Category Archives: Washington Nationals

GET IT WHILE YOU CAN – OR NOT?

 We can all recall the decision of the Washington Nationals to shut Stephen Strasburg down prior to their Playoff appearance a couple of seasons ago – and we all know the ensuing history whereby the Nationals are still waiting for a return visit. The reason XXX C01 ANDREWS 25 S ALfor their decision was that he was coming back from “Tommy John” surgery performed by the pioneering Dr. James Andrews (left) and they wanted to protect him from another injury.

Unfolding now is a similar dilemma faced by the New York Mets as we await the start of the World Series on Tuesday. Except in this, we have not just one but four tender and spectacularly young arms in play, images-23with two of them (Harvey and Matz) in the rebound year of  their surgeries. Adding to the drama are the events surrounding Matt Harvey and his agent Scott Boras late in the season when both nearly tore the team apart when they declared a 180 innings limit for “The Brat”. Luckily, Doc Gooden and others stepped in to reason with Harvey and the fiasco fizzled out.

Nevertheless, all four of the Mets starting pitchers are approaching or have already surpassed their highestimages-33 inning totals in their brief career. In fact, in Harvey’s case, if he indeed starts game one (probable but not yetimages-38 written in stone), and if the Series is extended beyond four or five games, he will have pitched the most innings ever for a player coming back from surgery, and this includes Tommy John himself. 

As it was for the Nationals, this almost certainly is a lose-lose proposition for the Mets. Because if they play it safe by shutting down one or possibly even more of these young studs and lose the Series, they’ll have all winter to answer to that decision. On the other hand, if they win the Series and one or more of them suffers a career threatening injury, they’ll have all winter to answer to that decision. 

I’m of the mind that they (and in particular Dan Warthen, their underrated pitching coach) should look closely at their mechanics and body language when they are throwing. If one or more of them “looks” different now from the way they looked in July, then that should be a red flag demonstrating possible strain that could lead to injury. In this regard, Jacob DeGrom deserves a close look as he’s seemed a bit “off” in his last two starts, even though in both he was able to grind it out and secure two wins. As with Strasburg, this must be a management decision since all of them are too young to know their own bodies yet. Plus, they’re all bulldogs with a competitive edge and they’ll never shut themselves down voluntarily.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the Mets have two proven and stable starters on call in the ageless Bartolo Colon (left) images-51and Jonathan Niese who bounced back nicely in his last few starts when there was serious discussion about him even being on the Playoff roster. But in the end, it should be a “feel” decision made by the Mets and it should be done individually and not collectively. The Nationals were wrong when they shut Strasburg down even before the Playoffs began. To their credit, the Mets didn’t do that even when they could have when Harvey gave them the chance to. They hung in there and so did Harvey. Now, it’s game on! Continue reading

“NOBODY ASKED ME BUT” – IN MEMORY OF JIMMY CANNON

Back in the day when newspapers were read as voraciously as we check our email today, a-siegel-deadlineJimmy Cannon wrote a weekly column that appeared every Sunday and was read across America by his avid fans. His favorite sport to write about was baseball, but occasionally he delved into other areas if it suited him. He called his column “Nobody Asked Me But……….”. What follows is a attempt to create a piece (hopefully) similar to what he might write if he were with us today……..

Where does Adam Wainwright (now that he’s back) fit the in the Cardinals post season pitching plans…….

Rookie or not, big stage so what……..The Yankees should pitch Luis Severino over their announced starter Tanaka. He’s less known to hitters and exudes nothing but confidence on the mound.

Regardless of what happens in the down to the wire final Wild Card chase in the American League, the Minnesota Twins deserve a round of applause for their effort with a team most everyone wrote off in March.

The Mets without Matz if injury shuts him down – or at least out of the starting rotation is a big blow to the team – not to mention what happens with Cespedes after last night’s hand injury. But they’ve bounced back from adversity all year so who knows…..

It’s just not right that two of the best teams in baseball have to face each other in a do or die one game playoff. The Pirates and Cubs deserve better than that. It’s easy to fix……just shorten the season by four games and make it a best of three (at least).

You may or may not like the cup of tea Donald Trump is pouring, but you have to admit it certainly tastes different. Question is how many of  us prefer our regular tea……

Having the home field advantage in the Playoffs is overrated. Besides, the weather promises to be far more pleasant on the West Coast than it does in New York next week. Calm down Met fans.

Yogi Berra deserves some kind of a Humanitarian Award for his service to country and baseball. Your move, Mr. President.

The Washington Nationals and the Detroit Tigers are competing for a spot on the T.V. Show “Extreme Makeovers”.

ANOTHER BASEBALL BRAT – BRYCE HARPER

The Bryce Harper/ Jonathan Papelbon explosion in the dugout that was caught in full view of cameras this weekend is merely a indication that something has been wrong in that clubhouse since day one this season. This was a team locked and loaded during the off season with the free agent big splash signing of Max Scherzer. All they seemingly had to do was play the schedule.

