On today’s episode Ben rants about Sushi, Mike recaps his terrible sports bar experience, the boys cover the recent NBA hirings, the Nats road ahead before the all-star break, and draft their starting five best sports video games ever.
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He is masterful at taking clips from MLB games and breaking the events down in a hilarious way. Plus he sounds a lot like Nick Miller from New Girl.
Last night was a prime example of MLB not knowing what the F*** they are doing when it comes to this new substance policy.
The umps are supposed to go through the charade of checking a starting pitcher a few times, after innings are over, and we go about our merry way. Last night Joe Girardi utilized the ability for a manager to call into question the opposing pitcher, and chaos ensued….
I get the general thinking behind the crackdown. This idea of “leveling the playing field” because pitchers spin rates are out of control and there are no-hitters every other week. But to apply this sort of thing mid-season? To give managers the ability to take a guy out of rhythm by checking them mid-inning? What are we doing here?
Max gave everybody a show with his reaction, and Joe eventually got tossed for going after Kevin Long, and the game still took a bazillion hours which I thought is what the MLB is trying to avoid. At least we’ll have the good GIF’s….
On this episode the boys drown their DC playoff sorrows in chicken. They test and rate the new Burger King Spicy Ch’King Sandwich, debrief from the Wizards playoff exit, briefly talk Max Scherzer trade rumors, and more.
Show Open – (1:20)
The Rewind – (9:20)
The Burger King Spicy Ch’King Sandwich Review – (13:22)
The boys recorded this episode LIVE on http://www.thekontender.com after the Caps crushing Game 5 loss. You’ll hear the rapid reactions to the game, the series, and what is ahead. Plus, they chat briefly about the Wizards Game 1 loss to Philly, and a little about the Nats recent upswing.
The boys take turn drafting 10 players from Backyard Baseball. Who will be the steal of the draft? Which team will screw up an early pick? Where will Ronny Dobbs get picked? Find out all the answers on this special bonus episode of The DC Crossover
We are joined by one of the hosts of “The Daily Line” on NBC Sports: Michael Jenkins. Jenks helps us make some of our final decisions in the snack tournament, provides some of his snack favorites, and lets us know what he is up to lately with no sports during quarantine!
Podcast Available: iTunes Podcast, Google Podcast & Google Play Music
As you have probably heard us mention a few billion times, Mike and I went to the opening of Segra Field on Friday night for Loudoun United. Below is a recap of our experience.
After picking up Mike at the Serone Estates, and after a few beers and wings to open up our stomachs a bit, we shipped off to the anticipated opening of Segra Field. It is a relatively pleasant drive as you near the stadium, traffic cones lining the roads, giant construction vehicles abandoned for centuries. That’s the great thing about Northern Virginia road construction, there appears to never be an actual deadline. The contracts must end just with a “?” as far as the anticipated date of completion goes.
As we passed Leesburg Airport, Mike mentioned to me that he had considered getting a pilots license once. I can speak for the rest of the planet when I say I’m glad he gave up that dream of flight.
We followed the trail of cars and slowly lurched forward, directed by Loudoun County’s finest and also by what appeared to be Loudoun County’s weirdest: those arm-waving guys that tell you where to go at concert/sports venues. What a job. Every car knows the direction to go, oftentimes there is literally only one way to go, and yet there is a man in a bright orange vest standing there wildly waving his arms, urging you to yes, indeed, go THAT way.
Funny enough, just as we were about to turn into one area of the parking lot, we were loudly informed to go down a different winding road. This went completely against the orange arm-wavy guy. There didn’t appear to be much order or sense in the reasoning, just a desire to create as much confusion as possible.
I don’t like pressure parking. That situation where there is a long line behind you and you have to just pick a spot and you MUST get it right the first time. I much prefer to find the most isolated grouping of empty spaces possible and ease my way in. But alas, in a stadium situation, the pressure is high, and as my front grill crunched into the end of the space I knew this would have to be good enough.
We set off on the long trek to the field, a small hazy dot in the distance. We had been told days earlier to enter through the East Entrance Media Gate because we had a small recording device for the podcast, which apparently means we both automatically earn Journalism degrees. The first issue we realized that while we both had taken Compass 101 in school, we had sadly slept through it entirely, and had no idea how to judge which side of the stadium was EAST. I politely asked a nearby attendant where the media entrance was, and he was so taken aback that he was expected to know that sort of information that he just kind of shuddered and walked away.
After minutes of walking and sweating, we found a small fold up table that was covered in lanyards so it appeared we were in the right place. The guy manning the check-in asked us what we needed, and I fumbled with my phone to show the email I had received from a member of Loudoun United.
“Did you talk to Kate?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Um no, I think it was a Chris..?”
This seemed to be the right name, as he handed us two blank press passes to write our names on. I considered for a moment just writing “Michael Wilbon” on mine, but my nerves got the better of me.
We were in. With press passes. We were MEDIA.
The first thing we wanted to test was just how far this newfound power could get us, so we approached the security guard standing at the field rope and immediately held our passes aloft. He squinted for a moment, probably thinking to himself: man, they just let anyone become “media” these days. He sighed, raised the velvet rope, and Mike and I stepped onto the turf.
I will say, the field is pretty beautiful. Pristine, new, and us two boneheads were right there rubbing elbows with professional camera guys and people in suits.
After some more field pics, it was time to get down to the reason we were there in the first place: the food. Segra Field had around 7 or 8 food trucks lined up around the stadium for fans to peruse. We picked the first one, Grubbers, and placed our order. Mike was to sample the cheese dog, I was to dip into some chicken tenders and “chippers”. What we didn’t know was by placing that order we were settling into 45 minutes of standing and waiting for the food truck employees to remember how to make both of those extremely complicated dishes.
