History, Opinion, Sports Fix, The Features

Hey R**skin Fans, Snyder Cares! (Not Really)

With little fanfare, Washington pro football team owner Dan Snyder slipped a letter out to the team’s fan mailing list this past Sunday. It was a masterful work of self-service. In it, Snyder finally realized there were problems in Indian Country, based on a supposed 26 visits to various reservations around the country. The visits – all cherry-picked to councils who “agree” with him about the “non-offensive” nature of the team’s moniker – apparently opened his eyes to the plight and ills of reservation residents.

Let’s set aside for a moment that Snyder refuses to meet with tribal councils who oppose the name, including the still-open invitation from the Oneida Nation in New York. Snyder quickly jumped to the “hey, there’s more important issues to deal with than changing a football team’s name” defense, pointing out the horrific poverty rates, unemployment, poor health, and abysmal education found on many Native reservations. And yes, these are real problems. Big ones. Continue reading

Sports Fix

Nats Big Buyers on Cyber Monday

The Nationals’ Mike Rizzo took advantage of some serious savings on Monday, picking up the Detroit Tigers’ Doug Fister in a deal that sent a journeyman infielder, and lefty reliever and a mid-level prospect back. Fister has been a middle of the rotation over performer for the Tigers, going 14-9 last year, tied for the league lead in induced GDPs, 2nd in home runs allowed per 9 innings (0.6) with a career 3.53 ERA.

Fister went 32-20 in three years in the Tigers organization, last year notching 159 strikeouts across 33 appearances on the way to the Tigers AL Central championship. A ground-ball pitcher of towering stature (Fister is 6’ 8”), the pickup can’t be overstated for the Nationals. They add a starter to fill the spot of the departing Haren, and it cost them just a replacement middle infielder (Steve Lombardozzi), a lefty reliever (Ian Krol), and a prospect (Robbie Ray). 

Hats off to GM Mike Rizzo for orchestrating the deal. As the first rumors surfaced (thanks to Chris Cotillo from MLB Daily Dish for his hard work breaking the news), fan approval was very high for the arrival of Fister, though some were saddened over the loss of Lombardozzi, who some believed the balm for some of the Nationals’ middle infield “issues”. I, for one, think that Dave Dombrowski might still have a tryptophan hangover to give up Fister for so little a return. The only explanation I can find is that they are far higher on the value of Robbie Ray than the Nationals are. 

Fister is arbitration-eligible this year, and is under team control through 2016. Some place his salary at just under $7M for 2014, which would be a bargain for a 32-game starter that could take 200 IP and pick up 15 wins. The Nationals won big on Cyber Monday, that much is for sure.

History, Sports Fix, The Features, WTF?!

What’s In a Football Name? Snyder Thinks He Knows – And He’s Wrong

So this popped out the other day.

It’s no secret how I feel about the whole name thing with the Washington football team. I oppose it. I think it’s racist. I have several personal issues with the name. But that’s not why I decided to post something about it.

The letter is a poor public relations attempt, mostly to mollify diehard team fans who will, unto the bitter end, support the racist moniker. Not out of reason, but blind emotion.

Hey, I get it. I understand why. Team fandom is a complicated, deep, personal thing that involves a lot of emotional investment and history. It’s difficult to hear that your beloved franchise is doing something wrong – simply by using a name (and by extension, mascot and other fan accoutrements).

The problem comes when that moniker is unveiled to be racist. The Washington issue isn’t anything new; it’s been around for decades. The movement today has found new momentum and has begun to find rightful traction in righting a wrong. (Just like the Civil Rights Movement began finding traction nearly one hundred years after Emancipation.)

The first third of Snyder’s letter is a play on his loyal fanbase’s emotional strings. “I still remember…the passion of the fans…the ground beneath me seemed to move and shake…he’s been gone for 10 years now…” All phrases and words evoking emotions and certainly causing the reader to recall their own cherished memories. Setting them into their defensive stance, so that the rest of the letter, which uses standard PR spin and deft deflection, only ratchets up the emotional volume for their impassioned – and misguided – defense.