In this photo taken May 19, 2015, Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) reacts in the dugout during an interleague baseball game against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park in Washington. There's rarely a dull moment when it comes to Bryce Harper. Been that way pretty much ever since the Washington Nationals brought him to the majors at age 19. He'll hit six home runs in a span of three games. He'll get ejected twice in the span of seven days. He'll win NL Player of the Week honors _ and then do it again a week later. And all of that has happened just this month. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ORG XMIT: WX201

Except they walked through the season and the Mets stole it away from them. As Bob Dylan said many years ago, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”………this Nationals team was a train wreck from day one.

Jonathan PaplebonJonathan-Papelbon-Bryce-Harper-scuffle-lg is an aging closer who has not been consistently effective for years. He has been suspended for four games by the Nationals. In all likelihood, he will be struggling to hook up with a team next Winter to save his downward spiraling career……but that should not be the point. The focus instead should be on how the Nationals front office is handling Bryce Harper.

Look, Bryce Harper is only 22 years old. Okay, I get that but there has to be some accountability He said in a post game press conference following the incident (paraphrasing his words)…”I (emphasize the I)  have six games more to play and there are things I (there it is again) want to accomplish this season.”  Really, Bryce? Your team was just eliminated from the playoffs….do you get that? But even worse, the Nationals front office doesn’t seem to get it either. Instead, this is all about a MVP AWARD for a player on a losing team. At some point, Harper needs to step up and lead his TEAM. But the bigger question is when will the Nationals read him the riot act emphasizing that TEAMS win Championships. This is not golf.

Conversely, 1392234550000-2014-02-12-jeter2Derek Jeter was the same age as Bryce Harper when he broke into the Majors in 1995. From day one he preached and played to win. He led by example. He charged to first on EVERY ground or fly ball. Okay, I get it…..not everyone is Derek Jeter. But having said that, Bryce Harper is a immensely talented ballplayer and that alone should carry with it a responsibility to LEAD his team by setting a example for all others to follow. 

Take your MVP AWARD if that’s what makes you happy, Bryce. But in my book, it’s a pretty shallow award……and you need to grow up.

THE THREE BIGGEST TEAM FLOPS THIS YEAR

So you think back to April when all the Hot Stove trades and free agent signings are over with and the season is young and fresh – and we looked to see where our favorite team was predicted by the “experts” to land in the Division Standings after 162 games……except one thing happened along the way……..they had to play those games. What was thought to be then isn’t now. Some would even argue the standings are upside down, except when you think about it they’re not. These teams deserve to be exactly where they are.

With virtually no argument expected, the Washington Nationals take the prize as the biggest flop of 2015. Just for example, name one playerimages-45 who has lived up to his expectations (and you can’t say Bryce Harper because he’s finally becoming everything they said he was supposed to be) this season. Matt Williams was an ill advised hiring and it’s surprising he’s even still there. Max Scherzer (right)……..where was he?….Look, every team like every player can have a “off year”…..but this was total demolition.  Put a team together guys……..have a plan…..

The next team on my list is the San Diego Padres, if only because of the big splash they made in the off season with a new GM and a cadre of “moves” images-57made virtually every week. Except for one thing again……it’s not the quantity of moves you make it’s the quality of those moves and how they fit into your overall strategy…..if you have one………Or are you just taking your six gun out into Dodge and firing everywhere? Matt Kemp (left) is a good example of where the wheels came off even before they knew it did. Matt Kemp has had trouble hitting home runs in Dodgers Stadium for five years and now you’re bringing him into cavernous Petco??? What were they thinking? Besides, he’s totally “L.A.” (see photo) 

My final team is more of a disappointment than a flop. And we all know the odd even thing going on here images-62and how this was mapped to be a “off year” for the Giants (as my friend Ronnie Redmond laments)…..and I get thatimages-53 but we are talking about a team with immense talent battling the “soft” and very beatable Dodgers……and they just evaporated into nothing in the final 40 games, and maybe even sooner. The loss of a very underrated Jeff Panik hurt…..same with Angel Pagan……but somebody’s gotta pick it up……..and nobody did. Kudos to “Bum” (upper left) and MVP Candidate Buster Posey (upper right) for doing all they could. Gotta strengthen that starting  pitching though for next year…….Cain (ouch – big money lost so far), Lincecum (make him a seventh/eighth inning man?), and Peavy (his last stop in a very pedestrian career)…..have to do better than that versus Kershaw/ Greinke……..

Next post……the three biggest Surprise Teams of 2015.

Continue reading

THIS IS NOT A FAIRY TALE – THIS TEAM IS REAL

It was fifty-three years ago in 1962 when Casey Stengel, the Mets first manager, images-41labeled his hapless team as Amazin’. No one knows for sure but it must have been a adjective he chose carefully. Because it’s  a word that suggests something illusionary – something not real that belongs in the field of “magic”.

I mention that because last night in listening to the Mets announcers on SNY as the Amazins rallied to yet another victory over the Nationals, they couldn’t stop repeating “This is a fairy tale season” as Cespedes deposited another game winner in the left field seats. 