Whenever a group of people is waiting for slow service there is a mixture of amusement and impatience. Everyone is in the same boat, and yet people handle it differently. There are the people who decide that all of this must clearly be a mistake so they continuously go up to the window and say things like “How’s that hot dog for Ashley coming along? We’ve been waiting a while” as if the chef will throw away everything else they were doing and get you, Ashley, your hot dog.
My personal favorite in these situations is the “angry impatient guy”. There is one in every bunch, and we were not disappointed. This middle-aged polo-wearing fella had ordered his food and was NOT going to stand for any wait. He constantly scoffed and shook his head, his body vibrating with rage every time someone else received their goods. At one point he walked up and asked to exchange the water bottles he was holding because they had “gone warm from all the waiting”. What a guy.
We finally received our food and moved off to the side to stand and eat, because in all of the design of the stadium someone forgot to include somewhere to sit beyond the game seats.
I was under a lot of pressure when I picked up my food at the window, so I didn’t put my usual three gallons of ketchup on, but it wouldn’t have mattered much anyway. The tenders weren’t good, and the chips were run-of-the-mill. Mike took a few bites of his cheese dog and opened his eyes wide in dismay. Grubbers, unfortunately, had missed the mark.
We were ready for Round Two with a different truck, but everything was packed. So we wandered, found another spot on the field to actually watch some of the game for once. We held up our flimsy piece of paper and yet again were granted access. I could sense stares from people in the crowd, likely thinking we were actually important people. This is obviously the furthest from the truth, and Mike and I, in fact, bring no value to the world.
The crowd was electric. The game experience cannot be knocked, it was packed and loud and for sure would be fun if we were there for that. Instead, our food saga must continue, so we continued our journey, searching for another option to quench our ravenous hunger.
We trekked and trekked, getting weaker by the second. We then finally stumbled across a tent that was relatively empty. It was a dessert vendor, which is always a good option. I still can’t fully remember their name, something that is very evident on the podcast episode as I called this place five different things, but I THINK it was called something like “Aunt P’s Sweets & Treats”.
I ordered the Brownie ice cream cookie, Mike with the standard Chocolate Chip Cookie+ice cream.
I ended up with the better choice in the end, as Mike dealt with a salty crumbly mess that had peach-flavored ice cream in the middle. Mine was much more straightforward. Brownie plus vanilla ice cream, even Grubbers couldn’t screw that up. The great thing about ice cream sandwiches is when they get all over your hands and face and entire body.
The last thing we wanted to do before we left for the night, was to try to redeem the drink voucher that came with the tickets we bought, but the drink tent was moving at a glacial pace.
There were multiple lines jutting out at all angles, with no real indication that anyone was actually coming away with a drink in their hand. The lines were moving so slow that one beer vendor guy stood in between two of the lines, selling beer to the people waiting. THAT guy is a salesman.
After waiting for 20 minutes, and getting flashbacks to our Grubbers experience, Mike turned to me and we both nodded our heads in agreement that we were ready to get the hell out of there.
We had dreamed of tasting five or six different cuisines while at the field, putting together copious notes and reviews, and instead we ate half a cheese dog and an ice cream sandwich and called it a night.
We were defeated, but all-in-all it had been a good experience. It is a new stadium, it is going to have its hiccups and speed bumps. We’ll cut them some slack, plus there is always McDonalds Drive-Thru on the way home.
One day the DC Crossover will come back, ready to dine another day.
In the 6th inning of an Indians vs. Royals game just a few days ago, a 3-year-old boy was hurridly carried up the stairs, out of the stands, and eventually to a local hospital after being nailed by a line drive off the bat of the studly Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor.
Lindor’s comments after the game reflected some of the same thoughts that have been echoed by other players around the league after these incidents happen. “I know it’s all about the fans’ experience of interacting with players and I completely get that. You want to have that interaction with the fans, getting autographs and stuff, but at the end of the day, we want to make sure everybody comes out of this game healthy, and we got to do something about it.”
Baseballs are flying off bats at a historic rate, as well as a historic speed. Giancarlo Stanton, of the Yankees, hit a ball in March 120 mph off of Andrew Cashner. This is about as fast as a Tornado, or even a Skydiver falling towards the earth (I know, weird stats but I was curious to see other things that move at 120 mph). I, as a 26-year-old man, would find it hard to react to a 120 mph small object flying towards me, how is a child supposed to? How can you catch a Tornado?
As more children (and adults) have been struck by liners, teams have countered with new measures to implement netting extending from the dugouts now down to the foul-poles. The White Sox were the first to do it, our local Nationals have now done it, and the expectation is likely every major league team will install this at some point.
The players want it, the teams now want it (though they have dragged their feet a bit), but what do the fans think? Strangely, there has been a backlash.
I’m paying $___ to sit in this section, why should I have to watch through a net?
Just pay attention to the game, stay off your cell phones.
Parents should keep track of their kids better, or don’t let kids sit there at all
Not that many people are being hit, it’s not that big of a deal
I have yet to hear a compelling argument against netting that changes my mind about the subject at all.
If you have been fortunate enough to sit in the section behind home plate you have experienced the net view forever. Is it odd at first? Sure. Do your eyes adjust and eventually, the net makes 0 difference? Absolutely.
As for the phones, sure, people love those tiny Tinder-swiping Instagram-scrolling email-checking mind portals. What is your expectation? We ban phone usage from the parks instead? Restrict it to in-between innings only? How would that be enforced? Should you be paying attention if it is a right-batter and you have seats down the 1st baseline? Of course. But are you going to be locked in on every single pitch of every single at-bat for 3+ hours?
Let’s be real.