Oh, and then there’s the trite “Our past isn’t just where we came from–it’s who we are” phrase. Bolded and italicized, even. Because it’s important!  Continue reading

Sports Fix

Dodgers club Zimmermann, beat Nationals

The one piece of good news for the assembled Nats fans on South Capitol Street Sunday is that it did not rain sulphur from the sky.

That was about the only piece of good news, though, as the Dodgers ran roughshod over Jordan Zimmermann in the first two innings. Zimmermann had been a bright light for the Nationals through the first half of the season, but that bulb blew out in the 2nd, as the Dodgers batted around and scored 7 runs. Zimmermann was forced from the game, having given up 9 hits and 7 runs, after his shortest and worst outing of the season.

The Dodgers sent 11 men to the plate during that drubbing, which saw a pair of homers, a pair of walks, two singles and a double before a nice catch from Bryce Harper in deep center managed to end the shared waking nightmare that 34,758 hot fans experienced for twenty awful minutes. Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp each had home runs, both at approximately 380 feet, off Zimmermann early in the inning. Just three batters into the second, the game was over for the Nationals, even if we had to watch as the rest of it played out.

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Sports Fix, The Daily Feed

Nats Drop First Game Back After Break To Dodgers

Strasburg Delivers
courtesy of ameschen

The Nationals started the second-half of the season on a rough note falling 3-2 against the Los Angeles Dodgers despite a strong seven innings from right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg on Friday night. Even Manager Davey Johnson appeared a bit deflated after his squad let the tie-game get away from them in the top of the ninth. “Tomorrow’s another day,” he said as he ended his post-game press conference.

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Sports Fix

Nationals steamroll Padres 11-7, complete sweep

The feast or famine trend for the Nationals offense continued today, as the Nationals put six on the board in the second inning of the final game at home before the All-Star Break. Stephen Strasburg notched his fifth win of the season, improving to 5-6 with a 2.45 ERA. He allowed 4 earned runs in six innings pitched, striking out nine and walking just two. Strasburg struggled with his command at times, and he hit 3 Padres hitters. Manager Davey Johnson said after the game that “sometimes he fights himself,” and that was evident through innings four, five and six, as he failed to keep control of the Padres’ lineup.

“The offense was really there today,” Johnson said in his post game conference, and boy was he right. The Nationals batted around twice, once in the third and again in the fifth, pulling ten of their eleven runs in those two frames. Strasburg got the third started with a 9-pitch walk, and in an unusual turn of events, was sacrificed to second by leadoff man Denard Span. Desmond drew a walk and Harper a single, before Ryan Zimmerman absolutely crushed his fourth grand slam into the center field seats, putting the Nats up 5-1. A single from Jayson Werth followed, quickly paced by Anthony Rendon’s third homer of his rookie season, a beauty into the left field bullpen.

In the fifth, it was less bluster, and more blunder, that staked the Nationals to an 11-4 lead. The Padres seemed hellbent on hurting themselves. Three walks, two errors, a wild pitch and three singles contributed to their demise, as the Nationals gave the Padres a nibbled-to-death-by-ducks fate. 

Before it was all over, though, the Nationals were intent on letting the Padres back into the ballgame, and much of that can be put at Craig Stammen’s feet. Stammen struggled in relief in the seventh and eighth, allowing three runs to store, two of them earned. He was a bit snakebit, with a couple of charitable singles and errors behind him, but some odd pitch choices, and some sliders that just hung. Fortunately, Drew Storen has returned to his dominant stature, and sent he Padres packing in a row in the eight, despite loaded bases. In the ninth, Tyler Clippard slammed the door shut to give the Nationals their fourth win in a row.

The Nationals pack up and head for Philly for four games, and then head to Miami for three ahead of the All Star Game. The Nationals have recovered to within four games of the Braves, who have stumbled of late. The Nationals are three and a half up on the Phillies (now 3 games under .500) and the 32-55 Marlins are now 13.5 back of the Nationals. This would be the perfect time for the Nationals to break out of their spring-long funk and start to perform as the team that was the odds-on favorite for the World Series on Opening Day.

“It’s a long season,” Davey said, “and momentum shifts can happen at any time.”

