Posted on 09 November 2015 by WNST Staff
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Posted on 23 April 2014 by Robert Canady
I fear Peter Angelos may have been correct. About ten years ago when he was trying to block Washington, DC from getting a Major League Baseball team, he was quoted as saying, “There are no real baseball fans in D.C.”
I remember thinking at the time, what an out of touch old coot he must be. I lived in the District for a while and worked there for many years. I was a baseball fan, admitting like a lot of people in the greater Washington, DC area I had grown up elsewhere and found myself here due to my career path. I still followed my hometown Cincinnati Reds, and became a regular at Camden Yards.
However after attending a game recently between the Washington Nationals and St Louis Cardinals, I might have seen a glimpse of what Angelos was talking about. The day had everything a real baseball fan could hope for, one of the first warm Saturday’s of the year, both teams contending for first place early in the season and the promise of a successful season laid out ahead.
Walking into the stadium it seemed like I was going to be in for a real day to remember. We made the obligatory walk around the concourse and saw the multitudes of food options, browsed the Clubhouse store and pondered a couple Nationals apparel items.
One thing that struck me was the huge number of fans in St. Louis caps and jerseys. Now anyone that’s been to a professional game in DC, knows it’s not unusual to the see the opposing teams colors and logos, after all DC is one of the more transient cities in America. And the Nationals in the past have even taken to marketing to the opposing teams fan base. But the number of Cardinals fans seemed unusually high.
However, the real shock came once we were settled in our $40 seats on the field level. I was surprised and bit taken aback to see the people directly in front of us holding an infant that couldn’t have been more than three to six months old. The couple spent the majority of the game with one of them attending to the baby in one way or another, and I don’t think mom or dad were in their seats together for more than one inning of the entire game.
In addition it appeared grandma and grandpa came along to experience the site of baby fan witnessing her (I’m guessing by the pink towel) first Nationals game. Grandpa actually appeared to be trying to watch the game. Grandma must have set a Nationals Park record for IPhone photos taken and uploaded to Facebook.
During the game, we were fortunate to witness, several bouts of crying, knee bobbing, burping, and of course the time honored 5th inning tradition of breast feeding, seriously!!
Now, I’m making an example of the couple that happened to be right in front of us, and may be nice of people. But in our section we saw no less than four other parents with babies that were young enough that they needed to be carried in either a carrier or strap on baby pack, or whatever those contraptions are called.
Why would anyone think bringing a baby that young to a three hour long, outdoor activity packed with 40,000 people is cute? It’s not, it’s selfish and self-centered. Nationals Park apparently has a doggie zone where you can bring your dog and several times throughout the game fans along with their pups are featured on the video board. I guess we were in the baby zone but missed the sign.
Now before I get labeled a baby-hater which I’m really not, some of the adults weren’t much more tuned into the game. Two young 30-something guys that sat right behind us, spent the majority of the game talking about problems at their office and how they seemingly had all the answers. Well not all the answers, one of them asked how the Cardinals had scored their last run? Which is somewhat understandable, we were about 300 feet from home plate after all.
All around us it was a constant swarm of non-baseball watching activity, such as groups getting up to “go for a walk.” Countless trips in and out of the rows to check out a different concession item, well I can’t put too much blame there.
It just seems that nobody sits in their seats anymore, and I didn’t notice one single person around me keeping score with the complimentary scorecard that is still given out.
When the Nationals threatened to tie or win the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, most fans paid little more than obligatory attention. It took a few guys in the front row to turn around and shout and motion for people to stand up and get excited.
I know I’m from a different era. My fandom began over 40 years ago. I grew up outside of Cincinnati, Ohio in the late 60’s and stayed into the 80’s. My formative years of baseball were following the Big Red Machine that would lose to the Orioles and the Athletics in the 1970 and 1972 World Series respectively. Before winning back to back titles in the 1976 and 1977 against the Red Sox and Yankees—column interruption for Oriole fans to cheer—as I became old enough to drive myself to games, the defining moment of many baseball addicted youths at the time.
After college I moved to cities with no baseball teams first Tampa then Raleigh, yes there actually was a time when Devil Ray…excuse me Rays didn’t exist. Tampa was the spring training home of the Reds at the time, and I eagerly awaited every late February when pitchers and catchers would show up followed shortly by the full squad. By this time in the 80’s , Johnny Bench, Pete Rose and Manager Sparky Anderson had been replaced with the likes of Dan Billardelo, Ron Oester and Russ Nixon, and the Reds regularly finished in last place of the National League West, behind among others the Los Angeles Dodgers their hated rival at the time.
