July 2009

The Stars Are Out

Free to interpret… 

St. Louis 1.jpg·        
Ryan Zimmerman will make his first appearance in a Midsummer Classic and will represent Washington in the 80th MLB All-Star Game today at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. He was voted into the game by his fellow players. Cristian Guzman was among the five candidates eligible for the final roster spot via the Sprint Final Vote, but was edged out by the Phillies Shane Victorino.

·         A look back at the past Nats’ All-Stars

Year    Player                          At the plate or on the mound:

2005    Livan Hernandez         1 IP, 2 ER on 2 hits

            Chad Cordero            0.1 IP, 1 strikeout

2006    Alfonso Soriano          1-for-2 and got the start in left field

2007    Dmitri Young              1-for-1 with a run, 2007 Comeback Player of the Year   

2008    Cristian Guzman         0-for-3, ended the season fourth in the NL in batting


SS Danny Espinosa went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts playing for the U.S. in the XM All-Star Futures Game on Sunday at Busch Stadium.  The World beat the U.S. 7-5. He is batting .259 (76-for-294) with nine home runs and 41 RBIs in 81 games for the Single-A Potomac Nationals. He is second in the Carolina League with 53 runs scored.

·         The AL is 11-0-1 vs. the NL since 1997. The last time the NL won was in 1996 at the old Veterans Stadium 6-0. Mike Pizza went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBI to earn MVP honors.

The last time the All-Star Game was in St. Louis was 1966, the original year Busch Stadium opened. A lot has changed since then… in 1966 Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson led their respective leagues in home runs and RBI, a gallon of gas was $.32, the median cost of a house was $23,000, a dozen eggs were $.60, a postage stamp was $.05 and Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax were the highest paid players making $125,000. They made $677,714 adjusted for inflation … just a little less than the $28 million A-Rod brings in this year.

·         President Barack Obama, an unabashed Chicago White Sox fan, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch tonight. He is the fourth sitting U.S. President to throw out the first pitch at the Midsummer Classic joining John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford. President Obama is the seventh U.S. President to attend the All-Star Game. The first U.S. President to attend an All-Star Game was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937.


The Midsummer Classic on July 12, 1966 started at 1 p.m. and the temp soared to 105 degrees for the start of the game. You can count on former St. Louis Cardinals catcher and 1966 NL All-Star Tim McCarver, calling his record-extending 18th All-Star Game, to make more than one reference to the ’66 game tonight.

“I remember guys stepping into ice buckets with their cleats on,” McCarver said. “When I relieved Joe Torre of his catching duties in the 8th inning, I said, ‘You holding up alright, Joe?’ and Joe replied, ‘Yep, only had to take 12 salt tablets today.'”

·         The MLB All-Star Game is the highest-rated All-Star event among major sports for those keeping track:

Program                                               Network          Rating

2008 MLB All-Star Game                    FOX                9.3

2009 NFL Pro Bowl                            NBC                5.4

2009 NBA All-Star Game                    TNT                4.5

2009 NASCAR All-Star Challenge       SPEED            2.4

2009 NHL All-Star Game                     Versus             0.6

Manny out as manager

061109-075 manny acta.JPGThere is a long list of managers that have been fired from their first managerial jobs to later become very successful and win a few World Series: Joe Torre (six), Bobby Cox (five) and Terry Francona (two) are just the active ones.


“I believe Manny is going to be anyone of those kinds of managers,” President Stan Kasten said.


It won’t be with the Washington Nationals though. Today, the Nationals relieved Manny Acta of his duties as manager.


Former Bench Coach Jim Riggleman will assume the helm of the Nationals, his fourth Major League managing job. He has compiled a 552-652 record while managing San Diego (1992-94), Chicago-NL (1995-99) and Seattle (2008). He posted a pair of winning records in five seasons with the Cubs, including a 90-73 (.552) record and a NL Wild Card in 1998.


Pat Corrales returns as the bench coach for the Nationals after having the same duties in 2007 and 2008. This will be his 51st season in professional baseball.


Acta’s tenure in Washington ended at the mid-point of his third season. He compiled a 158-252 record in those two-plus seasons with the Nationals and entered the All-Star break in fifth place in the National League East at 26-61.


“We’re a lot better team than what we’ve done this year, and unfortunately Manny had to kind of take the fall for that,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “I think he did a lot of things in Washington that will help us become a better team, and when it does happen, he’ll be responsible for a lot of it. It’s tough. Any time something like this happens, it’s tough to pinpoint what went wrong where. It’s always hard.”


