Results tagged ‘ John Lannan ’
John Lannan is the Nationals pie guy and he didn’t disappoint last night. Drew Storen got pied twice for earning his first Major League victory–first by Scott Olsen and then by John Lannan.
You have to watch MASN reporter Debbie Taylor interview Storen. It is great.
After the game Storen tweeted, “For the record, my eyes are still watering from the shaving cream pie. Well worth it though. Glad we got the losing streak turned around.“
Below are the top five Nationals story lines when the Nats were heading into Spring Training over a month ago:
1. The shortstop position–Ian Desmond or Cristian Guzman
2. Right field–Elijah Dukes spot to lose
3. Stephen Strasburg–
4. The Bullpen–
5. The Starting Rotation–Lannan and Marquis have two of the spots locked down…the other three?
Obviously, these story lines were all pretty general–the starting rotation alone could be five story lines–but rule No. 1 in predicting the futures baseball market requires being as ambiguous as possible. On the eve of Opening Day 2010, the questions about the Opening Day roster have been answered. Here’s how the story lines of Spring Training were written over the past month-plus in Viera:
- The shortstop position–Guzman is in the final year of the two-year contract he signed in 2008. Desmond entered his sixth Spring Training with the Nationals knowing he was going to be an everyday shortstop–he just didn’t know if it would be with the Nationals or with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. It only took a few games before it became a foregone conclusion that Desmond was going to be the everyday shortstop. He batted .318 (21-for-66) and led the team with 15 RBI in 25 games. After Guzman was relegated to the bench, he spent the final Spring Training games testing other positions and he could be the Nats super-utility man this season.
- Right Field–As I said before, right field was Dukes’ spot to lose and he did just that. For whatever reasons–lack of production being the most prominent–Dukes’ luck ran dry when he was unconditionally released on St. Patrick’s Day, definitely not the luck of the Irish. The always likeable veteran, Willie Harris, will start in right field for the time being and Willy Tavares will be the second member of the platoon.
3. Stephen Strasburg–Stephen Strasburg was possibly the best pitcher in camp. Period. Lannan was right behind him though. Strasburg handled Strasburg-mania like a veteran and walked around the clubhouse like a rookie: confident but reserved. He posted a 2.00 ERA (2 ER/ 9.0 ER) in three starts before he was sent to Minor League camp on March 20. He proved he knows how to pitch–not just throw 100 mph fastballs past Major League hitters. He isn’t scared to throw a 3-2 curveball with runners on the corners either. He will attract interest with each start but before you anoint him the savior, redeemer or rescuer of the world just remember the expectations paradox–anyone can fail when there are impossible expectations and anyone can succeed when there aren’t any expectations at all. See Eric Crouch and Ryan Leaf. One was quickly forgotten and disappeared off the radar shortly after he won the Heisman Trophy and the other one was arguably one of the biggest busts in the NFL after he was the No. 2 pick in the 1998 draft but both were equally bad. Everything is relative.
Here are a few selective top rookie campaigns over the last few seasons:
Pitcher Year Record G IP SO ERA
CC Sabathia (Cle) 2001 17- 5 33 180.1 171 4.39
Justin Verlander (Det) 2006 17- 9 30 186.0 124 3.63
Rick Porcello (Det) 2009 14- 9 31 170.2 89 3.96
Dontrelle Willis (Fla) 2003 14- 6 27 160.2 142 3.30
Armando Galarraga (Det) 2008 13- 7 30 178.2 126 3.73
Jair Jurrjens (Atl) 2008 13-10 31 188.1 139 3.68
Jeff Niemann (TB) 2009 13- 6 31 180.2 125 3.94
J.A. Happ (Phi) 2009 12- 4 35 166.0 119 2.93
Josh Johnson (Fla) 2006 12- 7 31 157.0 133 3.10
Francisco Liriano (Min) 2006 12- 3 28 121.0 144 2.16
4. The Bullpen–The 2009 Nationals Achilles’ heel was the bullpen with a Major League worst 5.04 ERA. They entered this spring with a bolstered pen and four spots locked down, the remaining three were open. The back end of the bullpen ended up the same way it started. Matt Capps struggled this spring but he will begin the season as the closer and Brian Bruney will be the set-up man. Sean Burnett and the ever-so-versatile right-hander Tyler Clippard will be used against lefties. Clippard held leftied to a microscopic .122 (14-for-115) batting average with 38 strikeouts in 2009. The Nats decided to begin the season with eight relievers so Jason Bergmann, Miguel Batista, Tyler Walker and Jesse English earned the final four spots.
