Game #122 Salvage game in the series for the #Nats

Photo by Marlene Koenig for TalkNats

After this game, the Nationals will only have 40-games remaining in the season. They are now a game under .500 at 60-61 on the season. Tanner Roark will start for the Nats tonight in this salvage game in this 4-game series which has all gone the Cardinals way.

Speaking of the Cardinals, Matt Adams who started his career with the Cardinals has not had a hit since August 4th. When Ryan Zimmerman came off the DL, Adams was slashing .287/ .359/ .574/ .934 for the entire season and was in a hot streak. Since being put back on the bench and playing sporadically, Adams has gone ice cold and his season has spiraled down. Zimmerman has put up superior numbers to Adams in the short-term, but you never want to see a key player like Adams fall into a slump as he is needed off the bench.

For now, Jeremy Hellickson will remain on the roster even after he jammed his wrist last night and was removed from the game following a tumble on a play at the plate.

For Fangraphs WAR value, Bryce Harper has skyrocketed in value the last 4 weeks by more than doubling his value to +2.9 WAR.

The Cardinals will start a right-hander tonight, Luke Weaver, who has a 4.66 ERA for them this season. The Nationals will put Adam Eaton back into the lineup and stick with Ryan Zimmerman at 1st base against the righty. Matt Wieters will catch Roark tonight.

Washington Nationals vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Stadium:  Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
1st Pitch: 7:15 pm EDT
TV:  MASN; MLB.TV app out-of-network
Nats Radio: 106.7 The Fan and via the MLB app

Line-ups subject to change without notice:

  1. Adam Eaton RF
  2. Trea Turner SS
  3. Bryce Harper CF
  4. Anthony Rendon 3B
  5. Juan Soto LF
  6. Ryan Zimmerman 1B
  7. Daniel Murphy 2B
  8. Matt Wieters C
  9. Tanner Roark RHP
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Revisiting Bryce Harper at the Trade Deadline

Photo by Marlene Koenig for TalkNats

A few days before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, we heard for the first time that the Washington Nationals were actually listening to other teams on Bryce Harper. While this was discussed here fairly extensively for a long time before the trade deadline — to the outside world, the concept of the Washington Nationals talking about trading Bryce Harper was still universally considered as “heresy”.

Going back 16 days, one can see the conundrum that ownership and management faced. The team was under-performing badly, but due to the uninspired competition, the Nats were a mere 5.0 games out of a division lead with around 60 games left to play. When you invest $200 mil into a project, it is perfectly understandable that you are not inclined to throw in the towel. The team that every pundit considers to this day the class of the division was one hot streak away from claiming it’s rightful place at the top of the division.

At the same time, given the major investment and the disappointment ownership understandably mandated that there be absolutely no more salary added. We all wondered how the Phills were able to pluck Wilson Ramos from Tampa Bay for a song, well Ramos is still owed a chunk of change for 2018 and after throwing extra money at Kelvin Herrera the Lerners said ‘enough’. So the strategy was to sit tight and see how the team responds with one caveat, Mike Rizzo decided to take the hatchet to what he perceived as a leaky rebellious bullpen arm according to multiple reports and the reliever to be punted out of town was Brandon Kintzler (there are several versions of that story so we won’t go there).

Kintzler didn’t help his cause by producing a very forgettable year and the opportunity to deep six his $5 mil option for next year and $1.6 million this year was added incentive. The Nats also got an interesting prospect in the deal to trade Kintzler. Once Rizzo picked up the hatchet he was an executioner out of control so when Shawn Kelley had a meltdown on the mound (in a 25 – 4 win no less) Rizzo booted him out of town in a nano second. These moves coupled with subsequent injuries to Herrera and Madson (who brought with their injuries historical meltdowns) created a perfect storm and caused the bullpen to implode completely basically putting any comeback ideas to rest. If the Nationals won Sunday night in Chicago, the Nats would have been 4.5 games back — instead they left Chicago 5.5 games back and have fallen 3.5 games further with 3 additional excruciating losses.

Bryce Harper for his part has responded nicely since the All-Star break. He has raised his batting average by some 20 points in 2 weeks, the power has maintained coupled with a nice opposite field approach, and add to that hustle on the bases and on defense and — voila — Mr. Bryce Harper is back.

Today on August 16th, the Nats are 9.0 games back of the high flying division leading Atlanta Braves (also 7.0 games behind the 2nd place Philadelphia Phillies) with only 40 games left. The biggest optimists can point to historical collapses in previous years led by the Mets blowing a 7.0 game lead with 17 to play but let’s be real, this isn’t happening in 2018 with two teams in front of the Nats. We watch in painful amusement nightly as the Phills and the Braves take turns abusing Miami and the Mets.

For 2019, I think the plan needs to come into sharp focus for the owners and management. They will have to consider many major directional options such as the identity of the manager, coaches, minor league development staff etc. In addition there are clear and obvious holes that will need to be patched: 1 frontline catcher, 1 top starting pitcher, 2 additional starting pitchers for depth, 1 top set-up reliever, 2 depth relievers including a good LOOGY and a multi inning reliever, a 2nd baseman, and a left-handed 1st baseman.

As a starting point I think the Nats need to come to the realization that pursuing a long-term deal with Bryce Harper is a flawed idea because it will leave their hands tied financially with so many other needs and ever improving competition. I am not at all convinced that the ownership and management are on-board with this concept. It’s a very difficult choice to turn the page on a generational talent who has been the face of the franchise for 7 years. It’s the hard choice, but it’s the correct one in my opinion.

