September 2010

Kasten to step down


Stan Kasten 10.JPGNationals President Stan Kasten announced today that he will resign as Nationals president at the conclusion of the season. It was on the same day that Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell wrote the column on Kasten’s future:
As Nats embark on next journey, will Stan Kasten be on board? Kasten served as president for nearly five full seasons and it is not known who will replace him. He was officially introduced as President on May 3, 2006. Kasten is a firm believer in scouting and player development and that you can never have enough starting pitching. One of his first moves was hiring now General Manager Mike Rizzo.

“This is just about me, what’s best for me,” Kasten said. “I don’t feel like I’m retiring. I want to do something.”

That something might not be known for a while but there is a good chance it will have something to do with baseball.

“Stan Kasten will always be an important part of the history of the Washington Nationals,” Managing Principal Owner Theodore N. Lerner said in a statement. “He was vital to ownership winning its bid from Major League Baseball and his agreement to serve as the team’s chief executive for the last five years has been critical to building the Washington Nationals franchise.”

Vintage 2006 RFK shot:


Stan Kasten 13.JPG

Nats seek 13 home series victory

Ross Detwiler toes the rubber as a starter for the first time since August 5, as the Nats try to earn their 13th series victory at home. They have four on the road. The Nats will be without Adam Dunn who left last night’s game after he was hit by a fastball in his right elbow. 

 

Astros (73-79):

1.    Jason Bourgeois – CF

2.    Jeff Keppinger – 2B

3.    Hunter Pence – RF

4.    Carlos Lee – 1B

5.    Jason Michaels – LF

6.    Chris Johnson – 3B

7.    Angel Sanchez – SS

8.    Humberto Quintero – C

9.    Nelson Figueroa – SP (5-3, 3.51 ERA)

*Jason Michaels went on another tear last night, going 3-for-4 with a double, RBI and one run scored. The three-hit effort was his first of the season and his first since May 10, 2008 vs. the Braves as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Nationals (64-88):

1.      Danny Espinosa – 2B

2.      Adam Kennedy – 1B

3.      Ian Desmond – SS

4.      Michael Morse – RF

5.      Roger Bernadina – LF 

6.      Wilson Ramos – C

7.      Justin Maxwell – CF

8.      Alberto Gonzalez – 3B

9.      Ross Detwiler – SP (0-2, 2.37 ERA)

*Danny Espinosa hit a game-winning two-run homer in the seventh inning last night and by doing so, became the first player in franchise history to have hit as many as five home runs after debuting with the Nationals or Expos in September.

UPDATE: Ryan Zimmerman has been scratched due to a right strained rib but Dunn is available to pinch-hit.

Moving in the right direction… one win at a time

Last night’s win was insignificantly significant for at least one reason–if nothing else it guaranteed the Nats won’t reach the century mark in losses for the first time since 2007. This feat won’t be celebrated with champagne showers… but it’s progress. It is a step in the right direction.

“Certainly we want to raise the bar higher than that,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “Winning a little more than last year is a step. We feel we are making progress, but ultimately, you are what your record says you are. We would like to win some more games. We are certainly not happy about the number of losses. If it has a nine in front of it or a 100 in front, it’s not good.”

Tyler Clippard doesn’t see a difference between 100 losses or 90, just like when you double nothing, well you still have nothing. Whether you lose 100 games or 90 games, the team is still only going to play 162 games.

“There is no significance,” Clippard said. “It’s a non-successful season whether it’s 100 losses or 95 losses. When you are in last place, it’s not good.”

He is right in the sense that it is a bad season either way but a 100 loss season is a regrettable milestone and a 99 loss season is just a bad year. When you lose 100 games you are clumped into a category but when you lose 99 games your season is just forgotten. It is the same thing with 100 RBI, 200 innings pitched or 1,000 yards rushing milestones, among many other things.