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Sports Fix

Nats Drop A Close One to Arizona in Extras, Fall 3-2 in the 11th

fisheye nats park
courtesy of philliefan99

The Washington Nationals could not complete a three-game series sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday night and fell 3-2 in the eleventh inning putting them back at .500 as they head to New York to play the Mets this weekend. Despite seven strong innings from right-handed starter Stephen Strasburg, the Nats offense lost its momentum from the past couple days.

Washington managed to tally eight hits but stranded eight runners with just two runs to show for it. Both runs came in the fourth inning on a two-out solo homerun off the bat of Ian Desmond against Arizona’s left-handed starter Patrick Corbin. Desmond hit his thirteenth homerun this season to the visitor’s bullpen in left field and is now the team’s homerun leader after passing Bryce Harper in the standings of that statistic. Continue reading

Sports Fix, The Daily Feed

Nats Fall 4-3 in the 11th Against Minnesota

20 Wins!
courtesy of ameschen

After two days off due to rain in DC, the Washington Nationals fell 4-3 in the eleventh inning to the Minnesota Twins on Saturday. The Nats failed to rally late in the game and their lackluster, inconsistent offense continued to haunt the team’s lineup.

Saturday’s contest was the first time in team history that the modern-day Washington Nationals faced the original Washington Nationals/Senators (aka the Twins) in DC. It was also the first game played by the Twins in DC since July 19, 1971 at RFK Stadium.

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Sports Fix

Nats Beat Mets 3-2 in Their First Walk-off of the Season


Photo Credit: Patrick Pho

The Washington Nationals were three outs away from a one-run loss against the fourth place New York Mets on Tuesday night but Steve Lombardozzi saved the game by hitting a walk-off sacrifice fly into the glove of Mike Baxter in left field. His sacrifice fly sent first baseman Adam LaRoche around to score. Washington beat New York 3-2 in their first walk-off victory of the season.

The Nats may have won the game but it was night in which the their offense continued to struggle. Manager Davey Johnson’s lineup managed four hits before their three-hit ninth inning rally. They were lucky enough to score early on a solo home run hit by shortstop Ian Desmond off right-handed pitcher Jeremy Hefner in the second inning — Desmond’s eighth home run of the season — but that’s the only run they’d tally up until the ninth inning.

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Sports Fix, The Daily Feed, The Features

Nats Drop a Heartbreaker to Chicago in a 2-1 Loss

Davey Johnson
courtesy of Keith Allison

The Nats dropped a true heartbreaker to the Cubs Sunday afternoon when they lost 2-1. Left-handed starter Gio Gonzalez pitched a spectacular game going seven innings, walking one batter, and striking out six while giving up just two hits on 86 pitches (55 strikes). He even held on to a no-hit bid through the fifth inning but his performance was overshadowed by Manager Davey Johnson’s decision to pull Gonzalez after the seventh inning.

“Obviously we’d been better off in hindsight but I have all the confidence going to my bullpen and [they] just didn’t do it,” Johnson said after the game. “I very seldom early in the season will let a guy go out there and [if] he gets a guy on I don’t want him to lose it, a ball game late in the game. It’s just the way I manage. You can chalk it up to me. You don’t like it, chalk it up to me.”

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Sports Fix, The Daily Feed, The Features

Strasburg Struggles, Nats Lose 8-2

courtesy of oddlittlebird.

What started out as a four inning pitching duel between former Nationals pitcher and current Chicago Cub Edwin Jackson and Washington’s Stephen Strasburg quickly turned in favor of Chicago due to a messy fifth inning performance from the young phenom. The Nats went on to lose the contest 8-2 on Saturday afternoon. The Cubs hit four unearned runs off of Strasburg in the fourth inning and four more earned runs off left-handed reliever Zach Duke in the fifth to win it.

Strasburg has struggled for the entirety of the 2013 season minus Opening Day. When he lets his emotions get the best of him – like he did Saturday – it’s easier to remember just how young he actually is. When Strasburg’s got his three pitches working for him, he’s a force to be reckoned with, but he’s still in the growing phase where he’s learning to deal with the adversity within the game itself. Manager Davey Johnson acknowledged that fact that the game.

