June 2011

Several Nationals are worthy of All-Star Nods

With only hours remaining for fans to vote for their favorite players for the 2011 All-Star Game, it’s time to take a look at the Nationals’ candidates for the Midsummer Classic. The Nationals strong month of June has brought more recognition to some of their hottest players and many Nats are making a case to be in Arizona on July 12. Unlike years past, where the team’s lone selection has been pretty clear cut—this year the Nats have a chance to send multiple players to the All-Star Game.

If you’re talking about the potential NL All-Star infield, it’s going to be tough to leave Danny Espinosa out of the conversation. He’s leading all rookies in multiple offensive categories—home runs (15), triples (4), slugging percentage (.465), and OPS (.788). He’s been stellar at second base so far this season, helping provide a wall of defense up the middle. Espinosa is certainly making his case to not only be a Nationals representative in the All-Star Game, but to be Rookie of the Year as well.

Along with Espi, you’ve got Michael Morse leading the Club’s current power surge. Morse has also hit 15 home runs—and with a .550 slugging percentage, he’s currently fifth overall in the NL in that category. After getting off to a slow start, Morse absolutely took off. In May he batted .403 with a 1.196 OPS, and in June he hit more than half of his home runs so far this year and maintained a .299 average. While, admittedly, his position (first base) is going to be tough for him to compete in, he’s at least put his name into the mix. 

Then you’ve got the beast of the bullpen—Drew Storen. Storen is currently 12th in the NL in saves, having gone 19 for 22 in save opportunities. He has a 2.90 ERA with 32 strikeouts. But, better than that, he’s held opponents to a .188 average while posting a WHIP of just 0.99. Matt Capps represented the Nationals in the 2010 All-Star Game and Storen hopes to make it two DC All-Star closers in a row.
 

From the starting rotation, Jason Marquis is making a strong case to go to Arizona for the All-Star Game. He’s currently leading the team in wins, with seven, and is in the midst of a rebound season having recovered from the arm surgery he had last season. He’s posted an ERA of 3.62 with a WHIP of 1.39 and has been one of the team’s most consistent starters.

Jordan Zimmermann is also rebounding from injury in his first full season since going under the knife for Tommy John surgery in 2009. Zimmermann is currently seventh in the NL in WHIP (1.07) and fifth in the NL in ERA (2.63). He’s had trouble getting run support and is currently only 5-7, but it’s clear he’s a force to be reckoned with when he’s on the mound, having recorded a quality start in 13 of his 16 outings. JZ is also worthy of a trip to the Midsummer Classic.

The fan vote most-likely won’t determine the Nationals’ selection(s) but we’ll find out which Nats stars will be All-Stars very soon.

Teddy blogging from Anaheim, Day Three

Before heading to Angel Stadium for an afternoon game, the Racing Presidents went to Huntington Beach for some volleyball, surfing, sun and fun. Teddy documented the day’s events both at the beach and at the ballpark for Curly “W” Live. Here’s more from Teddy and the boys on their final day in Cali…

“I’m going to show these guys how to hang ten. Surf Stoke—we have it.”

“Yesterday we showed off our post-racing career media potential. Now we’re thinking about getting in the studio to produce a hit record. We’re in the right town to do it. What do you think of this as a potential album cover?”

“Getting our Baywatch Hasselhoff on!”

“When you’re a highly-skilled athlete like we are, switching from one sport to another is a piece of cake. Check out our crazy volleyball skills.”

“Back at the ballpark again. Can you believe they treat a VIP like this? Like Rodney said: ‘I get no respect!’”

“Nats fans represent!”

“Blindfolded relay race today.”

“A little confusion during the hand off. Whose idea was this anyway?”

“Abe wins again.”

The Nationals and the Racing Presidents would like to thank: Matt Artin, Heather Capizzi, Peter Bull, stage managers: Al, Jeff and Amy as well as Nicole and Eric for driving us all over Orange County.

A special shout out to the the whole Angels organization and all Angels fans.

We’ll see you back in DC!!!

Teddy blogging from Anaheim, Day Two

The Racing Presidents were back at Angel Stadium on Tuesday for another memorable race. Teddy was also back behind the keyboard documenting the boys’ trip. Here’s more from the West Side…

“Abe went searching for a pregame burger—‘What do you mean I can’t have a Shack Burger? Well, this is California, can I at least get my burger double double animal-style?’”

“If I haven’t been able to beat George in a race, what’s this guy thinking? George 1, Angels Fan 0.”

“You can take the Nats fan out of DC, but you can’t take the Curly ‘W’ out of their heart. Feeling right at home with these two.”

“George and Guillermo shared a laugh while keeping Angel Stadium clean.”

“You know, you can’t race forever. George and I are preparing for our post-racing broadcast careers. If FP can do it, why can’t we?”