In a different type of milestone:

The Nationals have played 960 games since arriving in the Nation’s Capitol in 2005. They are 406-554. The Baltimore Orioles are 406-554 over that same span. That is pretty impressive and it settles any debate about which team is better. I don’t know what the odds of two teams playing 960 games and finishing with the same record but they aren’t the only teams. The Red Sox and Angels are 550-411 and the Rockies and Padres are 481-480 over the same span.

It’s worth mentioning:

The Nationals scored all seven of their runs last night in the bottom of the eighth with two outs. It was just the second time that Washington scored as many as seven runs in one inning at home since returning to DC. The last time was on April 16, 2005, in the team’s second game in Washington, when the Nationals recorded a seven-run seventh inning against the Diamondbacks.

After a rough first inning that saw the Astros jump to a 3-0 lead last night, starting pitcher John Lannan retired 17 of the final 20 batters he faced.

Last night, Tyler Clippard posted his MLB-leading 10th relief win. The last NL relief pitcher to record a double-digit win total was Todd Jones in 2004, for the Phillies and Reds. Clippard also notched his 100th strikeout in relief, becoming the first DC-based reliever to do so. His 100 relief K’s this season trail only the Cubs’ Carlos Marmol (124).

Bill Ladson reports that the Nats are expected to announce by the end of the week that Manager Jim Riggleman will be back for at least another week. 

Astros (73-78):

1.    Jason Bourgeois – CF

2.    Angel Sanchez – SS

3.    Jeff Keppinger – 2B

4.    Carlos Lee – LB

5.    Chris Johnson – 3B

6.    Brett Wallace – 1B

7.    Jason Michaels – RF

8.    Jason Castro – C

9.    Wandy Rodriguez – SP (11-12, 3.65 ERA)

* Jason Michaels hit his eighth long ball of the season last night in the first. A ******** 18 of his 39 hits (46.2%) have now been of the extra-base variety.

Nationals (63-88):

1.      Danny Espinosa – 2B

2.      Ian Desmond – SS

3.      Adam Dunn – 1B

4.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

5.      Michael Morse – RF

6.      Ivan Rodriguez – C

7.      Roger Bernadina – LF 

8.      Justin Maxwell – CF

9.      Jason Marquis – SP (2-9, 7.71 ERA)

Nats sign a two-year deal with the Auburn Doubledays

The Nats announced a two-year Player Development Contract deal with the Auburn Doubledays of the short-season Single-A New York-Penn League.

In the process, the Nats have compacted the geographical footprint of its affiliates. By partnering with Auburn, the Nationals’ NY-P League affiliate is now closer to the Nation’s Capital, and just 35 miles west of Syracuse, the Nationals’ Triple-A International League affiliate.

“We are delighted to add Auburn to the Nationals’ family,” said Kasten. “This agreement again narrows the footprint of our Minor League system, and starting next summer, Auburn and the Doubledays’ fan base will get their first glimpse at the rewards reaped from both our scouting and player development systems.”

The Doubledays currently play in 2,706-seat Falcon Park, which opened 1995 and includes arguably the best home clubhouse in the NY-P League. The team is named after Abner Doubleday, the Civil War general and Auburn, NY native who has often been credited with inventing the game of baseball.

“We are excited to join the Nationals’ family of affiliates,” said Doubledays CEO Tom Ganey.  “We look forward to working with the minor league staff in Washington and once again teaming up with our neighbors in Syracuse to develop the next generation of Major League players.”

The Doubledays–whose run of six consecutive Pinckney Division titles (2002-07) was capped by a NY-P League championship in 2007–recently ended a working relationship with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt, Luis Gonzalez, Aaron Hill, Kenny Lofton and Rick Dempsey are among those who enjoyed playing stints in Auburn during their minor-league careers.

The Nationals’ seven affiliates went 384-381 (.502) this season to register their third consecutive winning campaign. Washington’s affiliates went 380-378 (.501) in 2009, and 432-405 (.516) in 2008. Last week, the Single-A Potomac Nationals won their second Carolina League championship in three years. In the last month, the Nationals renewed their affiliations with the Syracuse Chiefs, Harrisburg Senators (Double-A Eastern League) and Potomac.