After the teams left Florida, I took out a mail order subscription to the Dayton Daily News which would arrive in a timely fashion three to four days later and I would devour the box scores and latest—well as latest as they could be—stats. It’s now with all the details that are available on MLB.Com, bsaeballreference.com and other sites, a through baseball geek can find out what his favorite player is batting on Tuesday nights, against left handers after having chicken-cordon bleu for a pre-game meal. Back in 1984, I was happy to find out three days later that Dave Concepcion had gone 2-4!!
So enough of convincing that I grew up a baseball fan and remain a baseball fan. I arrived in Washington the same year that Camden Park opened and made the drive up from Georgetown for several weeknight and weekend games those first couple years. Hmmmh…I was in DC and I was a baseball fan. But this is when Angelos was still relying on ticket buyers from what he now considers enemy territory.
The game against the Cardinals was a sellout crowd of 44,000. Drawing over 2 million fans to Nationals Park each year as they have, the number may say there are enough fans to support the team in DC. But after what I experienced this past week, I have to wonder if Angelos had a valid point.
Posted on 24 July 2012 by Big Chee
In an attempt to preface my Baseball Plays of the Day, let me begin by saying I have placed bets on baseball games only a handful of times in my life. Most of the instances occured at the Hard Rock Cafe Sports Book last year in Punta Cana, which was an awesome time, by the way. I hung out with John Rocker, who, at the time, informed me of his belief that he could be an effective asset to the Orioles bullpen. While I am sure it was the Budweiser talking, he came across like an okay guy to me. As tempting as it was, I fought hard to stay away from the only relevant topic anyone wants to talk to him about; his racist/homophobic/sexist comments in regards to playing in NYC. After all, the guy, being on vacation like myself, was there to enjoy himself.
Anyway, here are my Inaugural MLB Plays of the Day for Tuesday:
Cleveland Indians/Detroit Tigers OVER 9 (BEST BET)
To say that the Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez has been a disappointment in 2012 would be an understatement. Acquired at last year’s trade deadline from from the Colorado Rockies, the 28-year-old is rarely clocked at over 95 mph on the radar gun these days. In addition to his loss in velocity, he leads the AL in walks and sports a hideous 5.48 walks per nine innings. Jimenez’s July has been more atrocious as he boasts an ugly 7.48 ERA, surrendering 18 earned runs in just four starts.
Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera will be licking their lips when the Tigers roll into town Tuesday and should have no problem teeing off on Jimenez. However, their teammate and Detroit starter tonight Doug Fister has also been up and down this season. Fister has won his last three starts after losing his previous three starts. Cleveland, winners against Baltimore last night to avoid a sweep, is batting .311 (84-for-270) against fastballs from pitchers like Fister since last season. The lone bright spot in the lineup is Shin-Soo Choo, who homered in two of the last three games.
I expect Detroit to put up roughly 7-8 runs in this contest. Cleveland should manage at least three.
New York Mets to win ML (-108)
The Mets have certainly been free-falling as of late. Losers of their last 10 of 11, their starting pitching has compiled a 6.41 ERA during that span. Not to mention the devastating news that pitchers Johan Santana and Dillon Gee have hit the DL. Their sole victory during those 11 games was last Thursday when R.A. Dickey got the best of the Nats’ Gio Gonzalez. Dickey will go for his 12th consecutive winning decision in the rematch tonight.
Gonzalez hasn’t looked anything like an All-Star over his last five starts. The southpaw surrendered six earned runs in 3 1/3 innings pitched during last week’s matchup against the Mets, ballooning his ERA to 5.75 in July. To make matters worse, Dickey is a perfect 6-0 at home and should make scoring runs very difficult for the Nationals offense.
Dickey certainly has not been lights out either, but expect him to get enough support led by David Wright and a red hot Daniel Murphy to even this three game series at 1-1.