5. The Starting Rotation–When the pitchers and catchers reported on Feb. 19, the race for the rotation was wide open. John Lannan and Jason Marquis were the only guarantees, if there is such a thing, and the eventual fourth starter–the always dependable, 60 mph curveball-machine Livan Hernandez–wasn’t even on the team yet. There were about nine pitchers trying to fill three spots: Scott Olsen, Matt Chico, Collin Balester, Stephen Strasburg, J.D. Martin, Craig Stammen, Garrett Mock, Shairon Martis and Livan Hernandez. Craig Stammen had bone chips removed in his right elbow during the offseason and pitched brilliantly this spring to earn the third spot: he went 1-2 with a 3.72 ERA (19.1 IP/ 8 ER) and 12 strikeouts. Mock earned the final spot right before camp broke. Even with the season starting, the race for the rotation isn’t finished. It is only time before Stephen Strasburg, Chien-Ming Wang, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler make starts in 2010.
This could be the year of John Lannan. While everyone has been focused on Stephen Strasburg’s every move and pitch, Lannan has done what he has always done best–traveled under the radar like a stealth bomber. The cool-headed, hard working pie master, low maintenance man is having his best Spring to date: 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA (3 ER/ 11 IP), one walk, six strikeouts and a .190 BAA. The kid that keeps defying odds is entering his third full season in the Majors–not even he thought he would ever make it to the pros– and he could be the Nats first 15-game winner since Livan Hernandez in 2005.
A few thoughts from Lannan…
On the additions of Jason Marquis and Chien-Ming Wang:
“We got a lot of guys that have won and know how to win. Of course I am happy with what the front office has done.”
Marquis and Lannan are the only two Native New Yorkers to beat the Mets and Yankees in the same season:
“There is something about pitching in front of your family and against the team you grew up watching. It is a great feeling just to pitch there and have your whole family and friends cheer you on. That’s a pretty cool fact.”
(Every pitcher has pitched well enough to get a victory but for whatever reasons walked away with the loss. It seems to happen to Lannan more frequently than others though. The sum of his outings weren’t indicative of his overall record last season. First, he had a 3.71 run support average, the second-worst RSA in the Majors last season with at least 200.0 IP. Second, just look the numbers between CC Sabathia and himself. It begs the question: how many wins would have Lannan had if he pitched for the Yankees in 2009?)
Number of games started allowing three earned runs or less:
Sabathia: 23 Lannan: 23
ERA in those games:
Sabathia: 1.78 ERA (32 ER/ 161.2 IP) Lannan: 2.24 ERA (39 ER/ 156.2 IP)
Individual Record in those games:
Sabathia: 18-0 Lannan: 9-5
Team Record in those games:
Sabathia: 20-3 Lannan: 12-11
“I am taking my lumps right now. It doesn’t really get to me. There have been plenty of times when I have given up more than three runs and have walked away with the win. It evens out. You can’t really look too deep into that. You want to go out there and put up wins. But you have to look at how many games the team wins when you are out on the mound. That overall record is more important than my individual record.”
(As you probably could have guessed, it doesn’t quite even out. During his two-plus seasons in the Majors, he has just two wins when he has allowed four runs or more and he has 13 losses when he has allowed three runs or less. In the losses, he has a 3.10 ERA but a 1.22 run support average and that explains it all.)
On being the de facto ace last season and how he sees himself entering 2010:
“I am just going to do what I do… the title of ace didn’t really fit my attitude with where I was with my game last year. But hopefully one day I can feel comfortable with that title, but right now I am comfortable with where I am at.”
On losing the twitter battle–first person to garner 1,000 followers–to teammate Collin Balester:
“He had a two week head start. I lost and I will give him that but look at who has more followers now.”
On 2010 goals:
“You don’t want to put a cap on what you can do. No one has won 33 games but you don’t want to say you can’t do that. That mentality has really helped me out. As far as numbers go, I just want to improve on last year, little by little and just have fun. Go out there and compete and just improve every year.”
There are four weeks (five Mondays) until Opening Day on April 5 at Nationals Park. Spring Training games are in full swing and while the Nats are still looking for their first win, Ian Desmond is playing himself into a roster spot. In four games, he is batting .545 (6-for-11) with one home run and seven RBI. We are counting down the final few weeks of the offseason highlighting 10 memorable moments, jaw-dropping catches and walk-off wins. You have seen them before but you’ll want to see them again.
Last week we highlighted Adam Dunn hitting his 300th career home run.