Game 151

It’s the final countdown at Nationals Park and here are three things as we head into the final 12 games of the season:

 

1.         Ryan Zimmerman is currently hitting .306 on the season, after going 2-for-4 to record his team-leading 46th multi-hit game of the season last night. He is hitting .410 (16-for-39) in his last ten games and aims to become just the third Nationals player to hit .300 or better in a single season, joining Cristian Guzman (.316 in ’08) and Dmitri Young (.320 in ’07).


 
Collin Balester red.jpg2.         A mustache-less Collin Balester is thriving in his converted role as a reliever. He has not allowed a run in 10.1 innings (eight appearances) and has seen his ERA drop to 2.40 since reaching a season high 7.71 on August 3.

3.         The bullpen has racked up 460 relief K’s this season, which is good for third in the Majors and sets the Nationals’ single season record. Tyler Clippard is also 2 K’s away from recording the first 100-relief strikeout season in the history of baseball in DC.

 

Astros (73-77):

1.    Jason Bourgeois – CF

2.    Jeff Keppinger – 2B

3.    Hunter Pence – RF

4.    Carlos Lee – 1B

5.    Jason Michaels – LF

6.    Chris Johnson – 3B

7.    Tommy Manzella – SS

8.    Jason Castro – C

9.    J.A. Happ – SP (6-2, 3.24 ERA)

* The seven runs scored in the fifth inning yesterday were the most runs scored by the Astros in a single inning since they drove in seven during a fourth-inning surge against the Marlins on August 12, 2009.

* Bud Norris tossed 6.2 innings of two-run ball last night to improve his record to an impressive 7-1 with a 3.52 ERA in his last 11 starts.

 Nationals (62-88):

1.      Danny Espinosa – 2B

2.      Ian Desmond – SS

3.      Adam Dunn – 1B

4.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

5.      Michael Morse – RF

6.      Ivan Rodriguez – C

7.      Roger Bernadina – LF 

8.      Justin Maxwell – CF

9.      John Lannan – SP (8-7, 4.61 ERA)

The last stand

When the Astros come into town tonight to open a four-game set, they will be looking to win nine of their last 13 games of the season. If they can complete the feat, they will end up at .500. Why is this so impressive? Because the team was just 36-53 at the All-Star Break. Oh yeah, and they started the season with eight straight losses. But the tides have turned. In fact, the Astros are not the only team coming to town on this final homestand at Nationals Park with something to prove.

 

The next ten days also include series against the Braves and the Phillies–both fighting for the division lead, which is turning into a competition of who can best the Nationals, since both teams will have played Washington six times in their final 19 games. While the Nationals season will end in just 14 short days, the next ten should provide some tough matchups with the competition clawing to achieve a few clear-cut goals. Let’s see which ones the Nationals manage to spoil.

 Astros (72-77):

1.    Jason Bourgeois – CF

2.    Jeff Keppinger – 2B

3.    Hunter Pence – RF

4.    Carlos Lee – 1B

5.    Geoff Blum – SS

6.    Chris Johnson – 3B

7.    Brian Bogusevic – LF

8.    Humberto Quintero – C

9.    Bud Norris – SP (8-8, 4.95 ERA)

 Nationals (62-87):

1.      Danny Espinosa – SS

2.      Adam Kennedy – 2B

3.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Roger Bernadina – CF 

6.      Michael Morse – RF

7.      Willie Harris – LF

8.      Wilson Ramos – C

9.      Livan Hernandez – SP (10-11, 3.66 ERA)

Goodbye Atlanta

It’s then down to the clubhouse one last time. Whatever your musical tastes, if post-game music greets you as you enter the clubhouse, it means it was a good day. The assembled media crowds around John Lannan, Sean Burnett and Justin Maxwell’s lockers. As luck would have it, all three are in close proximity to one another in the corner closest to the exit, so the additional traffic makes it challenging to get around. Add to that the getaway day chaos of clubhouse staff trying to haul bags and boxes out to the busses, and well, you’d better keep your head on a swivel.