“Fox Sports West had me as a guest on their pregame show. Forget radio… this face was made for TV.”

“Just helping out the good people at MASN and rounding out my resume—President of the United States, racer, broadcaster and cameraman… the list goes on and on.”

“Gotta get loose before the race and pump up the crowd. Just nine outs ‘til race time.”

“Just took the lead. This is my chance!”

“So close to winning my first race. I thought Abe and I were cool—why he gotta taunt me like that? I don’t bust on his fugly beard.”

“George knows the importance of staying hydrated after a big race.”

Check back tomorrow for more from Teddy on the Presidents’ trip to Cali including a visit to the ocean and a little beach volleyball.

Teddy blogging from Anaheim, Day One

As the Nationals made their way to Anaheim Sunday night from Chicago, another group from DC was West Coast-bound as well. The Racing Presidents made their Cali debut yesterday as they raced the warning track at Angel Stadium. Everybody’s favorite lovable loser, Teddy, has signed on to be our guest blogger this week from the OC. Below are his musings and observations from the Pacific Coast…

“Great fans, great weather. We are all so excited to be here in Southern Cali.”

“George dropped off some tickets for his wife Martha at Will Call, because she’s a hip, hip, hip lady, man.”

“Scotty Lew says we are ineligible to win prizes at Nationals Park. Abe is determined to win something here… even if it’s not the race.”

“Guillermo warned us not to make a mess.”

“George does his best Daniel Son/Ralph Macchio impression. Watch out for Johnny Drama!”

“The Angels have all kinds of high-tech machinery. Now if I can only use this for the race.”

“Meeting new friends.”

“These are my new Strike Force friends—hope my Nat Pack ladies don’t get jealous.”

“What a beautiful day for baseball!”

“Even 3,000 miles away… fans still love me.”

“How come Angels Pitching Coach, Mike Butcher is getting more autograph requests than George? He was never Commander in Chief, was he?”

“I was getting a little homesick, so I stopped by to see some familiar faces and say ‘hello’ to Bob and FP.”

“Gotta show some love to the Angels TV broadcasters.”

“What’s bigger? His beard or my mustache? I think these guys might’ve been in the band Smashmouth.”

“Tom, George and Abe plotting against me before the race. Sweet bike though, right?”

“After a great start, this is where the race started to unravel for me.”

“George wins the first Presidents race on the West Coast!”

Check back tomorrow for more shenanigans from your Racing Presidents in California.

Nationals Name Davey Johnson Field Manager

Yesterday, the Washington Nationals announced that Davey Johnson has been named to serve as field manager and will be in uniform today for the Nationals game against the Los Angeles Angels. Nationals Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement.

Johnson, a senior advisor to Rizzo since 2009, will direct the Nationals on the field for the remainder of the 2011 season. He also agreed to a three-year consulting contract that will have him remain with the Nationals after this season and allow him to participate in the hiring of his successor. 

“We could have absolutely no better choice to lead the Nationals at this time than Davey Johnson,” Rizzo said. “He knows the game, he knows our players, he knows our fans, he knows the Washington, DC area, and he knows exactly what we need to be doing to build the Nationals into a contender.”

Rizzo said he and Johnson talked about the appointment immediately after Jim Riggleman announced his resignation suddenly Thursday. He said Johnson agreed to manage for the remainder of the season and would work with Rizzo during the postseason to evaluate management needs for 2012.

“We are extraordinarily fortunate to have Davey Johnson as a member of our staff and one who can provide so much immediate leadership and credibility,” said Theodore N. Lerner, Nationals Managing Principal Owner. “He has been valuable as an advisor, and he’ll be even more valuable as our field manager. I believe our fans and our players will love having him at the helm and will feel confident with his leadership.”

A former World Series winning player and manager, Johnson assumes the helm of the Nationals, his fifth Big League Club. Johnson previously skippered four Big League teams—the Mets, Reds, Orioles and Dodgers—for 14 seasons, compiling a 1148-888 record and a .564 career winning percentage that ranks second to only Earl Weaver (.583) among living managers with 10 or more years of experience. 

In 14 Big League seasons, Johnson’s Clubs finished first or second 11 times, including five division titles, one pennant and one World Championship earned with the Mets in 1986. Johnson’s Clubs authored six 90-win campaigns and his 1994 Reds were on pace for 94 wins and led the NL Central at the time of the strike. His 1986 and ’88 Mets registered triple-digit win totals, posting 108 and 100 victories, respectively.

In 1997, Johnson was named American League Manager of the Year after guiding the Orioles to a 98-64 (.605) record. Those ’97 Orioles claimed the AL East flag, finishing 2.0 games ahead of the 96-win Yankees.

