relax their nervous fanbase.

Next Series:

Nats vs. Phillies

Tuesday, 7:05 PM

Scherzer vs. Eflin

Wednesday, 1:05 PM

Sanchez vs. Nola

Game 1 Recap: Nats get blanked on Opening Day

Game 1

Well, this is not great…

Only Game 1, yada yada yada, super long season, yada yada yada.

Bottom line is, the Nats seemingly carried issues they had last season with scoring runs into the very first game of this season. Not a HUGE deal, but a noticeable one.

The Good

-Scherzer was brilliant: 7.2 IP, 2 Hits, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, and 12 K’s. He also gave up his obligatory solo homer.

-I sometimes forget just how solid Trea Turner was for a turbulent Nats team last year. He started off this season in a great way. The shortstop went 2 for 4, with 3 stolen bases.

Besides that…there wasn’t much to be super excited about…

The Bad

-Anthony Rendon continues to be stymied by deGrom. 0 for 4 on the day including 5 runners Left on Base

-Speaking of that, the Nats 3-4-5 combo of Rendon, Soto, and Zimmerman went a combined 0 for 11 on the day, stranding 9 total runners.

-The Nats ran themselves into a bad 5-4-2-5 double play in the 3rd inning that should have been an easy scoring opportunity.

Overall

Look, it’s a long season. Opening Day is no indication of how the season may go (I mean look at my Detroit Tigers, they got an almost no-no from the skeleton of Jordan Zimmermann and a 10th inning homer from a rookie, THAT won’t hold up over 162 games).

What I didn’t like is the familiarity in this game to last year’s team. Lack of production on offense, wasted strong starting pitching, and really no production from the new guys yet.

Don’t freak out, but I think its perfectly fine to be disappointed in that Opening Day showing.

Next Game

Saturday

Nats (0-1) vs. Mets (1-0)

1:05 PM Start

Noah Syndergaard vs. Stephen Strasburg

Nats Opening Day Lineup Analyzed

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Here is what Davey is going with for Opening Day tomorrow:

  1. RF Adam Eaton
  2. SS Trea Turner
  3. LF Juan Soto
  4. 3B Anthony Rendon
  5. 1B Ryan Zimmerman
  6. 2B Brian Dozier
  7. C Yan Gomes
  8. P Max Scherzer
  9. CF Victor Robles

Martinez specifically wants this lineup to put runs on the board, and having the speed combo of Robles, Eaton, and Turner in a sequence is perfect for that.

Before you get too excited and jacked up for the first game let’s remember who this lineup is facing: Jacob deGrom.

Let’s take a quick look at how that lineup has done vs. deGrom in their careers:

Eaton: 3 for 10, 2 RBI, 4 K’s

Turner: 7 for 25, 3 RBI, 1 HR, 1 BB, 10 K’s

Soto: 1 for 3

Rendon: 2 for 23, 1 RBI, 6 BB’s, 7 K’s

Zimmerman: 5 for 24, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 8 K’s

No data for Dozier it looks like, or Gomes

Robles: 1 for 5, 3 K’s

Not terrible surprisingly enough, except for Rendon. The only worry spot for me continues to be the production from the first base position. Zim gets the nod for opening day, but will we see Matt Adams get more and more opportunities to replace the veteran? Can the Nats finally get production from the catcher position as well? Something they have been missing since the departure of Wilson Ramos?

Overall, I like this lineup. A lot of speed, some great contact hitters, and hopefully a bomb every now and then. Let’s see who gets off to a nice start in the opening day series.

We Must Evolve the Game

improve the game

We’ve heard it all by now.

Baseball is boring

The games take too long

Nothing ever happens

Jayson Stark, a prominent writer for The Athletic and analyst from MLB Network, recently participated in a roundtable discussion on the most under the radar topic regarding baseball.

Stark: I think it’s the never-ending challenge of creating a sport, in the 21st century, with more action. Every time I bring this up, baseball fans overreact to it, in ways that illustrate how difficult this is. You almost never hear football fans complaining that the NFL has ruined the game that Red Grange used to play. But any time you suggest that baseball ought to at least be able to experiment with ideas that could make the game more entertaining, millions of baseball fans react as if you’re doodling on the Mona Lisa.