This week we highlight John Lannan’s complete game shutout against the Mets on July, 21. The native New Yorker loves pitching against his hometown teams and he seems to save his best for the Mets. He has two career complete games, both coming against the Mets last season. He pitched against the Mets five times in ’09 and went 2-2 with a 2.43 ERA (10 ER/ 37.0 IP) and a .220 BAA. The numbers get even better if you exclude his first start. In his last four starts against the Mets, he went 2-1 with a 1.41 ERA (5 ER/ 32.0 IP) and a 1.85 BAA. Click here to view highlights from the July 21 game on NatsHD or here…
20090721 Lannan CG SO_hi.mpg …to view Lannan being locked in.
Don’t miss Strasburg pitch tomorrow: You will be able to watch Stephen Strasburg make his first Spring Training start tomorrow at 1:05 p.m. MASN HD–the television home of the Washington Nationals–will televise Tuesday’s Nationals-Tigers contest. Bob Carpenter, Rob Dibble and Debbi Taylor will call all the action live on MASN HD from Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla. This is the first of five Nationals Spring Training contests to be televised on MASN HD.
As we arrived at Space Coast Stadium with the sun shining, the temps in the mid 60′s and signs of baseball all around: green grass, fans decked out in Nats gear and players making the voyage from the fields to the clubhouse. It dawned on me right as we pulled in the parking lot that…
Spring is by far the best season in the world just like water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen–simple common facts, right? Of course, it never occurs to you while you are drinking a glass of water that it is two parts hydrogen or one part oxygen. But after you take a year of chemistry, you don’t even care anymore what it is… you just accept it as a fact and vow never to take another chemistry class again. It’s the same thing for spring, when you are at the Nats Spring Training Complex you are amazed at how peaceful and easy going it is… it is at that moment you accept it as fact that spring is the best season and vow to make the migration to Florida each year.
It is a new beginning for everyone and everything. It provides a new start for the players, a rebirth for all living plants and a second chance for people who already forgot what their New Year’s resolution was.
Let me get a little more cliché and sentimental… as W. Earl Hall said… I know I just name-dropped him like he is Ryan Zimmerman but truth be told Google doesn’t even know who he is, they just know he said this… “Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day.” Morphine? Nope. THC? Not a chance. Nicotine? Never. Vicodin? Vastly overrated.
We could add to that… while watching a baseball game speculating and daydreaming about the upcoming season. The start of Spring Training has an innate ability to make fans, and players alike, daydream of how their season will turnout and reason why they have what it takes to win the World Series. The records are wiped clean, the potential is endless and every team is in first place till April 5. Cliché comments become cool and the term “Making the trip North” typically reserved for Minnesotans going to their cabins becomes a common catchphrase.
Science has also never explained the tranquilizing effect of the start of Spring Training and the endless possibilities: all the what ifs, maybes, dreams and if only’s.
You have all heard them before and probably made the arguments yourself.
They added A, B and C in the offseason and bolstered the bullpen with D. What if E has a breakout year now that he is healthy? If only player F, has the season he had two years ago. If player G, pitches like he did in September for the entire season and now that player H will be on the team for a full season…We are a playoff team for sure.
It is just simple math: A+B+C+D+E+F+G+H=playoffs. Right?
All you need is a carefully crafted argument, selective statistics and a few leaps in logic that hopefully go undetected. 82 percent on the time you will win every time–push at worst–and by the time the actual records are final, the argument will have been forgotten just like the Spring Training games themselves–just don’t write down your predictions.
So let the argument begin why the Nationals will finish at or above .500… forget the fact that only seven teams since 1961 (the year the schedule was expanded to 162 games) that have won 60 games or fewer in one season have gone on to finish at or above .500 the following season. (I am excluding strike years.) Here are seven reasons why they will be the eighth.
1. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. The Nats ended on a seven game winning streak and posted a 33-37 record after July 21st. They are better defensively and if they would have kept that pace over the season they would have finished 76-86. They are a better team now then when the season ended too.
2. Maybe, just maybe John Lannan is the best pitcher nobody has heard of… just look at the numbers against a pitcher everybody has heard of.
ALCS MVP CC Sabathia vs. John Lannan
Number of games started allowing three runs or less:
ERA in those games:
Sabathia: 1.78 ERA (32 ER/ 161.2 IP)
Lannan: 2.24 ERA (39 ER/ 156.2 IP)
Individual Record in those games:
Team Record in those games:
Lannan’s biggest problem last year was the Nats offense. He was second from the bottom with a 3.71 run support average for pitchers with at least 200 IP. The Rays Matt Garza bested Lannan with a 3.68 RSA. It is the one statistic you never want to lead in.