Baseball games are FILLED with distractions. Vendors popping up and down every row, conversations flowing on all sides of you, scoreboards with statistics filling every inch, the phones aren’t the only problem here.
Also, is it the 3-year-olds checking Twitter when the ball comes zinging their way?
Is there a magic number of kids being struck by balls for anti-netters to say, “Okay, we get it, time to put them up”?
The magic number should be ZERO.
Why wait until a fire before installing a fire escape? It HAS happened, and SHOULDN’T happen. This is preventable.
Plus, do we not want children to help the game of baseball grow? If we ban kids from sitting in those sections, the attendance rates will surely drop more than a handful of grumbling anti-netters not showing up.
Look, I get some of the other sides of this. You work hard, you save your money, you spend a s***-ton on expensive seats to see your favorite MLB team play and now you have to deal with this inconvenience. We are too soft as a country they say, what’s next, netting around the entire stadium?
At some point, you have to just accept these changes. NFL bone-breaking hits are getting penalized, concussion protocols are getting stricter, nets are going up, it’s almost as if we want people to be…healthy? Be…okay? What a wild concept.
Call it soft. Call it wussy. Call it whatever you want, this will SAVE lives. Am I exaggerating? A few years ago a woman at Dodger Stadium died after being struck by a foul ball. It was the first foul-ball fatality in 50 years. 2 deaths in 50 years, not a bad ratio right? Do we think it will be another 50 years until the next one? With the juiced balls, and the stronger batters, and the more distractions? Should we really test that theory?
Let’s get a pitching machine cranked up to 120 and see what YOU can do.
“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.
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.
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.
This is the 44th time Max Scherzer has struck out 10+ while allowing 0 or 1 earned run. Only 6 pitchers in MLB history have ever done that more times: Randy Johnson (108) Nolan Ryan (106) Roger Clemens (67) Pedro Martinez (65) Sandy Koufax (54) Curt Schilling (47)
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.
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.
👀⚾️🤔 The Royals couldn't let Tim Anderson have his fun & plunked him
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.
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
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.
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.
People will not let you leave the metro car before they enter
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
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
Look at that tagline: Kid today. Leprechaun tomorrow.
Some of the hits:
-Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century
-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”
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”
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
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.
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”.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Ben’s Harper vid from last night. Any cheers you heard were likely just Philly fans. The majority of Nats fans definitely boo’d and boo’d hard pic.twitter.com/HxKk8qdCRZ
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
-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.
Anthony Rendon grounds into rare 5-4-2-5 double play to end a scoreless third. @Nationals manager Dave Martinez stressed fundamentals like base running in spring training; rookie Victor Robles already struggling with it.
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.
Here is what Davey is going with for Opening Day tomorrow:
RF Adam Eaton
SS Trea Turner
LF Juan Soto
3B Anthony Rendon
1B Ryan Zimmerman
2B Brian Dozier
C Yan Gomes
P Max Scherzer
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.
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.
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.
Overall the Nats are getting glowing reviews regarding their off-season acquisitions, and deservedly so. But an area that still absolutely terrifies me is the bullpen.
Per RotoChamp (and various other projections) here is the current setup for the bullpen:
Closer: Sean Doolittle
(other candidates include Kyle McGowin, Tanner Rainey, and Austin Adams)
Last year’s Nats were just “okay” in the pen. They gave up the 6th most Home Runs (81), were near the bottom of the league in strikeouts, and as a team were middle of the pack in ERA (4.05).
For a team that is trying to contend for a World Series, they didn’t do a lot to improve in this area. Barraclough is an innings-eater and brings some value, and Rosenthal is more of a low-risk gamble but is coming off a major injury and hasn’t been good for 4-5 years.
Koda Glover has already been bitten by the injury bug early in his career and left a spring training game with forearm tightness, Sammy Solis is only around because he is left-handed, and a lot is riding on guys like Matt Grace and Justin Miller to repeat their strong 2018 campaigns.
I’m nervous, the bullpen has constantly been an issue for the Nats and Mike Rizzo as they shipped out Madsen and Kintzler last year after a failed season. A lot is riding on Doolittle who is also coming off a shortened season due to injury.
Rizzo either needs to make a few more moves, or cross his fingers and pray this group can get the job done.
2. I think Strasburg will beat the projections
Everyone is very hesitant to give Strasburg the benefit of the doubt that he will come back strong in 2019. I get this somewhat, last year wasn’t disastrous but it also wasn’t great (10-7, 3.74 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 156 K’s, with opponents hitting .309 on balls in play). He got hit around a bit, and only pitched 130 innings.
In both 2016 and 2017 Strasburg tallied 15 wins each season, with his 2017 campaign being in contention of a Cy Young with a 2.52 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. He was dominant, and most projections say he won’t get back to that level this season. I’m seeing a lot of 12-8 records with an ERA in the 3.50 range but I think a fully health Stras can get back to his 2017 form.
That is the key though: fully healthy. Strasburg made his spring debut early this week and looked good (2 scoreless innings with a couple strikeouts). The big thing last season was the disappearing velocity, but his fastball topped out at 94 in his Spring debut so hopefully he can push that up a tick before the season starts.
I think a healthy, confident, Strasburg can rebound from a roller coaster 2018 season and snag 14+ wins with a sub 3.30 ERA.
3. I like Justin Miller and you should too
In case you wanted a quick background on Miller:
This was a guy that signed with the Nats in a minor league deal last year, and worked his way up to the big club. Prior to last year he had pitched sparingly, 42 innings in 2016, 33 innings in 2015, and 8 innings in 2014.
Last year for the Nats here’s what Miller was able to accomplish:
52 Innings, 3.61 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 60 K’s, 17 BB’s, 12.8% Swinging Strike percentage, 83% of runners Left on Base, and opponents only his .254 on balls in play against him.