I love baseball as much as anyone I know. But I’m totally open to trying all sorts of these ideas — not to make games “shorter” because it isn’t about “time of game,” but to move toward a sport where you don’t have to wait 4 ½ minutes in between the average ball in play. Why do I think this story is under-covered? Because it feels as though the focus is either on time of game or on individual rule changes, not on the big picture. It’s about action, not games that take 3 ½ hours. And we can’t seem to get our audience to understand that’s the biggest issue in the sport. Why is the Home Run Derby the highest-rated baseball event on cable between Opening Day and Game 162? Because something happens! And it happens every few seconds.

It’s about the action. THAT is the biggest issue in the sport. But there are more issues beyond just the action, this goes much deeper than that.

I’m too tired to watch the end

I fall in the line of your average baseball fan. I support my teams, I watch as many of their games as possible, but life and work get in the way sometimes. What also gets in the way is the fact that most of us work your standard 9-5 shifts, sometimes even earlier. I get up at 6:30AM, many friends of mine start their day even earlier.

Your average MLB start time is 7:05 Eastern, the average length of the game in 2018 was 3 hours, 5 minutes, and 11 seconds. That would put your end time roughly around 10:15PM. That’s not terrible, but it’s not great either. You stay up to watch the end, or you don’t, I don’t know about you but I don’t have 3 hours every day to give to a sport that plays on an almost daily basis. 162 games, that’s 486 hours of baseball.

That’s 20 DAYS of your LIFE.

Why give that to a sport that doesn’t seem to care about you? They bring you to the ballpark only to charge you $10 for a beer and $5 for a hotdog that likely costs them less than 10 cents to make. Stations like MASN spit in your face when you protest that the other sports give us streaming options here in 2019 where we can view our teams on our phones, our iPads, our Playstations. You want a “choice” on how to watch this game?

Guess what, They don’t care about you.

Kids don’t watch baseball

A 2016 article in Fox Sports cited the median age of baseball fans at 56 years old. Can you blame kids? Look at their options. Basketball presents offense on almost every trip down the court, big dunks, exciting threes, nonstop action. Football ironically enough is close to baseball in average length of time of a game, and yet it just seems like it moves much quicker. You know that as soon as the team breaks the huddle something is going to happen. Hockey is similar to basketball, fast-movements, flying across the ice, big hits, action. Soccer, the mortal enemy of most baseball players growing up, goes long periods of no scoring but all the while the ball is moving, tackles are being made, shots are being attempted.

In baseball we are waiting for the batter to ready himself for battle, the pitcher to receive the sign, the batter to change his mind that no, in fact, he is not ready to do the thing he is paid millions of dollars to do, he needs more time. The pitcher wants to discuss with his catcher the strategy they have gone over at length beforehand. Oh look, another ball thrown outside the zone, we are now at six minutes and nothing has happened.

This is a problem.

extras

The baseball purists stomp their feet, pound their chests, this is how baseball is meant to be played. How dare you question that? How dare you want to change anything about this beautiful game? The game ends when it ends, they scream, kids and potential fans be damned.

I love baseball. I played baseball. I hope my kids play baseball. I get why others don’t love to watch or play baseball. I find the strategy exciting, the individual talent levels off the charts, its a difficult game, one of the hardest, but I get it. I get the disdain.

Even as a player there was plenty of times my mind wandered as I stood in the outfield, begging for a ball to be hit my way, give me something to do. I’ve fallen asleep watching baseball on television, I’m sure I’m not the only one.

How do we fix this? We must swallow our pride, accept that this game is beautiful to some and boring to others. At times in my life I stress about how the world doesn’t adjust to us, we need to adjust to the world, but with baseball this is adjustable. This is sports, this is a game, we have options. Put a guy on second base to start extra innings. Give me a pitch clock. Speed it up. Just TRY something. If it doesn’t work, fine, scrap it and try something else. But soon enough the age of immediacy will collide with the slowest moving game out there.

Baseball MUST change, baseball MUST evolve.

Before it is too late.