The Panic Button

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This was the team that made D.C. dream. We cheered with them, cried with them, and sung “Take on Me” with them. 2012 was an incredible year for the Nationals.
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Murphy’s Law Strikes Again, Takes Harper

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Less than a week ago, Harper left the game for not hustling enough in Matt Williams’ opinion during a routine groundout. The Nationals eventually lost.

Six days later the Nationals lead by two against the Padres. Bases loaded. Harper hit one deep into right, off the scoreboard. The runners scored, and after his briefing with Matt Williams, Harper wanted a triple. He slid headfirst into third, safe.

But when the next inning began, McClouth replaced Harper in left field. Fans assumed he had just jammed his thumb, and would come back soon. But on Sunday, the Nationals announced he would go on the fifteen-day DL.

Where have we heard this story before?

Oh, wait, we all know. Opening Day, with Ramos. Against the Braves on April 11, with Zimmerman. Fister in his second to last spring training game.

Lady luck has not smiled upon the Nationals with injuries so far this season. Starters have already combined for more than roughly 43 games lost this season, all big blows.

Many things with the ability to go wrong went wrong. Harper sliding into third. Zimmerman with second. Ramos on a foul ball. Fister on a pitch.

But here’s the good news.

The Nats have won 56 percent of their games without Ramos’ big bat, and have gone 7-6 against two very good teams after the Braves series without Zimmerman. Desmond & Werth are stepping it up while Espinosa, LaRoche, Rendon and Lobaton continue to hit. Plus, the time left on the DL remaining for Fister runs out soon, and Zimmerman and Ramos can both come back by mid-late May.

Nats est. DL time left (C/O NatsWX)

Nats est. DL time left (C/O NatsWX)

Harper’s sprain hopefully won’t mean ligamental damage, and the Nats may pick up where they left off very soon.

The baseball offseason in review

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There are quite a few holidays in the good ol’ U.S.A. Christmas, July 4th, Labor Day, Presidents Day, Easter, Hanukkah, and my personal favorite after Hanukkah: Opening Day. However, there is one more I didn’t list there. The day that pitchers and catchers report.

The month is February, and the days are short, gray and cold. But you know, that somewhere in Southern Florida or Arizona, the boys of summer are getting ready. Maybe they’re just catching up on what happened in those long months or sharing glory from the World Series, or doing basic drills. But they’re back in uniform, in the heat, and everyone is optimistic. That will change for most teams, but this is the most hopeful day. So, as baseball starts up again, we have to look back at the offseason.

The first thing was managerial positions, the most important thing in my opinion. Former players like Matt Williams & Brad Ausmus both got the most appealing jobs, for the Nationals and Tigers. Lloyd McClendon, Bryan Price and Rick Rentaria all joined the Mariners, Reds and Cubs, respectively.

Back in November, which feels like forever ago at this point, the first truly major name switched teams. Tim Hudson left the Atlanta Braves for the Giants on a two year deal.

However, the real stuff didn’t start for another few days. This was one of the most unexpected deals, with Prince Fielder being traded to the Rangers for cash and Ian Kinsler.

This shocked the baseball world in ways more than one. However, I feel like I said something about this a while back…

After this, the bigger deals started. Jhonny Peralta went to the Cardinals, and before you could say that “The Cardinals are the Yankees of the NL!” The Yankees made a splash and a half by signing Jacoby Elisbury and Carlos Beltran, creating a starting outfield with a combined age of 96 and 3 other outfielders including Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano. Sheesh.

This is where it gets interesting for Nats fans. For barely anything unless you are a citizen of Natstown, The Nats acquired Doug Fister for prospect Robbie Ray and second baseman/utility man Steve Lombardozzi. Even more interestingly, the deal was reported by a high schooler.

Next, a confusing three-team deal sent Mark Trumbo to the D-Backs. The next day, the Nats traded for Jerry Blevins, a lefty reliever. The day right after that, Nate McClouth made the cross-beltway journey to join the Nats as a utility man. Right after, Mike Napoli resigned with the Red Sox, and beards everywhere rejoiced. However, the biggest deal of the offseason was yet to come. The Seattle Mariners somehow got their hands on Robinson Cano, for ten years and $240 million.