 

The best quote we heard, and we’re summarizing here, came from Justin when a reporter asked him about playing the role of spoiler, and if the Nats can build off this series going into another similar situation in Philadelphia. Without blinking, Maxwell replied that the Nationals don’t want to consider themselves as spoilers because they are trying to be in a position to fight for a playoff spot themselves next year. It was as if he and his teammates don’t want to get comfortable in the spoiler role–they want to constantly be improving and building so that they’re the ones chasing a division title. Pretty good stuff from the local Maryland product–it sounds like he and his teammates certainly have the right approach to the final three weeks of the season.

 

The media then thins out and the players finish packing up their lockers. They exchange well wishes and high fives with the Atlanta clubhouse staff – with three visits a year, it’s clear that they develop a strong appreciation for the hard work of these guys in making their life on the road so much easier.

 

And with that, it’s out to the buses and off to the airport, which is our cue to put a bow on our roadtrip blog. We hope you’ve enjoyed the temporary departure from the content you’ve grown accustomed to in this space. We’ve had a blast sharing some of the team’s fun stories, and bringing you closer to the people and personalities that bring the games to life. A special thanks to Manager Jim Riggleman, his staff and the players for letting us tag along, as well as the TV and radio teams who do such an incredible job in front of the camera and behind the mic.

All is well with Maxwell

The game itself saw Justin Maxwell hit his third career grand slam in the second inning, before the Nationals held off a Braves comeback. Atlanta had opportunities throughout the game, but John Lannan scattered eight hits through six innings, and the bullpen trio of Joel Peralta, Sean Burnett and Drew Storen combined for three scoreless innings of relief in a 4-2 Nats victory.

 

Most importantly, the Nats earned their second straight road series win, and improved their record to 8-7 vs. Atlanta this season.

 

While there were many similarities between our time spent with Dave and Charlie in the radio broadcast booth, there were also a handful of stark differences. The most obvious being the huge camera in the back of the booth–it is TV after all. More subtly though, the TV announcers don’t rotate innings so they can’t really take a bathroom break during the game. We tried to get the authentic experience, but couldn’t quite hold out during the seventh inning.

 

This also means the TV broadcasters can’t get up to get a snack or a drink during the game. Bob had the foresight to grab a box of Trix cereal–no, they’re not just for kids–and a bagel. Ray just made fun of Bob’s choices but opted for no snack. We’re guessing that by the middle of the game, Ray was secretly jealous of his partner’s snacks, but by that point, he was out of luck.

 

Once Bob makes the call on Drew Storen’s strikeout to end the game, he quickly draws the game broadcast to a close. During the ensuing commercial break, he and Ray get ready for their final exchange with Johnny Holiday on the post-game show. It’s a quick back and forth recapping the Braves series clincher before looking ahead to another tough matchup vs. the Phillies.

Nats seek series victory

Well it’s getaway day here in Atlanta, and with a 12:10 p.m. first pitch today against the Braves, it’s an earlier-than-usual start for the team and staff. Players’ luggage starts to arrive in the lobby by 7 a.m., and Wally is at it again, checking names off of his list and tagging bags before loading them onto the moving truck.

 

The players and coaches themselves start to trickle down to catch the team bus around 9 a.m., and we’re off to the park by 9:30 a.m.

 

We hit a bit more traffic than we have for either of the previous night games, and with the delay, the big debate from the night before–the length of Adam Dunn’s homerun–becomes a hot topic once again.

 

Now there’s more than just bragging rights on the line for Dunn. Callaway is rewarding any professional baseball player who hits a home run over 470 feet with a full set of Diablo Edge clubs. Most of the broadcasters are sure Dunn’s moon ball eclipsed that elusive threshold, but as of this morning, no official word. We’ll let you know as soon as we hear but according to ESPN it went 479 feet.