- Remember the Opening Day bullpen last season? I didn’t think so. Here is why you have forgotten about them. The seven relievers: Joel Hanrahan, Joe Beimel, Mike Hinckley, Wil Ledezma, Saul Rivera, Steven Shell and Julian Tavarez are about as memorable as the movies Glitter, Gigli and The Hottie and the Nottie combined. They recorded seven blown saves in the first 21 games and 20 by the All-Star break with a 5.21 ERA. The bullpen has been bolstered–beefed up more than Popeye’s bicep–and if Matt Capps is the closer the Nats think he can be, the one he was in 2007 with 2.28 ERA, it will be game over in the ninth.
4. The Nationals just got a small dose of Nyjer Morgan last season before he fractured his left hand at the end of August but it was enough to give Nats fans an everlasting high. He was electric at the top of the order and changed the total complexion of the offense and defense while adding speed to a lineup of lumberjacks. In 49 games with the Nats, he batted .351 (67-for-191) with 35 runs and 24 stolen bases. If he can provide that excitement, speed and defense for an entire season… Wow.
5. What if Willingham plays the entire season like he did in May, June and July. He struggled for the first time in his career to find playing time and never was comfortable at the plate in April, batting .143. The “Hammer” returned in May. From May 5 to August 18, he batted .330 (86-for-261) with 18 home runs, 48 RBI and an on-base percentage of .430. He had a forgettable September so I won’t try to remember it. Willingham will be the everyday left fielder so don’t expect him to struggle at the start this season.
6. Maybe Elijah Dukes finally has a breakout year. Just think if he can hit 20 home runs and drive in 90 to 100 RBI in the 6th hole?
7. It is only time before Stephen Strasburg arrives in the Majors. And now daydream for a second about this possible rotation on July 1 as the Nats open a four game series against the Mets: Jason Marquis with a first half stuff like last year, Chien-Ming Wang fully recovered with a hard sinker circa 2007, John Lannan as his normal self and Stephen Strasburg starring as the savior he was anointed as in The Passion of the Christ before Jim Caviezel stole the role because he actually looked the part. The only question remaining is who of the five to seven qualified pitchers in the organization will be the fifth starter?
Gotta love Spring Training.
Nationals pitcher John Lannan and outfielder Justin Maxwell got together at ESPN Zone on Saturday to spread some holiday cheer at the Fourth Annual Boys & Girls Clubs of Washington Holiday Party. The players handed out toys, signed autographs and played games with the 120 children who attended the party.
“One of the main reasons I stayed in the area [this offseason] was to be able to do more outside of the season when I have more time to spend with these kids and be in the community,” Lannan said. “This is my second year at the Boys & Girls Club Holiday Party and I’m having a lot of fun.”
Lannan and Maxwell passed out gifts to each child and the excitement was evident with each Barbie, Batman figurine, finger skateboard and My Ameoba handed out. The two then went from table to table signing autographs and posing for pictures with all the club members while the kids ate mini burgers, chicken fingers and pasta.
“The kids really enjoyed this party,” said Leah Lamb, who is the Chief Development Officer of B&GCGW. “Half of them can’t sleep the night before. It’s very exciting for all of us. It’s wonderful not only because it kicks off the season for our kids, but in some cases our kids don’t necessarily have the means–their parents don’t have the means to provide a Christmas for them. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to enjoy the holiday season.”
About an hour into the party “Screech” joined the fun and caused quite the ruckus. The kids were excited to see him and his bag of toys. “Screech” brought Build-A-Bear Screech toys for everyone in attendance.
After everyone had their fill of food, they all headed to the game room for an hour of air-hockey, bowling and racing, among other games to bring the joyous celebration to an end.
“The holidays are always a special time,” Maxwell said. “To see all the smiles on their faces–it means a lot to me. The DC-area is my home and has been for most of my life and I thank God for the opportunity to play here.”
There isn’t a better way of saying “great job” or “welcome to The Show” than getting a shaving cream meringue pie square in the face. It screams good job, leaving both eyes squinting, stinging and blurry to make sure you remember you were important tonight. It is the single game version of the playoff clinching celebratory champagne shower.
The sour taste in the mouth and tears in the eyes are imperative, they are the robust rewards to make sure you –yes, you–know you won the game. It doesn’t taste like key lime or pumpkin pie–quite the opposite–but the shaving cream pie is a tasty treat in its own right.
Pieing has taken place in baseball for a while but there isn’t a documented beginning of the tradition. On the other hand, there is a start date for the pieing practice this season for the Nats. It began on April 20th after Jordan Zimmermann recorded his first Major League victory. Starting pitcher John Lannan is the Nationals pieing practitioner.
“I was the only pitcher in the starting rotation that wasn’t a rookie, so I took that role because of that fact,” Lannan said. “I get along with them so well that I want to be the guy that says here is a pie in the face. You did a good job. Welcome to the Big Leagues.”
