Let me see if I have this correct…
The player nursing a quad injury and who was criticized for playing too hard is now being criticized for lack of hustle by a guy who took a shortcut during his playing career by using PEDs?
If you missed it, this is the offending play that led to Nationals manager Matt Williams benching Bryce Harper for the rest of yesterday’s game against the Cardinals.
Harper’s spot in the order would come up in the bottom of the 9th inning with one out and the tying runs in scoring position. Kevin Frandsen did cash in one of the runs on a fielder’s choice ground out, but the next hitter Jayson Werth struck out to end the game. Afterward, Williams said that it was “a shame for his teammates” that Harper was not available in that situation.
Maybe, just maybe, it was a shame that Williams chose to discipline a player recovering from an injury for an imagined offense on a meaningless play. Did Harper stand at the plate or walk down the line? No. He jogged dejectedly on a tapper back to the mound.
Yes, a player should always hustle and play with heart, but Matt Williams should know that the MLB regular season is a marathon not a sprint.
And it is just April.
Clearly Nationals manager Matt Williams is a disciple of the Kirk Gibson school of managing. That approach hasn’t worked well in Arizona (MLB worst 5-15 record with 17 errors in 20 games), where Williams was Gibson’s bench coach. It remains to be seen how well it fares in DC though the Nationals have a deeper roster at both the major and minor league levels than the D-backs.
Vine clip from federalbaseball.
If I Had a Vote… (Part Two)
NL Manager of the Year: Davey Johnson (Nationals)
Dusty Baker and Bruce Bochy are both deserving but I would have ranked Mike Matheny ahead of them for the job he did in St. Louis. Johnson gets the nod over all of them for the award though. The Reds, Giants and Cardinals, respectively, entered the year as legitimate playoff contenders. The young and inexperienced Nationals were thought to be a year away. Under Johnson’s guidance though, the Nationals moved the timetable up a year and look poised to be playoff contenders for the foreseeable future.
AL Manager of the Year: Bob Melvin (Athletics)
For me this is a two-horse race between Buck Showalter and Melvin. Showalter did a tremendous job in changing the team’s mindset and leading his Orioles to the playoffs and past his former team, the Yankees, in the ALDS. But with the collapse of the Blue Jays and Red Sox, the AL East division wasn’t quite the beast it has been, and certainly not more difficult than the AL West. The Orioles roster also had veteran talent in their prime years (see former All-Stars JJ Hardy, Jim Johnson, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters, and former Gold Glove winner Nick Markakis). The A’s lineup, on the other hand, was a bunch of spare parts cobbled together with an eye more toward a franchise move to San Jose than winning the division. Add to that his nuturing of his starting rotation, which included four rookies under the age of 25, and you have your winner.
Davey Johnson and Gio Gonzalez, by Winslow Townson/Getty Images
Bob Melvin, by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
If I Had a Vote (Part One)
The Baseball Writers Association of America announces its annual awards winners this week, starting the the Rookie of the Year awards. If I was a card carrying member of the BBWAA, this would be my ballot.
AL Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout (Angels)
This is the easiest call to make. The 21-year old Trout had one of the greatest offensive season in the history of the game, easily overshadowing the other finalists - Yoenis Cespedes and Yu Darvish. The only question is whether or not Trout also wins the AL MVP award.
NL Rookie of the Year: Bryce Harper (Nationals)
This is a close race. Neither Frazier nor Miley were touted very much coming into this season. Frazier only came up to the Reds from AAA (where he wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire with a pedestrian .231/.268/.359 slash line with one home run and eleven strikeouts in 10 games with Louisville) after an injury to Scott Rolen. Miley was the 13th ranked prospect according to MinorLeagueBall.com in the Diamondbacks system. Other pitchers (Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Archie Bradley and Patrick Corbin, to name a few) were the top jewels. Though his role increased after injuries to Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy, Miley was holding down the fifth spot in the rotation out of Spring Training. To their credit, both Frazier and Miley capitalized on their opportunities. But when you come in to the league as hyped as Harper was, with the expectations that were piled upon him, and then you live up to that hype and those expectations, that becomes the difference maker.
Mike Trout, by Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Bryce Harper, by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
Remember when Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth broke his wrist back on May 6 of this year while trying to make a sliding catch in a game against the Phillies at Citizen Bank Park? As he walked off the field to eventual surgery and rehabilitation, Werth was booed lustily by the same Phillies fans to whom he once helped bring a World Series championship and two NL pennants. As you might imagine, Werth, who previously lost two years to a wrist injury when he was with the Dodgers in 2005-2006, didn’t take kindly to fans cheering what could have been a career-altering or perhaps even career-ending injury. After surgery the next day, Werth wrote an email to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. In it he wrote this:
After walking off the field feeling nauseous knowing my wrist was broke and hearing Philly fans yelling ‘You deserve it,’ and, ‘That’s what you get,’ I am motivated to get back quickly and see to it personally those people never walk down Broad Street in celebration again.