He is one of only seven living men to have won a World Series ring as a player and manager, joining Alvin Dark, Joe Girardi, Ralph Houk, Lou Piniella, Mike Scioscia and Red Schoendienst.

Johnson joined the Nationals on Nov. 18, 2009 after managing Team USA to a semifinals berth in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Johnson has managed or coached five Team USA professional squads since 2005, including the 2008 Olympic team.

As a player, Johnson hit .261 with 136 home runs and 609 RBI in 13 Big League seasons during a career that included a stint in Japan. Johnson was a four-time All-Star, won three Gold Gloves, played in five postseasons and earned a pair of World Series rings with the Orioles in 1966 and 1970. He also owns the distinction that he was the only player to have hit behind Hank Aaron and Japan’s all-time home run king, Sadaharu Oh.

Johnson was among the 10 finalists for consideration among Managers and Umpires for Hall of Fame election through the Veterans Committee in 2009.

Nats Seek a Seattle Sweep

The Nationals won the series last night with a 2-1 victory over the Mariners, thanks to solid pitching performances by John Lannan, Henry Rodriguez, Sean Burnett and Drew Storen. They’ll attempt to sweep the series and get a game over .500 today.

Here are today’s lineups:

 

Mariners:

Ichiro Suzuki – RF

Dustin Ackley – 2B

Adam Kennedy – 3B

Justin Smoak – 1B

Miguel Olivo – C

Mike Carp – LF

Franklin Gutierrez – CF

Justin Wilson – SS

Michael Pineda – P

 

Nationals:

Roger Bernadina – CF

Jayson Werth – RF

Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

Michael Morse – 1B

Danny Espinosa – 2B

Ivan Rodriguez – C

Jerry Hairston – LF

Jason Marquis – P

Ian Desmond – SS

 

*In three career starts against the Mariners, Jason Marquis is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA. He’s struck them out 13 times while allowing only one home run.

 

*With last night’s victory, this has been the latest in any season since the end of the 2005 season (when they ended the season at 81-81) that the Nationals have been at .500. The last time they were even this year was May 11.

The Chief calls it a Career

Nationals fans will remember him as the “Chief,” the man who was brought into the game as the closer to shut the opponent down. He did it well in 2005, the Nationals’ first year and his best season as a reliever. But Chad Cordero won’t be saving anymore games. On June 20, he announced his retirement from professional baseball at the age of 29.

Cordero was drafted in the first-round (20th overall) in 2003 by what was then still the Montreal Expos. He’d play in a few games in Canada, mostly as a closer, but didn’t come into his own until the team came to DC. In June of 2005, he tied the MLB record for saves in a month with 15. Later that year he’d reach 44 saves, which broke the Nationals/Expos franchise record. For the season he finished with 47 saves, which led all of MLB.

That same year he was selected to participate in the All-Star Game. He faced one batter—coincidentally enough, it was future Nationals catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez—and struck him out. He was named the 2005 Nationals Player of the Year and also won the NL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award.

After the 2005 season, Cordero played for Team USA in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. However, partly due to a lack of success by the team as a whole in the 2006 season, he only reached 29 saves that year.

In 2007, his ERA climbed to 4.70, partly due to being distracted by the illness of his grandmother. But after returning from bereavement leave, he didn’t allow a run in a dozen consecutive appearances. He reached 100 career saves that same year.

Things really took a turn for the worse for Cordero in 2008, when he missed nearly the entire season due to a labrum tear that needed to be surgically repaired. He was assigned to Triple-A Syracuse after that season, but rejected the assignment and became a free agent. He went to the Mariners, but didn’t play in a professional game until July 2009 due to his extended recovery from surgery. He was called up on June 3, 2010 to make his first Major League appearance since 2008.

Cordero would float around for the next year, playing in the Mets’ and Blue Jays’ systems before signing with the St. Paul Saints of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball earlier this year. Ultimately, he just decided it would be best to retire, given that the velocity on his fastball never quite returned and he wished to spend more time with his family.

In the Nationals/Expos franchise, the “Chief” pitched to a 2.78 ERA with 128 saves and 292 strikeouts. He still holds the franchise record for saves in a season. Between 2005 and 2007, the only closer who notched more saves than Cordero was future Hall-of-Famer Trevor Hoffman.

Inside Pitch Live with Ian Desmond

Shortstop Ian Desmond sat down with Nationals radio announcer Dave Jageler for the first 2011 installment of Inside Pitch Live on Saturday in the Stars & Stripes Club. Desi discussed the 2011 season with Jageler and took questions from fans. Below is excerpted from that  Q&A session:

 

Dave Jageler: We had 35,000 here last night, and the red was drowning out the orange, which is good. One thing that I’ve known and maybe you notice it too, but when there’s a key spot in a game, there are cheers anticipating what’s going to happen, not just after it happens. This crowd has been into it.