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Sports Fix, The Daily Feed, The Features

Nats Beat Cubs 7-3 on Friday Night

Nats vs. Marlins-0776
courtesy of MudflapDC

Despite giving up five doubles in six and two-thirds innings pitched, the Washington Nationals’ left-handed starter Ross Detwiler secured his second win of the season with a 7-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Friday night.

Detwiler threw 90 pitches, 57 for strikes, and gave up eight hits, two runs, and struck out two batters.

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Sports Fix, The Daily Feed, The Features

Nats Beat Cincinnati 6-3 For Their Third Consecutive Win

Phillies vs Nationals 8/1/12courtesy of Matthew Straubmuller

Right-handed starting pitcher Dan Haren threw his longest outing of the season Saturday afternoon leading the Washington Nationals to a 6-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. The game was a much stronger outing than the last time he faced the Reds during the first week of the season. The Nats lost that match-up 15-0, but Haren’s start and Washington’s offense gave the Nats their third consecutive win.

Washington made right-handed pitcher Mike Leake work hard early. After a three up, three down first inning, seven of the Nats’ starting nine faced him in the second while scoring two runs to give Washington a 2-0 lead.

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Sports Fix, The Daily Feed, The Features

Nats Bats Are Quiet Again, St. Louis Wins 2-0

pitcher of lightcourtesy of philliefan99

For the second time in that many days, the Nationals fell to St. Louis, losing 2-0 Tuesday night, on six strong innings of work from left-handed starting pitcher Ross Detwiler. Detwiler gave up two runs on eight hits, walked two, and struck out two on 93 pitches (60 strikes).

Washington’s defense was the strongest positive worth noting in a game where their bats fell short. In the first five innings, the Nats turned four successful double plays to rob St. Louis of additional runs. But not even spectacular defense from shortstop Ian Desmond, second baseman Danny Espinosa, first baseman Adam LaRoche, catcher Kurt Suzuki, and Detwiler could win them the game. Continue reading

Sports Fix, The Daily Feed, The Features

Dan Haren Looks Stronger, But Nats Fall 3-2 to St. Louis

long drive home
courtesy of philliefan99

Nats starter Dan Haren pitched one of his finer games of the 2013 season on Monday night but Washington fell just shy of a win over their National League foes from St. Louis. The Cardinals one upped the Nats wining 3-2 in the first game of a three game series.

In the clubs’ first match-up since the 2012 postseason, Haren held the Cardinals to six hits and three runs on 98 pitches, 56 for strikes, through five innings plus four batters. He walked three, struck out three, and hit a batter — a play which sparked the rally that won St. Louis the game. Continue reading

Sports Fix

Nationals top White Sox 5-2

Adam Kilgore is right, the ball does sound different off the bat of the 20-year old, and that sonic assault was particularly sweet last night as Bryce Harper crushed a ball into the second deck of the right field stands on Wednesday night. The solo home run in the fourth tied the game for the Nats, and they wouldn’t look back from there. Ian Desmond went 3-4 with a pair of doubles and a triple, Jordan Zimmermann cruised through seven innings on just 90 pitches, and Raphael Soriano put together his fourth save as the Nationals claimed their second series at home for the season.

Like the future, the Nationals offense just isn’t evenly distributed yet. Bryce Harper (2-4, HR), Danny Espinosa (2-4, 2B, RBI) and Ian Desmond (3-4, 2 2B, 3B, 2 R) lead the squad, while Adam LaRoche (0-4, GIDP, 2 K) Ryan Zimmerman (1-4, 2 K) and Jayson Werth (1-4, 2 K) were struggling with Gavin Floyd’s pitch selection. The plate discipline from the core of the lineup was at times on Wednesday night pretty execrable. As one columnist remarked, it wasn’t until Jordan Zimmermann batted in the 3rd that the Nats had a good plate appearance.

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Sports Fix, The Features

Washington Squeaks By Chicago with an 8-7 Win

courtesy of MissChatter

What started out as a game wrought with baserunning mishaps and high pitch counts ended in favor of the Washington Nationals who squeaked by the Chicago White Sox in interleague play with an 8-7 victory. The game’s starters – left-hander Gio Gonzalez for Washington and right-hander Jake Peavy – combined to throw 59 pitches in the first inning alone. That inning lasted 28 minutes and produced just one run for the White Sox.

