Category Archives: Nationals

Why Papelbon Should’ve Squeezed Harper’s Throat With Both Hands

Here to weigh in on Harper v. Papelbon is my real-life friend and big baseball fan/coach, Wright Way. (It’s a pen name. Get it?)

Note that I disagree with him, but I think it’s important to get this view out there as it doesn’t seem to be commonly shared by Nats fans.


There is a lot to be said for respecting your team, teammates and opponents. Respect on a baseball field is shown in a number of ways, from the way you take the field to the way you play the game. Additionally, respect is earned in as many ways as it’s shown.

One common misconception is the overlap between respect and fear. Many respected players earn the respect they are shown for the way they play the game; conversely some players are feared because of the way they play the game.

Is it possible to be both? Sure. There are current and historical players who have earned and lost respect for various reasons. There are also players who are feared for their capabilities as well as their antics.

Some examples that immediately come to mind are Derek Jeter and Ty Cobb. Both were exceptional ballplayers. Both had wonderful careers that are still doted on to this day. That is where any comparison should end.

Jeter was world class on and off the field. He was respected as well as respectful. He played the game hard every pitch of every inning of every game he participated in.

Cobb was the opposite of everything Jeter stood for. Was he a great player? Absolutely! However, it was how he played the game that kept him alienated from teammates and fans alike. Cobb was most definitely a feared player (especially to anyone covering second on a steal) for reasons far beyond what he was capable of showing in a stat line.

Fast forward to modern day and there are a number of players in the bigs who follow similar paths as those two. Do they play at the same superior level as Jeter and Cobb? Well, that’s to be determined, but when playing in today’s game of constant coverage both on and off the field it’s better to be remembered as a respected player rather than a feared one.

There are quite a few players that come to mind in the modern respected-feared conversation:

Mike Trout — Respected for the the way he plays the game, going hard every play to the point of self-inflicted injury. Feared because of what he can accomplish at the plate. Simply amazing.

Manny Ramirez — Once feared by any opposing pitcher who would face him in October, yet never respected by anyone who wasn’t a teammate, and often times by those who were.

Alex Rodriguez — Typically only feared by pitchers from April through August, and once respected by everyone until the truth of his PED scandal came to light.

Jonathan Papelbon — Now this is a tricky one. Papelbon, once known to throw hard and to be as selfless as any player in Majors, has had a change of heart. After departing from Boston his attitude changed significantly. He was no longer a team guy in Philly, and he alienated teammates and opponents alike. However, he is still and should be a feared opponent, capable of high velocity and not shy about throwing it high-and-tight to anyone he feels deserves it.

Bryce Harper — Another Tricky one. Is Harper respected? Surely by some, fans and teammates alike. Is he feared? Without a doubt. He was quite possibly the best player, statistically speaking, in Major League Baseball this season. But there’s another side to Harper that isn’t shown as much now as it was prior to 2015. It’s his unwillingness to perform when it doesn’t benefit Bryce Harper.

In one recent event the last two guys on that list were intertwined in a respected-feared incident in which they both showed exactly how two players can be a little of each, yet none of either all at the same time. Harper is still a young player who, at this stage in his career, should be doing everything possible to earn the respect of teammates, opponents and fans alike. He already has the fear of the opposition, because he can do it all on a baseball field. We know he can hit baseballs to the moon, we’ve seen his speed in the outfield and on the base paths, and he shows moments of having one of the best arms in baseball. What he doesn’t do, however, is respect anyone who doesn’t worship him.

Harper has been this type of player since he was a teenager in AAU ball. I distinctly remember a 16-year-old Harper berating an umpire over a called strike during a game that, in the grand scheme of things, wasn’t a hill of beans. It’s because of actions like that that Harper has a long row to hoe before becoming a respected player in the Majors.

Papelbon is headed in the other direction. Once a force to be reckoned with in late-game situations, he has fallen from grace. He still produces flashes of brilliance, but it’s Papelbon’s well-documented loose screws and cannon of an arm that also leave him feared for the wrong reasons and respected even less. His unrelenting willingness to throw at opposing batters for little to no reason and his reluctance to bond with new teammates leave him alone and not very much appreciated.

One thing must me stated, though, is at this stage in his career Papelbon is very much a veteran and should be treated as such, whether or not you like him, hate him or agree/disagree on his point of view. As a young player (e.g., Harper), when a veteran tries to teach you unwritten rules of the game, your ears should perk up a little.

It could be on how to read an opposing pitcher without stealing signs (this earns you a pitch to the ear on your next at-bat), or the appropriate actions to take when you hit a ball into the parking lot (don’t stare at it; everyone hits one there at some point, keep your head down and run the bases). And if you hit a can o’ corn, run the damn thing out. Are you going to make it to base? Probably not, but be respectful of the pitcher who just out matched you and RUN IT OUT.

And when you fail to abide by these and other rules of the game, a veteran will and very much should call you out on it. The appropriate action of a young player when being called on this type of thing is to acknowledge what was said, nod your head and correct it the next time. The absolute wrong action for a youngster is to spark an argument about it, disrespect the veteran and throw a jab of their own back. Actions like these when spoken, screamed, shouted or yelled to a veteran who is known to be a loose cannon will and should get you CHOKED.

The moral of the story is: Until you have been there for more than a cup of coffee, don’t kick back and put your feet on the desk. You haven’t earned it.