Last night, Werth stepped to the plate at Citizens Bank Park in the top of the 9th inning with two outs, runners on second and third base, and his Nationals clinging to a 5-4 lead. The Phillies, trailing the Cardinals by four games for the final Wild Card spot in the playoffs, desperately needed to keep the deficit at one run to give themselves a realistic chance at a comeback in the bottom of the inning. Instead, with boos and barbs (and who knows what else) raining down upon him, Werth bounced a ground ball single up the middle to drive in both runners and also probably the last nail in the coffin for the Phillies playoff aspirations.
As he rounded first base, Werth clapped his hands emphatically, almost as if to say, “Take that!”
Revenge had to feel sweet.
For more on the history of Phillies fans and Werth, check out Bill Baer's post at Crashburn Alley.
Photos by Hunter Martin/Getty Images
More Nuke than Crash
"That’s a clown question, bro."
That was Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper’s response to a reporter who asked him if he would celebrate after a recent game by drinking a beer. Harper was in Toronto at the time where the drinking age is 19. While Harper is 19, he is also a Mormon, a religion that forbids the consumption of alcohol.
This is not exactly the the type of clichéd response that Crash Davis would have taught Nuke LaLoosh, but it’s a good comeback.
According to ESPN.com, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia thought Harper handled the reporter well.
Pedroia said his response would have been, “#*&! you. I’m 19.”
That has already been on many a t-shirt.
I am so glad to see that every MLB team has abandoned those awful alternate black jerseys in favor of alternate jerseys that feature their team colors. Today, the Blue Jays, Brewers, Indians, Nationals, Padres and Royals wore alternate home jerseys, while the the A’s and Braves wore their alternate road jerseys. For me it’s a three-way tie for the best jerseys of the weekend though. The Astros wore their 80s throwbacks yesterday while the Cubs and Giants wore turn back the century throwbacks in their game today.
By the way, it was great to see JR Richard throw out the ceremonial first pitch in last night’s game after being inducted into the Astros Walk of Fame. Did you happen to catch the pitch because the catcher didn’t. JR fired a heater low and away that zipped past the catcher to the backstop.
Starlin Castro and Matt Cain, by Jason O Watson/Getty
Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp and Colin Cowgill, by Ed Zurga/Getty
Martin Maldonado and Brooks Conrad, by Scott Boehm/Getty
JR Richard, by Bob Levey/Getty
Andrelton Simmons, by Jonathan Ernst/Getty
Jesus Flores and Stephen Strasburg, by Jonathan Ernst/Getty
Calling all Catchers
Yesterday, the Washington Nationals placed catcher Wilson Ramos, who finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting last season, on the 15-day disabled list. He will likely miss most if not all of the remaining season due to a torn ligament in his right knee. The Nationals called up 23-year old Sandy Leon from their AA affiliate, the Harrisburg Senators, where he had been hitting .319/.356/.457 in 27 games this season. Tonight, Leon made his major league debut as the Nationals opened up a two-game series at home against the San Diego Padres.
Leon’s debut lasted all of four innings.
In the top of the fourth inning, Leon suffered a high ankle sprain while trying to block the plate as Chase Headley scored from second base on a single by Orlando Hudson. After the game, Leon was placed on the 60-day disabled list. Like Ramos, he will also likely miss the rest of this season.
The Nationals have now summoned 33-year old Venezuelan Carlos Maldonado from their AAA affiliate, the Syracuse Chiefs. Maldonado was hitting just .211/.273/.380 with two homers and six doubles in 71 at-bats so far this season. He will backup up Jesus Flores until the Nationals acquire another catcher.
Speculation has already begun about reaching out to recently retired Ivan Rodriguez, who hit .218/.281/.323 in limited action for the Nationals last season. CBS Sports Jon Heyman also tweets that Red Sox backup catcher Kelly Shoppach might be a possible trade target. The Nationals do have some starting pitching depth in the form of Chien-Ming Wang and John Lannan that may be attractive to the Red Sox. Wang is on a minor league assignment with the Syracuse Chiefs as he rehabilitates from a hamstring injury. He pitched eight innings allowing 11 hits and a walk in a 6-4 win over the Rochester Red Wings today. Meanwhile, the left-handed Lannan, is off to a bit of a rough start (3-3, 5.31 ERA, 39 innings) so far, but in his last outing he held Rochester to two runs on eight hits and two walks with four strikeouts in eight innings of work. Last year, Lannan was 10-13 with a 3.70 ERA in 184.2 innings for the Nationals.
Photos by Greg Flume, Getty Images