Miller has a 94-95 MPH Fastball, decent slider, and solid changeup and really held together the broken bullpen last year with his performance. He is known to be a good clubhouse guy as well.
Unfortunately, right now he’s got an injury that could possibly keep him from being ready for Opening Day, but when he gets back I’m sure he’ll go back to having a key role in this questionable bullpen.
4. The Nats don’t seem to think Pedro Severino is ready
Pedro Severino had a pretty bad 2018 (to be fair, so did the Nats as a whole). With an injury-prone Matt Wieters also playing the same position, Severino had a great opportunity to solidify himself as the catcher for the immediate future. Instead he hit .168 in 70 games, with only 2 HR’s, 15 RBI, with a .254 OBP and .247 Slugging.
You can see in the highlight reel there is still potential obviously, and he is still very young:
The twenty-five-year-old now has to wait a bit, as the Nats bring in Yan Gomes and bring BACK Kurt Suzuki to split time at catcher.
Neither is expected to blow away the league offensively but both are improvements over last year and Suzuki brings Veteran leadership and already was a beloved National before.
Severino still will have time to grow, but the position has now gotten a little more crowded. My gut is the Nats simply don’t think Severino is ready whatsoever to take the reigns, the trust just isn’t there yet.
5. Please for the love of god can we just pick a 5th starter
And to be fair, he probably has earned that after a strong run in 2018 (5-3 Record, 3.45 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) but it appears Davey Martinez has not fully decided on that 5th spot. Joe Ross is clearly the guy with the highest upside, but he is only some months removed from his full recovery from surgery, and Fedde didn’t have a great 2018 but then again he only threw 50 innings and is still young.
I would love for this spot to be solidified out of camp. Here is how the guys are doing so far (though Spring Training stats themselves don’t mean THAT much)
Jeremy Hellickson: 5 Innings, 7 K’s, 1.80 ERA, 0.80 WHIP
Based purely on that it is clearly a two-dog race between Ross and Hellickson for that 5th spot. Do you lean on the younger, higher upside Ross? Or do you go with the 31 year old Hellickson who performed last year when the Nats needed a band-aid?
Please just make a choice and stick with it, we know this rotation tends to get banged up anyways so I’m sure whoever doesn’t make the initial rotation will work their way in. What I don’t like is any idea of working in different guys constantly. Pick a man, let them perform, and adjust from there.
Am I an idiot? Bryce is one of the best hitters of our generation right? The Millenial Mickey Mantle? The Vegas Golden Boy? I should be kicking myself for even CONSIDERING the idea of not wanting him on the Nats right? RIGHT?!
And yet…I am.
Look, the credentials speak for themselves. Six all-stars, Rookie of the Year, NL MVP, with an absolute TEAR of a 2015 season.
But as a Nationals fan I have the ability to see more than the numbers. Some of the characterizations are unfair. Coming out of high school, and in his early years in the MLB, the guy had a really bad rep.
Umpires baited him, media-types pounced, and overall Bryce was the “crybaby” in a lot of eyes.
Going beyond some of the unfair criticisms lies a small grain of pitching mound sand of truth. The guy cares ALOT. He is emotional, he is combative, that much is a fact. You watch a season of Nats games and you can see it both on the field and with occasional camera shots to the dugout.
Is it a problem? Max Scherzer is intense too, right? Here’s the difference. When I see Max Scherzer giving his all and being a psycho on the mound, I see it as “I am doing everything in my power to help my team win”. When I see Bryce lose his mind I see “I am doing everything in my power to help ME win.”
I’m not in the dugout, I’m not in the clubhouse, I can’t REALLY speak to his abilities as a leader. But I think a fan perspective is worth something, and I have not ever looked at Bryce as the “Leader” of the Nats. We look to Zim, or to Max as leaders.
Bryce cares about Bryce. Is that a bad thing? No. Is it bad for a team that is trying to contend for a championship? In my opinion, yes.
As much as I envy the World Series champs from previous seasons, look at the guys on those squads.
Those were TEAMS. Those guys worked as a UNIT. Did they each have their own stars? Of course. But it was not one guy leading the charge. And the stars that were at the front, would you put them in the same realm as Bryce as far as competitive and combative attitude? I don’t think so.
The point is, I look at this year’s roster without Bryce Harper and I’m excited. I don’t see one guy leading the charge. I see a cohesive unit. I see young studs mixed with guys in their prime mixed with crafty vets. Without Bryce, I don’t see this weight hanging over this team.
If you resign Bryce to a monster contract you will forever have the “Is he worth it” debate for the next decade. It won’t be about the Nationals, it will be about the scrutiny of every action Harper takes, every at-bat he swings and misses. Everyone will constantly be doing calculations “Oh look, is that ground out worth ___ million dollars?”
Without him I’m looking at a unit that can play free, maybe fly under the radar and surprise some people.
None of this is taking into consideration any of the financial impact or handcuffing of the team. The shuffling of the outfield, and any other logistical impacts along the way. This is one fan’s opinion, purely on emotion and gut feeling.
I think Bryce Harper is an incredible talent. I think Bryce Harper could be a hall-of-famer. I think Bryce Harper could win multiple MVPs in the future.
MLB Network concluded their Top 100 list last night, naming the Top 10 Players to finish off the list.
How is the Top 100 list compiled? MLB Network’s research team, in conjunction with the show’s producers, use statistical analysis to rank the Top 100 players in MLB for the 2019 season. (It’s different from the Shredder, which is used to determine the network’s annual ranking lists for the Top 10 players at each position.)