 

With the earlier game, it’s pretty much straight to the press box once we get to the park. MASN TV broadcasters Bob Carpenter and Ray Knight are busy scribbling some final pregame notes, reviewing the starting lineups and making sure everything is in order. Bob comments that they have their routine pretty much down to a science at this point.

 


TV booth with Bob Carpenter.JPGBob does a few reads that will be used as part of the pregame show. He and Ray won’t actually be live on-air until moments before first pitch. When the broadcast starts, what you see are actually pre-recorded lead-ins. That’s right…when you’re at home just tuning in to the game, Bob and Ray are relaxing with their pregame meal in the press dining room.

Speaking of food, on the final day of our roadtrip, we’re eager to follow Bob to his Chick-fil-A stand. Much to our chagrin however, the game is so early that the stand at the bottom of the press box stairs isn’t even open yet. Dejectedly, we slump back up the stairs…looks like it’s breakfast for lunch today–scrambled eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and some cinnamon buns. It Could be worse.

Stopping the six-game Skid

With pregame warm-ups in the books–Coach leads the pitchers through their routine first, then the position players–we head upstairs for dinner in the press box. Tonight our plate consists of lasagna, canned veggies, grilled redskin potatoes and mini corndogs. Hey, we’d be doing our loyal readers a disservice if we didn’t try a little of everything, and really, how can you pass up corndogs anyway!? Lastly, the Braves lemonade and sweet tea combine for an amazing Arnold Palmer. How cool would it be to have a drink named after you?

 

The early going is highlighted by Adam Dunn’s mammoth two-run homer in the top of the second. Between innings, we make our way back to the clubhouse to meet up with the Coordinator of Advanced Scouting and Video, Erick Dalton. This guy, with the help of Michael Mazur, compiles countless hours of video on upcoming Nationals opponents. He then combines it with written scouting reports to detail everything from pitcher tendencies to hitter’s strengths and weaknesses, and every trend imaginable in between. With the Nationals leading 3-0, we take a seat next to Erick as he runs through his game day routine, complete with three to four computer monitors, diagrammed printouts and a handful of other resources to help him ensure the Nats are as prepared as possible for their upcoming opponents. He’s already compiled the scouting reports for the Nats next series against the Phillies–he says it’s all about staying at least one series ahead.

 

Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein comes back to the clubhouse between innings to review some tape of recent at-bats to see what’s been effective thus far for Atlanta’s starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens. Whatever it was Erick had queued up for Rick, he was able to immediately reap the benefits for the Nationals hitters, as Nats pitcher Livan Hernandez took Jurrjens deep in the top of the fourth inning, extending the lead to 4-0. Just how critical was the intel that Erick provided? Consider:

 

Ramon Ortiz was the last Nats pitcher to hit a home run and that was on September 4, 2006 at RFK Stadium. In the time between the homers by Ortiz (9/4/06) and Hernandez (9/14/10): 47 different MLB pitchers homered a total of 95 times, Ivan Rodriguez gunned down 82 would be basestealers while wearing five different uniforms, Joey Chestnut consumed a combined 247 hot dogs en route to winning four straight Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contests, and let’s not forget Pluto lost its “planet” classification in the Solar System.

 

The Nationals would tack on two more insurance runs courtesy of a Roger Bernadina RBI single and an Ian Desmond solo HR–let’s add an assist from Erick and Coach Eckstein for good measure–while Livo went eight strong innings and the good guys prevailed, 6-0, evening the series at a game apiece.

 

Spirits were certainly higher in the post-game clubhouse and on the bus ride back to the hotel. Let’s hope we keep the momentum going tomorrow as we wrap up the series and this roadtrip blog. We’ll be visiting with MASN broadcasters Bob Carpenter and Ray Knight, and maybe a few other surprises as well. Stay tuned…

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