The Nationals aren’t going to change their message of playing the game the right way, taking accountability, staying focused and emphasizing the fundamentals. They are just changing the voice that is instructing them. They are hoping the “different voice” will turn the team around.


“26-61 is unacceptable,” Interim General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “We feel that with a different voice and a possibly different feel in the clubhouse we can have a more successful second half of the season. We have the pieces in place to have success.”


062409-263 jim riggleman.JPGRiggleman might not start getting ejected from games arguing balls and strikes but he will bring accountability and a my-way-or-the-highway approach to the clubhouse. He is an intense old school baseball guy and a “tough disciplinarian.”


Acta was never known for umpire arguments, post-game rants and calling players out. He was the quintessential players’ manager and took the opposite approach of Cubs Manager Lou Piniella and White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen.


Acta declined to attend the press conference but did thank the fans and the Nationals for the managerial opportunity.


“First, I would like to thank God for putting me in this position.  I want to thank the Washington Nationals for giving me the opportunity to be a Major League manager. It was a great learning experience, I have no regrets,” Acta said in a statement. “As I move forward, I wish the Nationals all the best. I was very fortunate to work with and meet a lot of wonderful people while here. I’d like to extend a special thank you to the fans for being so patient and supportive over the last two and a half years.”


Kasten and Rizzo strongly feel the record is by no means the sum of its parts. The team’s performance has not equaled the team’s potential and that has made them the most upset.


“The pieces are coming together,” Kasten said. “They are here and that’s why I am so disappointed to be here today because we kept thinking it was going to turn around… It is a very sad day for me personally.”


Riggleman will draw off 29 professional seasons of experience as a manager or coach, 17 of which came at the Big League level. Riggleman has served stewardships under Tony LaRussa, Jerry Manuel and Jim Tracy, among others.


A third baseman by trade, Riggleman played eight professional seasons after being drafted by the Dodgers in the 1974 First-Year Player Draft out of Frostburg State (MD) University. Riggleman grew up in nearby Rockville, MD and is a graduate of Richard Montgomery (MD) High School.


A Letter from the Nationals

No one is more dissatisfied in the first half of the 2009 Washington Nationals season than we are. Like you, we had hoped that some of our younger players would have matured faster and that the addition of some of our new veterans would have significantly improved our record from a season ago. Our hope was that a solid club leadership would emerge on and off the field and that some intangible combinations would begin to click resulting in many winning streaks.


We definitely do see significant pieces materializing for the future, and there have been many close, exciting games and optimistic bright spots: strong outings by John Lannan, the home run and RBI production of Adam Dunn, the All-Star selection and 30-game hitting streak of Ryan Zimmerman, and the recent addition of speedster Nyjer Morgan. Much of the season, however, has been defined by weak relief pitching, poor defense and youthful inconsistency. We have tried to work through this period with patience and focus but now we are faced with mounting losses which are beginning to take a toll on our entire roster. Clearly, some changes are required as we prepare for the second half of the 2009 season and, more importantly, build for a competitive future.


Today, we announced that manager Manny Acta is being replaced on an interim basis by Jim Riggleman, veteran manager, and currently the Nats bench coach. Both the Ownership and the entire Washington Nationals organization have the highest respect for Manny Acta and the role he has played in the short history of the Nationals. However, it is our belief that a fresh attitude and approach is necessary as we set out to improve our performance for the remainder of the year. We want to send a strong message to our clubhouse and our fans that the status quo is unacceptable. We believe that more is expected of everyone in the organization.


Baseball operations will be reevaluating all our players and our options for improvement over the next several months. We hope to sign our 2009 draft choices by the August deadline. We hope these new additions will join an already exciting Nationals youth movement headed by the likes of Lannan, Jesus Flores, Alberto Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Craig Stammen on our current roster, and the likes of promising Minor League stars like Chris Marrero, Michael Burgess, Danny Espinosa, Derek Norris and Drew Storen, among many others. But, we also will be determining the viability of trades or roster upgrades that can be made without doing damage to the farm system or the developing talent we expect to blossom within the next two years.


When we bought the Washington Nationals in the middle of the 2006 season – just under three years ago – we committed to a patient, long term approach, building a strong farm system and core foundation that would deliver a perennial and consistent contender; to provide a second-to-none family entertainment value at Nationals Park; and to investment and involvement in the metropolitan Washington DC community. Today we remain steadfastly committed to each component of that mission. We are proud to represent the national pastime in the Nation’s Capital, and we are proud to call the Capital area home.