Trying to replace the big bat that Helton provided, Morneau decided that he would spend the next two years in Colorado. The Giants then added Michael Morse. The final big deal before the new year was Sin Soo Choo signing with the Rangers for seven years. Jamey Carroll came back to Natstown, again, except he’ll start (in all likelihood) in Syracuse. Right before MLB approved instant replay, A-Rod was suspended, and it was announced he would miss all of the 2014 season.

Coincidentally, the final “really big deal” happened when the Yankees spent the A-Rod money on Masahiro Tanaka signed with the Yankees.

The final relatively important deals were made on January 26th, when Matt Garza signed with the Brewers.

The only big names that remain are Nelson Cruz, A.J. Burnett, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez.

So, if there’s anything I missed, I apologize. It’s pretty hard to put an entire offseason into 700 words.

But everything is in place for an awesome season. What will be a bust? What will work? What was stupid? What was smart? Let me know in the comments. In the meantime, see you on Opening Day!

Award Time!!

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It’s that time of year again – when teams without playoff hope go into despair, and put their attention on new managers and draft picks, and the contenders go into all-out win mode. Plus, the talk heats up about these small awards. So, without any further ado, my MLB award picks.

AL ROY:

Mike Trout: 29 Homers. .321 BA. 47 stolen bases. 79 RBI. Quite a few wall catches. Have I said enough?

NL ROY:

Bryce Harper: It’s not been a record batting average, but 21 homers, 95 runs and 58 RBIs(and counting) look pretty good for a teenager. This guy knows how to turn on a team’s excitement, energy, and play. Every game you watch him, he does something that you expect to be on SportsCenter’s top plays. If he’s 19 and doing this already – you have to give him the nod for Rookie of the Year.

AL MVP:

This is tough. But unless Miguel Cabrera can get the triple crown, I have to give this guy the nod. Don’t get me wrong, there is tons of competition that is being overlooked because of a 21 year old who is one home run away from being a member of the 30/30 club. Robinson Cano has a .301 average, 30 homers and 83 ribbies.  Josh Hamilton is the AL leader with 43 home runs and has 130 RBI. Adam Jones puts up a fight as well. But if you put together a for sure gold glover, member of the 30/30 club, a .321 BA, 47 stolen bases and 79 RBI, only one person is that well rounded and incredible, so you have to hand Mike Trout the AL MVP award.

NL MVP: Nobody noticed, and I’ll admit I didn’t notice them for a while either. But Ryan Braun, Buster Posey and Yadier Molina were all quietly having incredible seasons. However, the public’s loss of faith in Braun has brought the race down to these two. Which brings us to a question: Molina or Posey? So, with general play, attitude, team play and leadership, I had to go through the Moneyball approach. Who’s stats beat the others? They were both very close or the same in BA and Home runs. But the one category there was a real difference in – RBI. Posey is at 100, while Molina is 25 behind him at 75, and with every other category close, and adding on a NL West Division championship, I have to give the nod to Buster Posey as NL MVP. 

AL Cy Young: David Price has been quietly dominant with his 2.56 ERA speaking for itself, as well as a 19-5 record. So give the nod to him – because in all honesty – there isn’t much competition – and while Verlander could get the award for the second time, he only has 16 wins, so you have to give the nod to price.

Manager of the year NL:  You have to go with Davey Johnson. If you can bring a team from under .500 to the best record in baseball, especially in a division with the Braves and Phillies you have a vote in my book.

Manager of the year AL: Buck Showalter has basically done the same thing Davey Johnson has done, except without the Division Champs part, and only 45 minutes away, too! Just like Davey, he had to fight the competition in the division to do it too. In fact, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if there was a beltway battle for the world series.

NL Cy Young: This, by far is the hardest one for me. R.A Dickey’s E.R.A and knuckleball shine up in New York. Craig Kimbrel looks pretty good in Atlanta, and pretty unstoppable now that you mention it. Johnny Cueto, despite the no-hitter that wasn’t his looks pretty good at 19-9 with a 2.81 ERA. But none of them are both the ace and leading their team into the playoffs, which was the deciding factor for me in this. He stepped up big time when the limelight fell on him after number one was gone. He is the first, and so far the only pitcher with 21 wins, plus 207 strikeouts, and his 2.89 ERA seals the deal for me – so I give the nod to, you guessed it, Gio Gonzalez.