Let’s take a quick look at which Nats made the cut, and who got absolutely disrespected by the analysts:
#89-Sean Doolittle (Last Year: Unranked)
No doubt Doolittle is finally being considered one of the more elite closers in the game right now. A few pitchers that were ranked higher than him: Kenley Jansen, Ohtani, and Mike Clevinger. Ohtani supposedly won’t even touch the pitchers mound this year, and will bat occasionally as a DH later on in the season. Is that enough to bump him higher than a healthy closer? I guess so.
#84-Trea Turner (Last Year: #47)
Jean Segura barely edges out Turner and nabs #83 somehow, and I don’t understand the huge drop in ranking for Trea. Turner has had some really nice moments, and he’s had some bad spots as well. Still young, still a ton of potential, but he hasn’t established himself as a consistent stud yet. But a 40 spot drop seems drastic. He still hit .270 with close to 20 bombs on a team that underperformed. This seems like too big of a drop.
#80-Stephen Strasburg (Last Year: #28)
Strasburg has had a roller-coaster career. One season he’ll be on fire, the next he’ll be struck by the injury bug and find it hard to stay on the field. Strasburg’s 2017 season was freaking SOLID. 15-4, 2.52 ERA, and his own version of MJ’s “Flu Game” in the playoffs
Last season was not great for Stras, and I think the league continues to overlook him after his initial entry was filled with so much hype. But to go from 28th to 80th?????!! Especially being completely healthy heading into a season with a loaded pitching rotation and re-tooled team. Another head-scratcher.
#78-Patrick Corbin (Last Year: Unranked)
Nats fans are going to like what they see out of Corbin. He’s a guy coming off a really strong 2018, and earning himself that big contract. I love having his lefty arm in the rotation. I’m fine with this ranking. We’ll have more to say about this as the season progresses.
#36-Juan Soto (Last Year:Unranked)
Again the logic here is not adding up to me. Soto put together an INCREDIBLE 2018 campaign, of that there is no doubt. But is his freshman year enough to vault him into the top 40 players of the LEAGUE?? I love Soto, I think he is going to be fantastic for a long time, but can we make that declaration already? They have Soto higher than guys like George Springer, Charlie Blackmon, Cody Bellinger, etc. I love the enthusiasm but this seems a little much.
#21-Anthony Rendon (Last Year: #35)
I’m perfectly okay with this ranking. Rendon had stealthily moved up the ranks season after season and he’s one of those sleeper talents. I like a 14 spot rise for him after putting together yet another strong season.
#5-Max Scherzer (Last Year: #11)
Mad Max is the heartbeat of the Washington Nationals. A grunting, swearing, sweaty, workhorse of a heartbeat. He IS a top 5 player in this league. On his pitching days he is the best player on the field, he controls the game entirely.
Today’s current crop of Wiz fans may have forgotten just how dominant Gil was in his prime. The man would also have THRIVED in today’s social media dominated NBA with his wild thoughts and antics. This guy was a WEIRDO.
Don’t sleep on the Big3 league. Old studs, reignited by competition again, trash-talk, etc.
I will be SHOCKED if Gil doesn’t put at least 50 shots per game.
Also let’s not forget this man was getting paid long after he stopped playing for the Wiz.
In November of 2018 Will Leitch of MLB.com wrote an article about the Top 20 First Basemen and ranked Ryan Zimmerman #15. This put Zim in front of guys like Josh Bell, Justin Bour, and Brandon Belt. This astounded me. I remember the pretty incredible 2017 campaign for Zim wherein he batted .303 in 144 games. But here we are in 2019, and the 34-year-old is coming off an 85-game .264 average season with one year left on his Nats contract.
It has been chronicled heavily on the podcast( Click here to download) of Mike and I’s disdain for the rope that the Nats give to Zim. So it begs the question: Is Zim the worst first baseman starting in the MLB this upcoming season? Or am I just a know-nothing jilted fan talking out of my ass? Let’s take a look.
The first thing to do is start with the nerds. Let’s take a look at the projections:
As you can see the bottom is what Ryan did in 2018, and the five lines above that are possible projections by various sources. The consensus appears to be that he will have a pretty similar season to 2018 numbers-wise, obviously a bigger sample size with him in theory playing more than 85 games in 2019.
Personally, I like Composite’s projections, so let’s use them as an example:
.266 avg, 21 HR, 57 R, 68 RBI in 406 at-bats.
I want to start in the NL East, and look around the other first basemen inside the division. This is based on MLB.com’s projected depth-chart as of today:
Mets-Todd Frazier (but really Pete Alonso)
Immediately place Freddie Freeman and Rhys Hoskins WAY above Zim in pretty much any sort of category. Now we are left with Pete O’Brien (who sounds like the guy that helps me with my taxes) and the shell of Todd Frazier with one of the top Mets prospects Pete Alonso waiting on the wings.
Here’s the Pete Alonso mixtape in case you were wondering:
Don’t bother looking up Peter O’Brien, just know that he may one of the few Zim has beat. So far the only first baseman I would rank lower than Zim is O’Brien.
Current Ranking of Zim: 4th (of 5 Teams)
Now let’s dive into more of the National League starting with the NL Central:
The Central is LOADED with First Base talent. Immediately place Rizzo and Goldy above Zim. Votto is up there too, especially for Fantasy Baseball owners. That leaves a non-household name in Aguilar, and Bell.
Aguilar has CRAZY pop, 35 dingers last year, and in 2018 really broke out. His potential immediately vaults him above Zim.
Bell is an interesting case because I would put him in a similar boat to Zim, and the projections do as well. Bell underachieved last year coming off a pretty solid 2017. I think the power numbers will be better than Zim, as well as the average.
Current Ranking of Zim: 9th (of 10 Teams)
I’ll zip through the NL West
Murph and Muncy are easily placed above Zim. Hosmer is probably looking at a 20+ bombs .270+ avg season as well, so put him up there too.