Chicago’s early run came as a result of a balk, Gonzalez’s fourth career balk in 129 games, with the bases loaded, two out, a full-count, and White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko at the plate. Third baseman Jeff Keppinger scored on that play after snapping his 0-for-19 stretch to start the season with a single off Gonzalez.

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Sports Fix

Nationals squish fish, sweep first series

The Nationals continued their systematic dismantling of the Miami Marlins with a 6-1 thumping on Thursday afternoon in front of 25,000 freezing Nats fans playing hooky from work and school.  Jordan Zimmermann took the mound hoping to extend the Nationals’ shutout streak past 18 innings – and he would, but just another inning.

Zimmermann did, at times, display the new change up he’s been working in the pre-season, and for effect. Justin Ruggiano, though, took a four-seam fastball into the right-field stands on the first pitch of the second inning. The wily righty battled the Marlins lineup for six innings, scattering eight hits, and benefitting significantly from expert defense in the field to keep things from getting out of control.

The Nationals’ offensive machine began to move in earnest against Wade LeBlanc, with Denard Span (1-3, BB, 2R), Jayson Werth (2-4, HR, 2R), Bryce Harper (2-4, R, RBI), and Ryan Zimmerman (3-3, BB 2B, 2RBI) all putting up stellar days. Manager Davey Johnson was quick to credit their approach in the post game press conference, saying, “no matter what we read, we don’t get too far in front.”

The Nationals’ pitching was stellar in the series, surrendering just one run across three games. Asked about the sharpness of the staff, Johnson smiled, “I love my staff, my starters and bullpen both. Every day is going to be a test, but I like how they approach the job.”  One approach we hadn’t yet seen this season until today was Henry Rodriguez, who claimed the final spot on the 25-man roster just two days before the end of spring training. He dealt the Marlins in order in the 7th, including a filthy slider to Giancarlo Stanton to end his brief trip to the mound.

After today’s game, the team heads next to Cincinnati to face a real major league baseball team, as the Reds are thought to be one of the few teams with as good a chance at post-season play as the Nationals.  The Reds are coming off a 2-1 opening series against the Angels that was tightly contested, with the first game going 13 innings. This will be the first real test of the Nationals’ lineup against a real opponent. The series starts Friday night with Dan Haren making his inaugural start for Washington against Homer Bailey, and continues with two afternoon tilts Saturday and Sunday. Johnny Cueto and Stephen Strasburg go head to head in the latter matchup in what will be an intense pitchers’ duel.

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Sports Fix, The Features

Thoughts on Opening Day 2013 at Nationals Park

courtesy of philliefan99

The Washington Nationals rang in their ninth year of DC baseball on Monday afternoon in front of a record-setting regular-season crowd of 45,274. They went on to defeat the Miami Marlins 2-0. The day’s events celebrated both their historic 2012 run and the start of a highly anticipation 2013 season.

An Ideal Scenario

2012 was the most successful year in Nats history by far. The Nats touted the best record in all of baseball with 98 wins and 64 losses, four players made it to the All-Star game, several players earned Silver Slugger and Golden Glove awards, Manager Davey Johnson was named Manager of the Year, Bryce Harper won the National League Rookie of the Year Award as a 19-year-old, Executive Vice Present of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo was named Executive of the Year by the Boston Chapter of the BBWAA, and they won their first National League East Division Title.

Despite the inevitable growing pains endured during their first few years and the dismal losing records posted in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the Nats are headed in the right direction thanks to Rizzo building this team from the bottom up. Continue reading

Sports Fix, The Features

Harper and Strasburg Put on a Show, Nats Win 2-0 on Opening Day

Nats Opening Day 2013

The success of Washington’s 2012 season trickled over to Opening Day 2013 as young guns Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper led the Nationals to their first win of the year, a 2-0 victory over the Miami Marlins. Strasburg was efficient through seven innings. He threw 80 pitches, 52 for strikes, and gave up three hits while striking out three. Continue reading