There are many other possibilities for all of these – and I’m not saying I should be right – but in my opinion, these guys deserve the awards.

Marlins and Angels are getting what they deserve

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Vince Lombardi once said “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” Which is pretty much the story of these two team’s seasons so far.

Both teams made major additions to their team. The Marlins have gotten Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, and the Angels get Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson. Plus, they both have more than two aces, so they can’t go wrong, right? Wrong. Both have gotten out to bad starts, proving that quote something to live by.

Even though both have great talent, they simply aren’t executing it in the right way. The Angels are trying to make everything centered around Albert, and expecting CJ to do incredibly. Which is the wrong expectation, meaning the other players aren’t worked hard enough, meaning the others lack plus Albert and CJ are under too much pressure.

The Marlins, on the other hand, are expecting too much from other players. Mark Buehrle’s ERA is closer to four than it is to 3, Jose Reyes is batting .238 – they need more pressure on them.

This just proves that getting talent isn’t enough – you have to have chemistry, and execute it in the right way.

Pujols: The Story Of a Man who left his home

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In November of 2011, Albert Pujols seemed to have everything. Two world series rings, 3 MVP trophies, and a town to love him. As it seems, most people would be happy with that, if not satisfied and ready to call St. Louis home. We all want more though. And he left his fans, his home and his team behind for glitzy L.A. And sure, there is the effect of C.J Wilson and Torii Hunter, but he didn’t join the Angels just for that. He joined it for the money.

As we all feel like, it seemed very LeBron like to join another team even when he has success, fame and fortune. Albert Pujols also wanted a chance to win. But it’s different. Albert left because of money. LeBron had a legit reason to go to Miami – he wasn’t winning championships.

But Albert had just won a world series. He had left his home.

Leaving for money is what it has come down to. Money, money money in the rich man’s world. Many Cardinals fans were dismayed, incredibly shocked, worried. But the fame effects us so we feel as if it’s only money. I don’t know why.

Maybe you get this sense that you can do anything and money is all that matters. Once you get to the point that money is more important than championships, it’s a sad, sad day.

5 things to expect from MLB this year

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Well, it’s official – this show is on the road. After the long, dark, cold and gray winter, athletes return to Arizona or Florida to get their game on, for the real deal – the 2012 MLB season.

There is a lot to expect from this year – players leaving, players coming, and just brand spanking new players too. But here are five things you shouldn’t be caught off guard on this year.

1. The Cardinals Returning to the playoffs:

Look, I know they lost their heart and soul, and a starter, but this is a team that is more than two players. They have hitting and reasonable pitching, which is definitely enough to get them to a Wild-Card spot.

2. The NL East being up for grabs:

4 out of 5 teams in this division look ready to rumble. (the odd team out being the Mets). The Marlins have revamped hitting and pitching, the Phillies have always been good, the Nationals being led Strasburg and Harper, and the Braves getting a couple more chances with the newbies and veterans.

3. The AL East looking different – for better and worse:

The AL East has been a dominant power the past couple years – 3 out of the past 4 seasons they have gotten the AL pennant, and won it 2 times out of those years. But, teams like the Yankees are looking for a fresh start with young pitching and trading away veterans. Teams like the Rays are trying to find a way to not just ride luck this year, and finding talent that can play all year, and the Red Sox looking to forget last year – and look to find a prominent lineup to not collapse and goof off.

4. The Tigers winning the AL (possibly):

Take a look at the lineup. Now take a look at the pitching. Wow. That’s scary for batters and pitchers. They have found a second homer hitter, which just might get them those runs they need, since it’s still the same team, just better.

5. The Angels and Marlins not being necessarily good:

O.K, I know I said the Marlins were a contender. And they are! But, let’s just get some stuff straight first. As you could tell from the Red Sox epic collapse – (and every all-star game), putting good players together does NOT make a good team. I think they will both be fine, but I’m not necessarily a believer that either of these teams can make it past the AL or NLDS – after all, after C.J Wilson and Mark Buehrle, do either of these teams have pitching?

Well, every season takes it’s own twists and turns, so we’ll just have to see.