ORIOLES vs RAYS PREVIEW: July 24th, 2012
Wei-Yin Chen takes the mound for the Orioles tonight against the Tampa Bay Rays as the O’s try to rebound after failing to sweep Cleveland last night. The last time the Rays faced the Orioles with Chen on the mound, Rays’ starter David Price overshadowed him with a complete game shutout. Tonight, the Rays are not as fortunate to match Price against Chen once again, as they send Jeremy Hellickson to the mound. The Rays have lost all of Hellickson’s last five starts and his road ERA stands at 4.08. Chen, on the other hand, has an ERA a full point lower at home. Taking three of four in Cleveland and winning their last five of six overall has given the O’s some much needed swagger after a slow start post All Star Break. The travel from Cleveland to Baltimore will not fatigue them very much either, so jet lag will not be a problem. All signs point to Baltimore starting this three game set successfully with a win, thus further distancing themselves from the bottom three in the AL East.
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Posted on 16 July 2012 by Thyrl Nelson
With each passing day that the Washington Nationals continue to look like a more and more legitimate playoff contender the debate around Stephen Strasburg and when he’ll be shut down becomes more interesting, contentious and high-stakes. What started out as a passing “what if” has become the hot topic in baseball and has the team in Washington in a most precarious situation.
By all accounts so far, the Nats are playing coy and have not officially stated that Strasburg will be shut down after 160 innings. They have however stated a desire to monitor his innings and most seem resigned to the notion that the 160 innings prescribed for Nats’ starter Jordan Zimmerman last year is a pretty reliable barometer.
Honestly, limiting Strasburg to 160 innings is patently stupid, and that any team subscribing to that logic should be ashamed of themselves.
Lately the popular talk has become more about pitches than about innings, and rightfully so. I’m not saying that the Nationals shouldn’t have designs shutting down Strasburg, or any pitcher at some point. I am however saying that with the recent trend of statistical evolution in baseball, to measure something as important as prescribed pitching limits by a stat as inexact as innings is like counting your money based on the size of the stack you can make with it.
It’s absolutely embarrassing that Major League baseball teams, with the wealth of statistical data available to them and the emphasis, game-by-game, on pitch counts hasn’t refined their process for measuring a pitcher’s work.
How many pitches equal an inning? How many warm-ups and side sessions are required of a pitcher to complete 160 innings of work? Obviously the answers to these questions varies widely depending on the pitcher, his specific between starts regimen, and how effectively he pitches from start to start.
The output of a pitcher should be measured in pitches first, but not alone. Next, someone smarter than I needs to decide how much the 8 warm up pitches prior to each inning further exert the pitcher and add that to his workload. My guess here would be 2 or 3, so I’d add 2 or 3 pitches to the total for each inning pitched. And lastly, and probably most importantly, a value would have to be assigned to the cold start and the side work that a pitcher does between starts. This number could be worth as many 50 pitches per start I’d suppose; again I’d leave that to someone more learned at these types of things than I. And there you have a formula.
Pitcher Exertion = Total number of pitches + (innings x3) + (appearances x 35)
Surely that formula needs some tweaking, and a different value would likely have to be assigned for relief appearances. But there’s years and years of statistical data waiting to be analyzed and applied with the formula which would likely give teams a much better gauge of when a pitcher is entering the danger zone or might need to be shut down. Baseball will surely get there eventually, but will it be in time to save Strasburg’s season?
Posted on 11 July 2012 by Big Chee
Wretched. Sucky. Lopsided. These are just some of the adjectives I stumbled upon on Twitter this morning that described last night’s All Star Game, an 8-0 blowout victory for the National League. Right out of the gate, Justin Verlander, arguably the best pitcher in the American League, surrendered 5 runs to give the National League a comfortable lead. From there, the American League had no answer for Cain, Gonzalez, Strasburg, Kershaw, Dickey, Hamels (you get the picture), and Melky Cabrera’s two run homer turned the game from a solid lead to a drubbing.
Speaking of Twitter, baseball fans on social media seem to be crying foul over the home field advantage the NL will earn once again in the World Series. I was not one of them, and I still believe that there is nothing wrong with adding a little competitive spirit to the Mid-Summer classic, I explained in my last blog on WNST.net.
However, in this 2012 season, let’s not spend too much time on this argument, because, quite frankly, it does not matter. This year, the American League’s individual teams are far superior to the National League, and it’s not even close. That can be evidenced by the fact that the American League went 142-110 (.563 win %) over the National League in interleague play this year, and the AL team with the best record (NY Yankees) swept the team in the NL with the best record (Washington Nationals.) Don’t get it twisted, I am well aware that the Texas Rangers have been victims of the American League losing two years in a row in the ASG, and if the Rangers had been home Game 7 last year, the results very well could have been different. However, one exhibition game in July cannot change the fact that there are five teams in the American League that are better than all in the National League, even if it was a beat down. Here are the five teams that would beat the National League pennant winner in 2012, even if the game is held in the Nation’s Capital.