We know we have a way to go, but the end result will be all the richer for the early days we’ve spent together at Nationals Park. We are getting better. We want you to be with us as the pieces of the puzzle come together. Your support is powerful to the Nationals and baseball in Washington. Thank you for your continuing patience and your commitment to a shared dream.






Washington Nationals Baseball Club

Nats win one, lose one in Houston

After waiting 65 days to finish the game, it only took seven minutes for the Nationals to beat the Astros11-10 in 11 innings. The Nats faced off with a slightly different lineup than they had on May 5th. When the game was suspended, Elijah Dukes was on first with Josh Willingham at the plate. This time around, Nyjer Morgan (acquired on June 30th) took Dukes’ spot. Willingham singled to (re)start the game and Josh Bard pinch hit for Joel Hanrahan, who was the pitcher on record but was traded to Pittsburgh on June 30th. He hit a tailor-made double play ball that was overthrown by shortstop Miguel Tejada, allowing Morgan to score the winning run. Hanrahan picked up his first win of the year without even being on the Nationals roster.


John Lannan got the start in the second game, but the Nationals could not hold on and fell to the Astros 9-4. Going into the sixth inning, the Nationals led 4-2 before Lannan began to unravel eventually being charged for five runs on eleven hits through five-plus innings. Houston lifted starter Russ Ortiz after three innings, but five Astros relievers held on to secure the victory.


“They have some power arms and they throw at you,” said Manager Manny Acta. “Some guys have gotten better, too. [Alberto] Arias is very tough. Teams haven’t been able to score on him in a while. He has a power sinker and a very good breaking ball. The other guys have good arms. Once you get to [Jose] Valverde, it’s tough to come back on them.”


In other Nationals news:


John Lanan, Scott Olsen to lead the rotation after the All-Star Break


Garrett Mock is now 5-1 with a 2.65 ERA in the minors


– Fans are excited for the Inaugural Concert at Nationals Park


Julian Tavarez has been struggling this past month


Inaugural Concert at Nationals Park

On Saturday night, the Face 2 Face Tour featuring Billy Joel and Elton John stops at Nationals Park. It is the first concert to be held here at the park. Here’s a sneak peak of what to expect for Saturday’s show.



The stage is being constructed over the Curly W in center field.



A stage this big makes the HD screen in center field look small.



Setting up a stage this big is a tall task.

toilets.jpgConcert goers can get some relief in the bullpen, just like the Nationals do. 

Also, tickets for the concert are still available and can be purchased here.

After a 65-day delay…

Today, before they officially kickoff their scheduled 4-game series in Houston, the Nationals and Astros will take the field to complete their suspended game from May 5th at Nationals Park.

rain suspended game 5-5.JPGHere are some fun facts about the game:

·         The game was suspended tied at 10-10 with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning. Josh Willingham is at the plate (no count) with a runner on first. Washington will have to substitute for Elijah Dukes, who was the runner at first base. LaTroy Hawkins is the Astros pitcher in the game.

·         The Nationals have three available position players (Josh Bard, Alberto Gonzalez and Nyjer Morgan), but have to substitute two of them for players who are in the lineup but no longer on the roster (Dukes and Jesus Flores).

·         The only current reliever not available is Julian Tavarez, as he was already used in the game. Joel Hanrahan (traded to PIT, June 30) was the pitcher for the Nationals at the time the game was suspended.

·         On May 5th as members of the Pirates (vs. MIL), Morgan went 1-for-5 and Sean Burnett worked 0.2 perfect inning with the bases loaded.

·         The suspended game starts at 7:05 p.m. Thursday’s regularly scheduled game will begin at 8:05 p.m., unless the suspended game ends after 7:45 pm, in which case it will start 20 minutes after the first game ends.

Just over half way home

Free to interpret…

  • The Nats starting rotation has pitched seven or more innings 16 times this season. The starting staff is 8-1 with a 1.94 ERA when they pitch at least seven innings. Craig Stammen suffered the lone loss on Monday night. He pitched seven strong giving up five hits and one earned run. The Nats bats were kept at bay in the 1-0 loss.
  • Jordan Zimmermann has just one win in his last 12 starts. Since June 1, he is 1-1 with a 2.41 ERA (9 ER/33.2 IP) and hasn’t given up more than two earned runs in the last six starts.
  • The Nats have 19 blown saves but the Dodgers have blown 16 saves and have the best record in the Majors. At the same time, the Nats are 15-10 when leading after 5 innings, 19-8 when leading after 6 innings, 18-4 when leading after 7 innings and 22-4 when leading after 8 innings.
  • The Nats are the only team in the NL to have a record below .500 when scoring first. They are 12-23 when they score first. The Giants lead the NL with a 38-8 record when scoring first.