Ian Desmond: I’ve always said that we’ve had very smart fans. They know the game. There just haven’t, in the past, been that many of them. And that’s not a knock to Nationals fans—I wouldn’t want to come watch a losing team, either. It’s nice to have people who understand the game in mass volume who cheer you on in big situations.

 

DJ: How do you think the new lineup is working?

ID: It really speaks volumes to the kind of person that Jayson is, for him to accept that role. Hitting fifth in the Phillies lineup, that’s a treat for anybody’s standards. To go to the leadoff spot, you’re going to lose out on some of the RBI situations, but he’s accepted it with open arms and I think the whole team, whether it’s me hitting ninth or Bernadina hitting ninth, it’s good that we’re all on the same page and it’s not a problem. In a lot of clubhouses, that would stir up a lot of controversy.

 

Female Fan: How’s the baby doing?

ID: He’s doing outstanding. Seven hours a night, he’s sleeping. I’m blessed.

 

Young Fan: How tired do you get?

ID: Right now, I’m actually pretty tired. I’m going to need some energy here shortly. But it’s fun. When you’re out there on the field, you don’t really think about being tired. You just think about winning. That’s what makes you go.

 

Young Fan: Do you have a mansion?
ID: No, I have a little shanty. You know what that is? Jayson has a mansion. No, I don’t have a mansion. I try to keep things humble.

 

Young Fan: How do you get ready for a game?

ID: It starts when I wake up, and I eat breakfast. Breakfast’s the most important meal of the day, you know that, right? So I wake up, eat breakfast, and start thinking about the opponent, what I want to do today, and as far as batting practice and stretching. Things like that.

 

Male Fan: What’s the pregame routine like?

ID: We just keep our feet moving. That’s one of the most important things, defensively. We’re out there practicing, getting our feet positioned, and taking as many ground balls as we can without exerting too much energy. Really, the footwork is the most important part.

 

Male Fan: Be honest, what’s better – Montreal or DC?

ID: I never actually got the opportunity to go to Montreal, but I definitely like the way this organization is going now that it’s in Washington.

 

Female Fan: Family life is a challenge during a season. How do you manage that away from home? Obviously you miss your son while you’re away. How are you able to balance that?

ID: It’s definitely hard. I think my time in the Minor Leagues groomed me towards this. Being away from your family for six or seven months, living in hotels or with host families, things like that definitely prepared me for today. But fortunately today I’m able to have my wife and my family here, and when we’re in Miami I have other relatives down there. But it’s not easy. It’s a sacrifice we have to make.

Nats-Mariners, Game 2

After a dramatic come-from-behind victory last night, the Nationals look to use that momentum to carry them to the .500 mark tonight.

Here are tonight’s lineups for Game Two of the Interleague series:

Mariners:

Ichiro Suzuki – RF

Brendan Ryan – SS

Justin Smoak – 1B

Miguel Olivo – C

Franklin Gutierrez – CF

Greg Halman – LF

Chone Figgins – 3B

Jack Wilson – 2B

Erik Bedard – P

 

Nationals:

Jayson Werth – RF

Ian Desmond – SS

Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

Michael Morse – 1B

Danny Espinosa – 2B

Wilson Ramos – C

Jerry Hairston – LF

John Lannan – P

Roger Bernadina – CF

*Laynce Nix is getting the evening off due to a sore Achilles. It’s been a recurring problem for Nix, who is now listed as day-to-day, but he told the media yesterday evening that he’s “not too concerned about it.”

*John Lannan will look to continue his recent success this evening; in his last five starts he’s posted a 1.08 ERA. The Nationals have won four of those five games.

Nats-Mariners, Game 1

After having their winning streak snapped by Baltimore on Sunday, the Nationals plan on starting a new one behind Livan Hernandez.

Mariners:

Ichiro Suzuki – RF

Brendan Ryan – SS

Adam Kennedy – 3B

Justin Smoak – 1B

Dustin Ackley – 2B

Carlos Peguero – LF

Franklin Gutierrez – CF

Chris Gimenez – C

Doug Fister – P

 

Nationals:

Jayson Werth – RF

Roger Bernadina – CF

Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

Laynce Nix – LF

Michael Morse – 1B

Danny Espinosa – 2B

Wilson Ramos – C

Livan Hernandez – P

Ian Desmond – SS

 

*In 22.1 career innings against the Mariners, Hernandez has pitched to a 2.82 ERA with 10 strikeouts. He has only surrendered one home run to Seattle.

 

*Tonight will be the first time Michael Morse will be facing his former team since being traded from Seattle for Ryan Langerhans in 2009.

 

*Against the Mariners, Laynce Nix has batted .284 with eight home runs, six doubles and a triple in his career.

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