Jake Lamb had solid power numbers in 2016 and 2017, and last year wasn’t able to do much only playing in only 56 games due to injury. His power should be back, so he should double (maybe triple) Zim’s homer numbers. Belt is very very close to Zim. I will actually give Zim the SLIGHT edge for Zim because I think he can beat Belt out this year.
Current Ranking of Zim: 13th (of 15 Teams)
The American League! Let’s go to the AL East, where things may surprise you a bit.
Orioles-Chris Davis (You could make a case for Mancini)
Red Sox-Mitch Moreland
Blue Jays-Justin Smoak
For all the hype the AL East gets, the position of First Base isn’t loaded here. I would put Zim above Chris Davis, but lower than Mancini. Moreland and Yandy Diaz aren’t great options either.
Let’s go ahead and say Mancini represents the O’s in this scenario. Zim ranks higher than Diaz and Moreland to me.
Current Ranking of Zim: 16th (of 20 Teams)
On to the AL Central:
White Sox-Jose Abreu
Indians-Jake Bauers/Carlos Santana
The ghost of Miguel Cabrera is still better than the ghost of Ryan Zimmerman, so I’ll give him the edge.
The Cleveland situation is a tad unfair because the Indians plan to platoon between Bauers and Santana, but Santana is still better numbers-wise than Zim.
As for Ryan O’Hearn and CJ Cron, O’Hearn is young and projecting for a .250-type season. Cron is coming off a 30 bomb year that earned him a spot with the Twins after being released on waivers by Tampa Bay. So put Zim over O’Hearn, but slightly behind Cron.
Current Ranking of Zim: 20th (of 25 teams)
Our last division is the AL West:
Angels-Albert Pujols/Justin Bour
Here’s a fun shift the Astros did on Gallo
Gallo, Olson, and Gurriel are easily picked higher than Zim on any sort of fantasy or real life rankings. Pujols and Bour will probably share some time at first, but gotta think Bour will get more actual starts there and Pujols nears the end of his career.
Honestly, the only guy you could put lower than Zim here is Healy. A strong 2017 lead into a mediocre 2018 for Healy.
So after all of that here is where we stand:
Final Ranking of Zim: 24th (of 30 teams)
Looking through the Nats pipeline, there isn’t a lot of excitement at the first base position either once you get past Zim and Matt Adams. I was wrong, Zim is not the WORST first baseman in the MLB, but it still doesn’t look great.
Per FederalBaseball.com, the 24-year-old Catcher (drafted in the 6th round in 2016 by the Nats) is “solid defensively”, handles pitchers well, and leads the defense.
In 2018, Barrera hit .263, with 6 bombs, 24 RBI, and 68 hits in 259 AB’s. Barrera currently sits 14th in the Nats prospect list per MLB.com (list was from 2018, new prospect list comes out this month). The consensus seems to be his bat has pop, but sometimes pulls the ball way too much and doesn’t have much self-control at the plate.
As you can tell in this video, he’s a strong dude with a lot of raw power, the question will be if he can be consistent and work his way up through the Nats ranks.
Overall this seems to just be a good experience builder for Barrera, don’t expect him to be on the big squad for a few years, if ever.
If you recall, and likely you don’t, the Nats signed Alvarez to a minor league deal back in November of last year. Alvarez, 28, pitched in 2018 with the Phillies.
He had a 4.30 ERA in 14 2/3 innings for Philly. His last GOOD season was in 2014 where he went 12-7, 2.65 ERA in 187 innings pitched (per Federalbaseball.com).
A lot of old glory years for this guy, including a no-hitter:
This is purely one of those low-risk invites that could lead to some depth pitching-wise if needed. The guy throws a Fastball, Sinker, Curve, Slider, and Changeup, mainly relying on his Fastball and Sinker.
Basically, this is a guy who’s promising career was derailed by injuries, and now has a chance to showcase himself with a Nats spring training squad. My guess is the Nats could stash him somewhere in AAA and wait for the inevitable injury bug to strike the rotation at some point and have Alvarez give the team a few starts.
Overall, nothing to be too excited about, but keep an eye on Alvarez’s numbers here in Spring as he hopes to climb his way back to the big time.
Even if he “lost control”, it’s still a travel to pass or shoot it to yourself. Y’all got this one wrong, it’s okay to be wrong haha even brad knows it was a walk… and a ref told me to “learn the rules” the other day…
The first picture is the Wizards lineup from Game 1 of the season. The second, from last night’s loss to the Pistons. It is pretty incredible how different the team looks now. Beal being the only starter still in the lineup.
Is it weird if I like this team BETTER than the team the Wiz had opening the year?
These Wizards—with John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Porter together as the stars—are on their sixth season as the most maddening show in the NBA. The franchise reached the Eastern Conference semifinals just two seasons ago, but any hope that the script would feature a happy ending went up in flames shortly thereafter. The 2017-18 campaign came off like a bad soap opera with a host of miscast characters openly fighting in full view of the cameras, only to have it all end when they were shoved off the playoff stage in the first round. Even Showtime would have canceled them by now, but Grunfeld and the Wizards keep pushing variations of the same plot into production.
If you are like me then you are not an insane person and couldn’t stay up to watch some of these games last night on the west coast. But, if you are like me then you are also really sad that you didn’t get to stay up and watch these two teams pick up some nice wins.
First, the Wiz:
Kieff poured in 28 pts, including going 6 for 10 from deep. Oubre with 22 off the bench and a nice line from Brad Beal: 25 pts, 8 reb, 7 ast.
It took an OT effort, but that is a HUGE win to pick up on the road in Portland to start the road trip.