Four More Years


This season has been a disappointment for O’s fans, and a big disappointment for Nats fans. It’s stacked upon postseason frustration (and in the Nats’ case, failure), too, as the two have combined for four playoff births the past four years, but only one playoff series win. It’s all relative, though.

It was fairly recent — about five years, to be exact — that both teams were bottom-feeders and had been for a long, long time. But if you look at the past four years, from 2012 to today, the O’s have won more regular-season games than any other American League team, and the Nats have won eight more than that.

Here’s the full list, as best I can tell:

1. Cardinals — 372
2. Dodgers — 359
3. Nationals — 358
4. Orioles — 350

5. Yankees — 348
6. Angels — 343
7. Tigers — 342
8. Giants — 337
9. Royals — 336
10. Rangers and Rays — 334

(Thanks to Ken Rosenthal’s look at Baltimore tension for the heads up.)


The Nats May Have Something In Joe Ross

In case you’re wondering why Doug Fister is moving to the pen upon Stephen Strasburg’s return, this may have something to do with it:

That’s ridiculous and wholly unexpected and totally unsustainable. Ross, who came to Washington this offseason along with “Shortstop of the Future” Trea Turner in the Steven Souza deal, has a career minor league ERA of 3.64 and K-BB ratio of 2.82.

So how’s he doing so phenomenally well at the Major League level? His career progression may have something to do with it. Via B-R:

*In 29 A ball starts: 4.21 ERA, 2.08 K-BB ratio
*In 19 high A starts: 3.98 ERA, 3.11 K-BB ratio
*In 13 AA appearances (12 starts): 3.03 ERA, 5.62 K-BB ratio
*in five AAA starts (all this year): 2.19 ERA, 2.14 K-BB ratio

Basically, he just keeps getting better, and now he’s got a 2.80 ERA in seven starts with the Nats, with more starts to come.

In a related story, Fister, who was one of the NL’s top 10 starters last year, is entering free agency.

Bob Carpenter Won A Sportscaster Of The Year Award

I guess Larry Michael was not available.

Update: Loverro wrote about this awards thing for the Washington Times, which, from a user experience standpoint, must be the worst news site I’ve ever visited.

15 Surprising Nats Stats From The First Third Of The 2015 Season

bryce harper 0509 (2)

1. Bryce Harper’s OPS+ is 216, the highest since Barry Bonds broke baseball in 2004. This is what happens when you go on the hottest 50-plate appearance streak in MLB history.

2. After posting a .200/.255/.326 slash line in 2013-14, Danny Espinosa is the Nats’ second-best hitter this year. His 2015 slash line is .257/.360/.459, all career highs.

3. Max Scherzer is leading MLB in FIP, which is what you want out of your $210 million pitcher. Cherish the thought of him and Jordan Zimmermann taking the ball in Games 1 and 2 (and 5 and 6).

4. Speaking of, ZNN is averaging a personal-worst 5.9 K/9IP, 21 percent below his career average.

5. Gio Gonzalez’s FIP (3.05) is fine. It’s his ERA (4.57) and WHIP (1.51) that are unseemly, but that fielding-independent number is in line with his three-year average since arriving in D.C. (3.09).

6. Stephen Strasburg’s batting average against is .325. (Bryce Harper is batting .326.)

7. Ian Desmond’s on-base percentage is .286. That’s 32 points below his career average. In a contract year, no less.

8. Ryan Zimmerman is on pace for 97 RBI, his most since 2009, despite a .622 OPS, his worst ever. This is what happens when you bat behind Harper and Yunel Escobar.

9. Speaking of, Escober is batting .325. That’s after batting .256 in 1,542 at-bats the past three seasons. An 89-point BABIP increase will do that for you.

10. Wilson Ramos has played in 79 percent of the games. I probably just jinxed the Buffalo.

11. Denard Span has five home runs, his highest total since ’09. He also has only three steals, 28 less than last season.

12. Blake Treinen and Aaron Barrett’s combined ERA is 4.53. They are the two primary right-handed setup men. I miss Tyler Clippard and even Rafael Soriano.

13. Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon have 116 at-bats between them. The former is out until August, the latter came back last week.

14. Matt Williams has lost nine of 12 challenges. Nats opponents are 12 for 12 (via D.C. Sports Bog).

15. If the regular season ended today, the Nats’ season would be over. (They’re second place in the NL East, half a game back, and fourth in the Wild Card, 1.5 back.)

Dan Uggla, Of All People, Saved The Day

This had to feel so good.

Riding a six-game losing streak, mired in last place, reeling from Anthony Rendon’s continually balky knee, missing Max Scherzer for a start and getting pounded 9-1 in Atlanta, the Nats came back to win 13-12 with Dan Uggla, who’s so bad that the Braves are still paying him just to be rid of him, hitting the game-winning homer in the ninth. Whew.

The Nationals Are Horrible

What would make William Ladson, who has covered the Nationals franchise since 2002, tweet that during Monday’s Nats-Red Sox game? Well, how about this:

Or maybe THIS from the SAME INNING:

Or maybe it was Ian Desmond’s fifth error in seven games (thankfully not pictured).

Can we just hit reset on this season?

Remembering Kevin Frandsen’s Finest Moment as a Washington National

Big news out of Nats camp is they’ve released utility man Kevin Frandsen (via @ZuckermanCSN). He didn’t hit much in his one season with the Nats (.259/.299/.309 in 220 at-bats), but that doesn’t mean he didn’t contribute in other ways.

Happy trails, dude. There is no wrong pipe.

(Vine taken from last year’s division championship celebration.)