This is not magic and it’s not a fairy tale, folks. This is a solid ballclub doing what they have been built to do. General Manager Sandy Alderson made the right moves (at the right time) and Terry Collins applied the finishing touches with his Manager of the Year people skillsimages-17images-28 that formed a juggernaut of rising spirit that suggests in the clubhouse “Yes, we can do this”.  From there on each player takes responsibility for himself as a part of the team. If anything, that’s the only “magic” we are seeing. It’s called team building. You develop a strategy and then you implement it. In the Mets case, they put starting pitching as their first priority. Anyone doubt they have succeeded in doing that? And then they filled in the holes adding Tyler Clippard to the bullpen, bench players Uribe and Kelly Johnson ( both great clubhouse men), and finally a rental with power in Cespedes.

In sum, the Mets are everything the Nationals are not. Picked by virtually everyone to run away with the Division, they have floundered and flopped. And fans of the National’s know it better than anyone as only (a average of)  27,000 of them showed up for the series of the year with the Mets. They went for the gold in Scherzer, paid the price and lost because they lacked the all important strategy of team building. 

Finally, a disclaimer. I am a Yankees fan first and foremost. But beyond that, I am a fan of baseball. So when teams like the Mets and Astros rise to the top – like the Royals last year – it gives me pause to notice, appreciate, and watch what they are doing and how they are doing it. It’s simply baseball at its best.

“MATT THE BRAT” – EPISODE THREE – THE TEAM MOVES ON – WITHOUT HIM

So, finally the real picture comes into focus. Matt Harvey took the mound last night facing the Nationals in a crucial game going 5.1 innings and giving up seven runs leaving the Mets with an almost impossible task ahead of them to win e game. And yet, they do exactly that….images-1win the game and increase their lead over the Nationals with Jacob DeGrom taking the hill tonight.

With the events of the past several days in mind, there’s a lesson to be learned for Met fans, but especially for Matt Harvey. It’s simple, the Mets don’t really need you.

They’ve got this. And no matter how far they carry this thing through the playoffs, last night they proved that they are a team that can win in spite of you. No doubt, the animosity towards you has waned in the clubhouse, as well it should because if not for the ill timed “advice” of Scott Boras, this would have been “just one of those starts” over the course of a long season. 

So again, this only proves (once again) that no one man is bigger than the TEAM when it comes to a winning formula. And despite the words and actions of Mr. Harvey, the Mets are gelling…..and it would be a good time for their self proclaimed star to climb aboard.

Tonight,the real ace of the staff Jacob DeGrom – (my opinion)  takes the mound and looks to cement the season for the Mets. Matt Harvey, take notice……..the New York stage is not quite yours yet.

“MATT THE BRAT” – EPISODE TWO – THE FLIP FLOP

I’m telling you, you can’t make this stuff up. Today, just one day after holding court in the Mets dugout with his woe is me act and indicating that he sided more with his agent than his team, Matt The Brat published one of those “I take it back” statements on Derek Jeter’s website (how ironic is that) telling all of Metland and baseball that all is well and “I’ll be pitching in October – no matter what”.

Except it does matter. In fact it matters a lot. They say that timing is everything. For the Mets, this Harvey/Boras fiasco couldn’t have come at a worse time. images-48Beginning today, the Mets begin a critical four game series against the Nationals – in Washington. Their lead has been cut to 4 games including the all important loss column by the (finally) resurgent Nats. Met fans are blinking and wondering…..is this the beginning of yet another late season collapse……..and if the team blinks……..it could easily happen.

For Terry Collins, who is fighting for his baseball life, everything hangs in the balance over the next few weeks. Like the Mets Brass, he has to be images-32images-23scratching his head and saying to himself……..”Do I/we really need this now, Matt?” (photo above). But in fact and being the man that he is, what he actually told Harvey is “Just go out there Tuesday night and pitch like you are capable of doing”. Significantly, it was also no coincidence that David Wright made a point of sitting with Harvey in the dugout during last night’s painful loss to the lowly Marlins.

In 2019, Matt Harvey will become a free agent entering the market with the potential to sign a Scherzer like contract at nearly 30 years of age. Hopefully, by that time owners and general managers will have come to their senses about long term contracts (Note: Scherzer is a mere .500 pitcher this year). Nevertheless, he will be in for a significant pay day. 

It can be said that the only thing holding Matt Harvey back from that is Matt Harvey. With fame that he seems to thrive on and fortune comes responsibility.

This is especially true in New York where the spotlight shines brightly. Sometime soon, he will need to grasp that concept and grow up and into it. He boldly associates himself with Derek Jeter every chance he gets….fine……no problem……but how about BEING like Derek…..and not the immature person you were when you thought it was funny to pose (below) giving the finger from your hospital bed. New York City doesn’t give itself away easily and that’s a lesson Mr. Harvey needs to learn quickly. His image already has been tarnished, but it is repairable IF he performs on the mound. Because with that (think Alex Rodriguez), New York can also be a very forgiving town.

Matt Harvey

Matt Harvey

Note: In case you missed Episode One, here’s a link………

https://scontursi.wordpress.com/2015/09/06/matt-the-brat-a-big-pain-in-the-mets-brass/