It’s funny, because Mike and I were just talking about how worried we were for this team headed into the next few games but the boys balled out. (Except Ian Mahinmi who played four minutes, picked up two fouls, 0 reb, and 0 pts)
Next, the Caps:
Coming off the shootout loss to Florida, the Caps needed a nice bounce-back game. Ovie continues his rampage as he picks up four points.
Give this man a full season without injury, these are the kind of numbers you expect. Wall went hard all 36 minutes, but clearly was a little gassed at the end. The Wiz are a missed Wall three-pointer away from being 1-0. Bad shot decision when he could have driven and drawn contact? Possibly.
I know, a little strange for a guy to get a D+ when he almost gets a double-double. Otto Porter needs to do…more. Multiple guys off the bench get more shots up than he did (Jeff Green put in a great case to try and earn the starting SF spot), he didn’t tally a single assist, didn’t shoot a single three, this was not a great game from OP. Both Heat forwards outplayed him.
Kieff is always going to be a hit-or-miss player. Some nights he’ll be on, some he’ll be way off. Tonight he was pretty good. He is out there to be a bruiser, hit a few threes, but definitely needs to put up higher rebound numbers. The Wiz were DESTROYED on the boards last night (55 to 40). Including allowing 22 offensive rebounds to Miami. That can’t happen.
Well, with Gortat gone, and Dwight hurt, here is a look at what Mahinmi does with a starting opportunity. Not good. Brooks only gave him 12 min as well. Mahinmi is definitely more fashioned to provide energy and physicality off the bench. He is not a starting center in this league.
This has been a pretty weird start to the season for the Caps. First they absolutely annihilate the Bruins to open up the season 7-0. The next day they fall to Pittsburgh 7-6 in OT. and then they get FIVE days off??
We were a little worried there was going to be some sort of a letdown after such a long break. Instead, this ended up being a SUPER entertaining game.
The first was back and forth until Kuzy snagged the first goal of the game late in the 1st on a PP
Syracuse to DC, not ideal but not too bad. Fresno to DC??? WTF?
The Nationals knew they would have to leave Syracuse when the New York Mets bought the Chiefs before this season, virtually guaranteeing they would sign a player development contract there when the Chiefs’ player development contract with the Nationals expired. Several other Class AAA affiliates were playing under expiring player development contracts, so the Nationals figured to have a chance at somewhere fairly close. Nashville, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Fresno, and Round Rock (Tex.) were available.
“[Fresno] was our second choice. Obviously, we made it clear Nashville was our primary choice and they chose someone else,” Rizzo said. “We ended up going to a place that wanted us and we’re happy with.”
Laz Diaz, after stopping play to scream at Bryce Harper all the way out in center field, barked at him on Harper’s way off, screaming “I know you can hear me!” And Laz is now staring Bryce down as he makes his way down the dugout. Wow.
Home plate umpire Laz Diaz, totally normally, screamed at Dave Martinez to stop Bryce Harper from doing *something* in center field. Harper's silent responses of grabbing his cup and a subtle head shake is why he's a perennial All-Star. pic.twitter.com/SE7EEEhAqD
The transition from the semi’s to the finals just turned the Mystics into an entirely different team. Shooting from beyond the arc was bad, sloppy turnovers, and poor defense, BUT hopefully this team will be back at this stage again next year.
Porter (14.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.0 APG) isn’t one to amaze—only to steady his team with quiet capability. The vast majority of his shots are created for him, though Porter adds value the moment the ball touches his hands. If open on the perimeter, Porter (who finished third in three-point percentage last season) is a lights-out shooter with a high release point. Should the defense give his shot the respect it deserves, Porter can drive in response without veering out of control. Restraint is the through line of his game. One can always trust in Porter to play within himself, gifting his coaches and teammates a certain peace of mind. Porter is the player you never have to worry about.
These are virtues best appreciated in contrast. If a team were composed entirely of players with Porter’s disposition, the offense might seesaw into eternity one non-committal pick-and-roll at a time. Yet in any more typical ecosystem, Porter would be welcome for his range, his patience, and his defense. Two-way, low-maintenance players are championship mortar. What Porter needs are the right bricks.
If an opponent really wanted to scheme away Porter’s offense, they could. There’s nothing particularly intricate going on in how he gets his points. But attaching a defender to deny Porter shots will still serve his intended purpose, making life that much easier on the creators around him. Reducing the game to 4-on-4 will favor any competent offense. Porter, meanwhile, can still assume critical defensive responsibilities and facilitate his team’s best lineups by flexing between positions. Nothing is wasted with Porter, even when he assumes a background role.
#27: Bradley Beal
This was a stretch season for Beal (22.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.5 APG), who not only played all 82 games for the first time in his career but went half that time without John Wall. The experience was illuminating. We saw Beal run even more pick-and-roll than usual, approaching each with a new disposition. Taking over the responsibility for an offense can’t help but change a player. Even though Beal will always see the game as a scorer first, he was more patient when it came to reading the floor and letting his options develop. The lesson, contrary to the extreme reaction at the time, was not that the Wizards are better off without Wall. It was that the Wizards are better off without Wall dominating the offense, which Beal could do more to help orchestrate.
Every year, Beal’s handle gets a little tighter. His crossovers these days aren’t quite so unruly, which allows him to work in straighter lines. The more direct Beal’s game is, the better; he’s so good at slamming on the brakes—only to pull-up for a jumper or pivot into one—that any momentum he generates works to his advantage. Beal’s touch is natural, but his moves are earned. You can see the patterns in his footwork that would only materialize through repetition, as he sorts out how to attack out of any situation and at any angle. Maybe the most underrated part of Beal’s game is the sheer accessibility of his scoring. No matter where he’s positioned, there’s always a way through.