1.) The New York Yankees
The Yankees are defying the post steroid era notion that achieving greatness is all about pitching. The 7yr/$161 Million Dollar Ace CC Sabathia has been solid, but his 3.45 ERA is far from spectacular. Ivan Nova might lead the staff with 10 wins, but his 3.92 ERA is even higher than Sabathia’s. Phil Hughes has been up and down all season, Andy Pettite is on the 60 Day DL and Hiroki Kuroda is simply an innings eater. Not to mention Michael Pineda’s season ending injury before the season even started, as well as the legend Mariano Rivera’s freak accident while shagging fly balls that put the rest of his career in jeopardy. This season could have been lost for the Yankees. However, they have the best winning percentage in baseball at the break, leading the Orioles by 7 games in the AL East.
In post steroid era ball where players in their 30s are supposed to be tailing off and fading into the sunset, the Yankee veterans only continue to shine. They lead the majors with 134 home runs as a team. Derek Jeter at 38 years old is tied for 1st in hits in the American League with Miguel Cabrera. Nick Swisher is on pace for over 100 RBIs. Eric Chavez has shown flashes of the player he was in his prime in Oakland, his versatility and personality has been great for the clubhouse. Andruw Jones has been punishing left handed pitchers as of late. And let’s not forget that Robinson Cano and Mark Texiera’s important defensive ability. All Star Curtis Granderson continues to be worth the investment when they snatched him from Detroit before last season, he has 24 HRs at the break. This lineup is loaded 1-9 and even superb National League starters like Clayton Kershaw and Steven Strasburg cannot find relief in this lineup.
2.) Texas Rangers
You may be wondering: How can the Texas Rangers be on this list when they have lost the World Series the past two years in a row without the home field advantage? Or you may be curious how the Rangers will fare after two integral pieces of their 2011 postseason out of the conversation this year. I’m talking their #1 last year, CJ Wilson, who left for Los Angeles and their preseason #2 starter Derek Holland who has been less than mediocre in 2012, spotting a 5.05 ERA at the break.
Production at the plate has been key for another successful season thus far in Arlington for the Texas Rangers, who sport the 2nd best record in baseball at 52-34, leading the Angels by 4 games in the West. You can make an argument that despite his recent cool-off from his historic April, Josh Hamilton had a MVP 1st half, batting .308, leading baseball in both HRs (27) and RBIs (75). Ian Kinsler leads the majors with 63 runs scored. Fellow All-Stars Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli are key contributors to the Rangers leading the majors in team average (.280), runs (443), hits (844) and RBIs (430).
The pitching staff inevitably will have to play a big part in this team’s success just like 2011, and there are new names that will do so. Despite a somewhat slow start by Yu Darvish, the $100 million man from Japan made the All-Star Team and continues to improve and adjust to the American game. Fellow All-Star Matt Harrison has been even better with an 11-4 record and 3.10 ERA. Roy Oswalt adds a veteran presence, even if he has been up and down. If the lineup just continues business as usual in dominating opposing pitching staffs, this should lessen the pressure of this staff to carry them to a World Series victory.
3.) Los Angeles Angels
The Angels seem to get lost in the conversation for World Series favorites at the All-Star break, due to the fact that if the season ended today, they would face the Baltimore Orioles in a one game playoff for the wildcard draw in the postseason. They are 48-38, four games back of Texas in the AL West, probably short of the lofty expectations this team faced to start the 2012 season. The Angels made the biggest splash at MLB’s Winter Meetings, signing preseason favorite AL MVP Albert Pujols to a 10 year/$254 million dollar deal. In addition, they snatched up former Texas Ranger and Cy Young contender CJ Wilson to form a 1-2 punch with Jered Weaver that could be the best in the game. While the Angels are getting slowly but surely getting back on track, their start to 2012 was not exactly a smooth ride. Pujols went 92 at-bats in the month of April without hitting a home run. Weaver & Wilson have been rock solid, middle of the rotation guys Dan Haren and Ervin Santana have been extremely disappointing with 4.86 and 5.75 ERAs, respectively.
