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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….
This weekend marks the start of a very important 11 game home
stand for the Washington Nationals. If the Nats have even the slightest hopes
of post season baseball in 2019, they need to start beating the teams in front
of them—but before we get there, how did the Nats get back to playing meaningful
Let’s think back to Memorial Day weekend- not the hamburgers
or hot dogs, but the National’s record and sad state of affairs. Hovering around
10-12 games under 500, far from the first place Phillies, it almost seemed like
Davey Martinez’ club was already out of playoff contention before the Memorial
Day weekend charcoal had even cooled.
But since losing 4 straight in New York against the Mets,
something unexpected has happened, the Nationals started to play better
baseball. It started with taking 3-4 from the Marlins in an extended weekend
series which led to the Nationals reeling off wins in 12 of their next 17 games.
So, what changed so quickly?
Part of the reason for the Nationals underwhelming and downright
ugly start to the 2019 season was a rash of injuries including Ryan Zimmerman.
Zimmerman may not be the most shocking name to hit the injured list but you certainly
don’t expect his backup, Matt Adams to join him there. Add injuries to Trea
Turner, Anthony Rendon, and Howie Kendrick and you’ll start to understand why
the Nats fell so far below 500.
It wasn’t just injuries though- the nights when the offense
provided a few runs they were most often givien back fairly quickly. The bullpen
has by far been the greatest weakness of the 2019 Washington Nationals. Boasting
the highest ERA in the NL for a long time in the early half of the season;
outside of closer Sean Doolittle, they struggled to find an out. You had good
starts from Corbin, Strasburg and especially Scherzer wasted due to the
inability of the bullpen to get outs.
So as the Nationals enter their most important home stand of
the season (so far) which includes matchups against the Phillies and Braves
both of whom they are chasing, why should Nats fans have any faith that their winning
ways will continue?
The truth is the Nats turnaround (or slight version of…) is
a product of simply playing better baseball. The defense is not committing as
many errors and the offense is providing timely hits. This, plus Strasburg,
Sanchez and Scherzer having some great starting efforts without the bullpen
giving the runs right back.
Turner took some time reaching 100% getting back from injury
but he enters the long home stand on fire. Rendon is also hitting well lately
and getting on base at an All-Star rate. Even the bullpen has produced some
help for Doolittle as Tanner Rainey seems to be a strong 7th or 8th inning option hitting mid to
upper 90’s routinely.
Don’t pencil the Nats in the 2019 post season yet but they certainly
have started to play better baseball since Memorial Day. Will they be good
enough to make a run at the teams in front of them?
After this 11-game home stand, we may have our answer.
I’m not here to argue with Passan, in fact, I’m going to highlight some of his best points in the piece:
On the Lerner Letter:
Between talking about how “the actions we are taking now will strengthen the franchise and keep us in the position of being a perennial contender” and shouting out general manager Mike Rizzo while not bothering to mention manager Dave Martinez by name, Lerner saw the abnormality of the Nationals’ 2018 season and happily raised it. Every day, it seems, brings a new twist to a team that entered the season with championship aspirations and finally brandished the white flag Tuesday, with 125 games of sub-.500 baseball under their belts.
On Rizzo and Kintzler:
There may not be another general manager who would trade a player because he falsely believed him to be a source in a critical story, but then Rizzo is one of a kind and Brandon Kintzler is headed to the playoffs with the Cubs, so there’s that.
On Possibly a Bright Future:
The ills that plague the Nationals are more bacterial than viral, solvable so long as the proper prescription is handed out. There can be, as Lerner alluded to in his letter, a bright future in Washington. Max Scherzer is under contract long-term. Juan Soto is a star. Anthony Rendon is around for another year. Trea Turner is the shortstop of the present and future. Stephen Strasburg, when healthy, is a solid No. 2 starter. Adam Eaton is a nice part of any core. Victor Robles is on the come. There are pieces.
The easiest target is Martinez, a first-year manager whose fortunes pale next to his neophyte contemporaries: the Red Sox’s Alex Cora, the Yankees’ Aaron Boone and the Phillies’ Gabe Kapler. Even worse for Martinez is that the man he replaced, Dusty Baker, had won a pair of division titles, gone 192-132 and engendered great faith among players in his two seasons with the Nationals. As one person who values managerial dynamics put it: “Managers are generally overrated until they aren’t. On teams with big stars, the manager needs to be better than most, bigger than most, more skilled than most or those stars only shine for themselves.”
Again, no argument. The pieces are there, the execution was not. Blame Davey, Blame Rizzo, Blame Lerner, you can make a case for each and for all (let’s not forget the players too).
I do still go back to the Kintzler situation and question the rationale being a little extreme. Rumors fly from the clubhouse, Rizzo assumes/decides that Kintzler was involved, Kintzler pleads “on his children” that it wasn’t him, Rizzo ships him out anyway.