#24: John Wall
As always, Wall (19.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 9.6 APG) has paid careful attention to the perception of his standing relative to his peers, noting in an August interview with NBA Sports Washington that “a lot of guys don’t talk about me being a top-five point guard.” Although SI.com ranked Wall as the fifth-best point guard and 13th overall player at this time last year, it’s impossible to argue that he lived up to that billing. The five-time All-Star missed half the season due to injury, ranked outside the top 45 by PER, Win Shares, Real Plus-Minus and WARP, and was quickly bounced in the first round of the playoffs. At 28, Wall has never led a 50-win team, he’s led just one top-10 offense, and he’s won just three total playoff series during his eight-year career. That body of work doesn’t compare—at all—to the likes of Stephen Curry, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook.
If Wall returns to full health and 20/10 production, he belongs in the mix for a top-five spot with the next tier of point guards: Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry. But regaining his footing in that conversation requires more than just flashing his incredible athleticism, maintaining his improved three-point percentage, and recommitting himself on the defensive end. Wall spent a good portion of last year sniping with Marcin Gortat, and his ball-dominant approach briefly led critics to wonder if Washington was better off without him when he was injured. If Wall can make meaningful strides as an inclusive and empowering leader both on and off the court, the Wizards are far more likely to reach their playoff ceiling. When that happens, he won’t need to waste his time and energy fighting for respect. He’ll get his due.
Liz Clarke of The Washington Post reports that “thousands of tickets remain unsold at FedEx Field” for Sunday’s game vs. the Colts.
Redskins officials would not say how many seats were available at FedEx Field, which has been scaled back at least three times in recent years, from 91,704 to 82,000 seats, according to the team’s figures. But a review of available, previously unsold tickets on NFL Ticket Exchange showed that more than 3,650 were available Tuesday morning in all sections of the stadium, across all price points, for Sunday’s game.
The article also focuses on the “sellout” figure that the Skins media guide tends to promote about the stadium “sellouts for the past 50 years”. Of course, we all know how crappy the FedEx Field experience is anyways.
For many fans, the game-day trek to FedEx Field, which ranks near the bottom of fan surveys of the best-and-worst NFL venues, is another disincentive to a $567.50 outing. That’s the average cost for two people to attend a Redskins game at FedEx, according to GoBankingRates.com, covering tickets, parking and a hot dog, beer and soda apiece. It ranks ninth most expensive in the NFL.
I guess the most surprising part of this story is the Redskins media people actually admitting that Sunday’s game may not sell out. Especially since that “sell-out” stat is complete bullshit.
Glory Days tend to have enough TV’s to support a multitude of events. Apparently not:
“My family came to watch the game. They were super excited on Sunday afternoon before any football game really started. This place is really cool. They have a bunch of screens. They have at the table where you can turn on the volume for what specific TV you want. So my family literally asked for the smallest television to be turned on to a WNBA game, and the manager on spot basically laughed in their face.”-Natasha Cloud
I get it, its NFL Sunday, a lot of games were going down to the wire. But you are telling me not ONE television could have been tuned to the WNBA Finals for a player’s frigging FAMILY??
Like a July 4th cookout or a family trip to the waterpark, a change of address for Howard (16.6 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 1.6 BPG) has become a rite of summer. The eight-time All-Star center has landed in Washington via Charlotte and Brooklyn, continuing a cycle of new GMs dumping him as quickly as possible and desperate GMs talking themselves into a gamble that will almost certainly backfire.
The 32-year-old Howard is far removed from his prime years and probably leads the league in worn-out welcomes, but his reputation shouldn’t completely eclipse his performance. Last season, he missed just one game, he made Charlotte better both offensively and defensively when he was on the court, and he was one of only five NBA players to average 12 points and 12 rebounds. While Howard’s defensive impact, mobility and effort have atrophied—thereby limiting his utility in the postseason—he still ranked among the league’s most productive rebounders and finished 70% of his shots in the basket area. It’s too late for the former No. 1 pick to become the player and teammate everyone has hoped for, but he remains a worthy option as a starting center.
Gotta think Beal and Wall will be in the top 50 when that comes out.
I don’t know why the first tweet phrased this as “revenge”…The guy didn’t even play here a complete season, was going to get a new contract somewhere else likely anyways even if the Nats hadn’t blown it up.
Another bad night for Roark: 5 innings, 10 hits, 6 ER, 0 BB’s, 4 K’s. I feel like the Nats fans sometimes try and make this guy something he is not…
Nats now 7.5 Games back in the NL EAST and 9 Games Back in the WC.
Oh hey, Football is back tonight!
Tonight at 7:05 ET vs. the Cubs
Hendricks (11-10, 3.77 ERA) vs. Strasburg (7-7, 4.09 ERA)
The Washington #Mystics beat the Atlanta Dream 86-81 and advance to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Really entertaining game. Atkins: 20 PTS, 7 REB, 3 AST Toliver: 19 PTS, 3 AST Hawkins: 17 PTS, 10 MIN Delle Donne: 14 PTS, 11 REB, 4 AST
It will be good to see Joe Ross again, as he will likely be in the starting rotation next season. Robles as well, had that early season injury and was out for a bit, a lot of excitement around his abilities.
You knew this because @Ken_Rosenthal isn't wrong, but do have confirmation now that Nats sent Gio Gonzalez to the Brewers. He's been a staple. This is the move that really drives home the point: This band is breaking up.
Always easy to second guess decisions after the result, but Dave Martinez had two critical errors tonight that cost the #Nats. 1. Leaving Gio in during the 5th inning after he was clearly laboring and 2. Leaving Cordero in after throwing 40+ pitches. Little things add up.