I have not even mentioned Mike Trout, the best position player in the American League not named Josh Hamilton. The All-Star Game last night gave Trout national exposure. The baby faced 20 year old not only leads the American League in batting average at .341, but he gets himself in position to score more than anyone in the AL as well with 26 steals at the break. Mark Trumbo will continue his power surge and build off his 22 home runs. Torii Hunter is continuing to prove how valuable of a veteran he is on this roster in the #2 spot in the lineup as well as his defensive ability in the outfield. Manager Mike Scoscia has the experience and savvy to keep this team rolling in the 2nd half and in the playoffs. It would be shocking if the AL West does not produce two of the four teams in the Final 4 of the American League playoffs.
4.) Detroit Tigers
Fittingly, the Tigers are mentioned right after the Angels, another team that failed to live up to expectations after they partook in an active offseason. Prince Fielder signed with Detroit for 9 years, $214 million making him the second biggest FA signing behind Pujols. Ace Justin Verlander was the starter in the American League All Star Game. Yet this team is only 44-42 at the break and in 3rd place in the worst division in the American League, the Central.
Again, there is too much talent on this team for this to continue. Let’s start with the pitching staff. Don’t overthink Verlander’s meltdown last night in the first inning. He’s in contention for another Cy Young, as he leads the league with strikeouts at 128 and is 4th in the majors with a 2.58 ERA. Max Scherzer, 8-5, has been much improved and rookie Drew Smyly has hit the All Star break in stride, winning his last two starts and holding a 4-3 record into the break.
At the plate, Miguel Cabrera is certainly in the running along with Hamilton and Trout for AL MVP. He is hitting .324 and is tied in first with Jeter for hits with 111 , is 2nd in the AL behind Hamilton with 71 RBIs Right below the young phenom in batting average is Austin Jackson of Detroit, hitting .332. Prince Fielder has not been atop the league as far as statistics go, but his presence at the plate will be a huge factor in determining where the Tigers go in the 2nd half.
Finally, let’s not also forget their manager Jim Leyland. This guy has been in the game long enough and had plenty of success throughout his entire career to not let this slow start get his guys unraveled. His cool demeanor will allow for his players to bring it all together making a run to the World Series in 2012.
5.) Chicago White Sox
However, the AL Central leading Chicago White Sox are my choice for the 5th team that would win the World Series against an NL team because they are better than any of the NL teams that will be in the World Series. Now hear me out on this one:
A good portion of this article has been in regards to the strength of the lineups of each of these teams. When you take a look at the White Sox, their lineup is certainly potent enough to compete at the next level. And just like the Yankees, the veterans are getting it done on the South Side. Let’s start with the resurgent Adam Dunn. Whatever it was that Dunn did in the offseason to get this mojo back after his disastrous 2011 campaign, it has turned him into a comeback player of the year candidate. He leads the American League in walks and is 2nd in HR with 25. How about Alex Rios? He is third in the AL in hits for the first place White Sox. Still think Team Captain Paul Konerko is not a Hall of Famer? He just made is 6th All Star Game and is 3rd in the AL in average at .329. Finally, if you’ve never heard of Alejando De Aza, it’s ok. But get to know him now: he’s 5th in the AL in runs scored and chipped in 15 SBs.
Speaking of guys one might not ever heard of, let’s move onto the pitching staff and ace Chris Sale. Sale has been so spectacular this season that he could have easily been selected to start last night’s All Star Game and who knows? Maybe it would have been worth watching All this 23 year old has done is spot a 2.19 ERA, .95 WHIP (both 2nd in the AL) along with 10 wins. Let’s not forget another member of the White Sox who could be mentioned as Comeback Player of the Year in Jake Peavy. He leads the team with 108 K’s, and just made his 3rd All Star appearance. Also, keep an eye on Jose Quintana in the 2nd half. In 8 starts he is 4-1 with a 2.04 ERA.
Even if you are just a casual baseball fan, you probably could have guessed the first four teams on this list. As far as the fifth position, there are plenty of teams that can receive consideration. The Tampa Bay Rays starting rotation features All Star David Price which led the MLB last year in ERA. The Boston Red Sox started 2012 slow, but are slowly creeping into the Wild Card conversation and getting healthy. Let’s not forget about the great things that the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians have done this year! If those two teams acquire some big name pitching at the deadline, they could certainly be considered for a shot at the World Series.
So there you have it. There are the five teams that will beat the Dodgers, Nationals, Giants, Braves, Pirates or whoever the National League crowns champions and earns home field advantage in the World Series. Let the debate begin…
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