If the Nats are willing to take this leap with Harper, they should do this now. No one will blame them for doing a 180°. It’s perfectly reasonable for a team with their record and position to conclude that this year failed. It’s very important that this isn’t dragged into another year. If the Nats can obtain a young catcher for 6 weeks of Harper they should do so yesterday.

It was reported on TalkNats this morning that the Nationals will list players on the waiver wire. Whether they actually trade a player is to be seen. Whether Bryce Harper’s name will appear on that list is only the first step. You have to be committed to moving to that next step of actually trading him.

Finally, general manager Mike Rizzo and principal owner Mark Lerner need to have a serious heart to heart about their field manager Dave Martinez. This can’t be an easy conversation because they have swung and missed so many times with managers, but if they conclude that Martinez is part of the problem and if they don’t believe he will improve next year — they need to be honest with themselves and the fans and try once again to do this right (They should have a complete blueprint on how to do this wrong by now). I think dumping a coach or 2 is a cop-out and it’s just giving the fans a bone.

Let’s get to work Mike Rizzo, let’s get a head start of 6 weeks on all the other teams and come into 2019 prepared and hungry from day 1. No hump schticks, no World Series pronouncements, no spring training Zim drama.

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#Nats lose again; SaoMagnifico shares one of his favorite recipes!

Mmm, African peanut stew! Trust me, it’s good!

The Washington Nationals lost again. It was their fourth loss in a row. The score was 4-2. The St. Louis Cardinals were the team that beat them this time. Jeremy Hellickson had to leave the game after falling down and now he might be hurt. The Nats are now nine games back in the National League East.

Also, here is one of my favorite recipes! It is easy to make, the ingredients are inexpensive and you probably have a lot of them sitting around the house anyway, and it tastes really good.

Continue reading

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Game #121 Nationals currently are at .500

Juan Soto Batting Practice; Photo by Don Henderson for TalkNats

The Nationals are back to mediocrity in the standings at a flat .500 and 3rd place in the NL East. On June 9th, the Nationals were in 1st place and cruising at 11-games over .500. That was their high point in the season as we look back. Trying to find the answers in a team sport when things go wrong are often complicated.  In baseball, wins and losses are often judged in numbers and statistics. Manager Dave Martinez’s strength was supposed to be analytics and statistics.  Continue reading

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Umpiring: A Look under the Hood

Times have changed for the Men in Black

Baseball churns along here in mid-August to its old and familiar rhythm.  The Division chases warm up for some and chill for others.  The number of days left on the schedule begins dwindling.  And even the most office-bound of fans notice the earlier onset of twilight.  However, on rare days baseball begs for a peek under the hood.  Some umpire will elicit howls for perceived incompetence, impertinence, or just plain belligerence. Thus it has ever been so.  However, the nature of the game has changed in a simple, yet significant way from days gone by.  Since the beginning of the game umpires were given a simple mandate: Make the call quickly, decisively, and permanently.  Whether it was correct or not was irrelevant.  That changed forever in 2014 when replay was introduced. Continue reading

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Game #120 The straw that broke the camel’s back!

The Nationals had a Spring Training that is now the brunt of jokes about camel humps, and dromedary poop. Many cultures used camels for the transport of people and carrying goods like straw that was harvested. From that became the idiom about the straw that broke the camel’s back which alluded to the proverb “it is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back” and that is the irony as each loss piled up on that camel until it broke. Every season, there are 20 teams that are eliminated from making the post-season and the last straw is when they are officially eliminated, but along the way the weight of those straws are not all equal. This gives rise to the phrase “the last straw” or “the final straw” which many times is used when someone is fired from their job, a divorce, a separation, and other unpleasant finalities. Continue reading

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The Nats bullpen blows another game. Finding new ways to lose…again!

The Nationals are now 11-21 in one-run games after this walk-off loss. Think about whether that is even possible, and it is because the Nationals have sunk that low. This defeat came from another bullpen implosion as the Nats lose on a 9th inning walk-off by a score of 7-6 after a blown save by the Nationals in the bottom of the 8th inning that led to the Cardinals blowing a save in the top of the 9th inning . Continue reading

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Game #119 A 4-game series against the Cardinals

The Nationals arrived in St. Louis a few minutes before 2:00AM (EDT) last night on an un-happy flight. The players probably fell asleep earlier than many of the fans. Last night’s loss was one of those game’s for the history books, and at the same time a game the Nationals would like to forget. The team hopefully takes their frustrations out on the St. Louis Cardinals.  Continue reading

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Time for an exorcism for the Nationals

* August 12th 2018 marked the Nationals most excruciating regular season loss in the team’s history. A loss was actually snatched from the jaws of victory. Continue reading

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Perspective: A great game for 8 1/2 innings; A complete disaster for a 1/2 inning

Photo by NavyYardNats for TalkNats

They say you need to play to the last out, and the Chicago Cubs did just that. It is proof that you should never give up. They took advantage of every pitch and play that went their way. The Nationals played some of their best baseball for 8 ½ innings followed by some of their worst for a fateful ½ inning. A pitcher’s duel of Max Scherzer versus Cole Hamels turned into a pitcher’s fool when Ryan Madson tried to pitch while he was unable to grip his off-speed pitches resulting in two hit-by-pitch batters that essentially scored the tying and winning runs since the Nationals were winning by a score of 3-0 at the time. An umpire who had been giving borderline pitches to the Cubs did so at crucial times many times in this game. A middle infielder inserted for his defense failed to make a routing play that was somehow ruled a hit.  Continue reading

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