The Nats have just passed the half way mark of the season. They are only credited for 81 games in the standings but they have played 82 games in the record book. They will finish the May 5th suspended game against the Astros tomorrow.

Here is a look at the first 82 games the last three seasons…

Team Batting




Record (Final Record)

33-49 (73-89)

32-50 (59-102)














Home runs








Runs per game




On-base percentage





Team Pitching








Saves (Opportunities)

21 (36)

16 (32)

14 (33)

Runs (earned)

415 (391)

412 (373)

457 (411)

Home runs

















Team Fielding








Fielding percentage




Double Plays





Rockies, errors best the Nationals

Zimmerman homerun.jpgRyan Zimmerman
hit his 14th home run, a three-run shot in the third inning, but it wasn’t enough as the Nationals fell 5-4 to the Colorado Rockies. Starter Jordan Zimmermann only went 4.0 innings and gave up four runs (two earned) on seven hits. When he was relieved the score was tied, but the Nats bullpen couldn’t hang on and Carlos Gonzalez scored on a sacrifice fly to put the Rockies ahead for good. Reliever Alan Embree got the win for the Rockies without having to throw a pitch, as he got out Austin Kearns on a pickoff attempt in the eighth. According to STATS LLC, it was the first time a pitcher has gotten a win without throwing a pitch since Baltimore’s B.J. Ryan also had a pickoff against Detroit on May 1, 2003.


“I don’t think I’m as disappointed at the defense as the walks,” Manager Manny Acta said. “I think walks are a curse, and that’s been the recipe for us. We didn’t even have to rely on our defense if we didn’t walk those two guys in that inning. It’s a combination. I think you just got to go after guys and make them swing the bat.”

In other Nationals news:

– The Nationals sign another draft pick, A.J. Morris, drafted with the first pick of the fourth round out of Kansas State.

– As the trade deadline approaches, slugger Adam Dunn will remain with the Nationals through this season

– Pitching Coach Steve McCatty doing wonders for closer Mike MacDougal

Nats Flashing the Leather

zim diving.jpgEach night, ESPN highlights the best offensive plays of the day on their Web Gem segment of “Baseball Tonight.” This year, they are tracking the best Web Gems and listing them on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page every Monday. The winners will be listed by player appearance, team appearance and Web Gem Points.

Web Gem points are calculated by awarding five points for the night’s top defensive play, four points for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth. Scoring is based on the Web Gems from the last “Baseball Tonight” show to air on a given night.

So far this season, the Washington Nationals and All-Star Ryan Zimmerman have been featured prominently on the Web Gems leaderboard! Here are the current rankings:


Web Gem points leaderboard
Brandon Inge                 24
Carlos Gomez               22
Ryan Zimmerman       20
Robert Andino              20
Ryan Sweeney              19
Jack Wilson                  19
Michael Bourn              18

Web Gem appearances leaderboard (players)
David Wright                New York Mets       Third base            8
Brandon Inge                Detroit                      Third base           8
Ryan Zimmerman      Washington             Third base          7
Carlos Gomez              Minnesota                  Center field         6
Eight tied                                                                                  5

Web Gem appearances leaderboard (teams)
Washington                22

Philadelphia                  22
New York Mets           19
Pittsburgh                     19
Cincinnati                     19

You can track Zimmerman and the rest of the Nationals each week here at the ESPN Baseball Tonight Clubhouse.

Meet me in St. Louis

For the first time in his career, Ryan Zimmerman is headed to the All-Star game! The game will be played on Tuesday, July 14th in St. Louis.

You have the ability to make sure Zimmerman is not the only Nat in St. Louis this year. Cristian Guzman has the opportunity to join him, but he needs your help! Cristian is a 2009 All-Star Final Vote candidate for the 33rd spot on the National League Roster. Only your votes can send him to the Midsummer Classic! Click HERE to send Cristian to the All-Star game for the second year in a row!GUZasgbutton.jpg

“Vote [Guzman] in, fans — we are trying to rally our troops in the Dominican Republic,” manager Manny Acta said.

The other All-Star Final Vote candidates are:
Matt Kemp – LAD
Mark Reynolds – ARI
Pablo Sandoval – SF
Shane Victorino – PHI