Jordan Zimmermann… First start, first win and victim No. 1. Bam. As Zimmermann finished his post-game interview with Debbi Taylor, Lannan with teammate Scott Olsen emerged from the steps of the dugout. Taylor slyly stepped out of the way and as Zimmermann turned around to walk into the clubhouse, Olsen delivered a devastating Joe Louis left-hook that had Zimmermann looking like baseball’s version of Two Face. Zimmermann tried to avoid the second pie–a half hearted run along the warning track–but Lannan reared back, grabbed his right shoulder and made sure the left side of his face felt the fury too. A typically emotionless Zimmermann beamed ear to ear in a post-game interview.
“That was definitely shaving cream,” said Zimmermann that night. “It stung a little bit but I will be just fine.”
It didn’t stop there.
Craig Stammen… Welcome to The Show. Bam. Stammen had just pitched 6 1/3 innings allowing zero runs on six hits to get his first Major League victory at Yankee Stadium and handed the Nats a series victory over the Bronx Bombers. That has all the credentials for the pie platter. As Taylor distracted Stammen with a few post-game questions, Lannan locked in on his target, pitching a perfect pie game to the face has never been a problem.
Lannan isn’t known for his ninja like skills but he has an uncanny ability to successfully throw pie strikes each time.
“Debbi makes sure the interviewee is facing the field,” said Lannan conceding that Debbi is in on the pie prank. “So I come up through the stairs very secretively. I try to do it half way through the conversation because they know it’s coming but they forget because they are focusing on the question.”
Garrett Mock… Your five o’clock shadow is showing–here let me help you. Bam.
The next day… J.D. Martin… Shaving cream is a great way to cool down. Bam.
Ross Detwiler… Your 13th Major League start was memorable. Bam.
“I change it up,” Lannan said. “I do a little splatter. I do a little rub in the face and make sure it gets everywhere. My main goal is to make sure Debbi Taylor doesn’t get any shaving cream on her clothes.”
How can you get mad at someone who is that courteous? You can’t.
Lannan might have to change his tactics in 2010. Players adapt. Players get smarter. Players find a way to avoid the inevitable. Of course, not if you are always one step ahead of them. He can always take a page out of the Mark Lowe pieing text book–it’s not for sale and I guess it’s not actually a book but it’s on YouTube.
Last year, Seattles’ Mark Lowe pied the usual culprit J.J. Putz after he made his first start off the disabled list. During his post-game interview in the dugout, Putz constantly looked over his shoulder expecting a pie in his face. Lowe took the U.S. Army Rangers approach to pieing–attack when they least expect it. When Putz made it back to his locker, he thought he had all his bases covered to prevent a pieing.
“You guys need to make a wall so no one can get in here,” Putz said to the media members circled around him.
It turns out the Great Wall of China couldn’t have stopped Lowe. He was already inside the circle, nestled nicely in the cozy confines of Putz’s locker behind his shirts. Lowe emerged as Putz was answering his first question. We missed you… so here is a pie to your face. Bam.
“Welcome back big guy,” Lowe said.
Pieing is a treat best served quickly, unexpected and with shaving cream right between the eyes. Whip cream would make too much sense and actually taste good.
Lannan eventually worked outside of the pitching rotation. If your reputation is the “pie person”… you might as well make it a reality.
“Once I took over as the pie guy I had to get Justin Maxwell,” Lannan said, “after he hit the walk-off grand slam in the final home game.”
Justin Maxwell… that was an amazing way to close out the season at Nationals Park. Bam.
His pie days are by no means done, they might just be starting. There isn’t a hit list or wish list, just a few people he might be pieing soon… Stephen Strasburg.
“I am going to throw a 100 mph pie at his face,” Lannan said with a smile. “I am just kidding. Hopefully I get to pie him this year.”
When John Lannan took the mound on June 17 against his hometown team, the New York Yankees, he couldn’t help but get excited. It was a ‘please, can somebody pinch me’ moment. He grew up a Yankees fan in Long Island, N.Y., so the game was naturally a memorable moment for him pitching in front of his family, friends and former high school teammates at the new Yankee Stadium. He made it magical. He had the daunting task of keeping the Bronx Bombers’ bats at bay–mission accomplished. Lannan pitched 8.1 innings of four-hit ball and the Nationals beat the Yankees 3-2. Lannan completed the New York circuit and beat the Mets and Yankees in the same season. The New York native tossed his first career complete game against the Mets on June 6 and less than two weeks later, kept the Yankees lineup in check.
Those two outings gave us a glimpse at how good Lannan can be and the 2009 season proved that he is a dependable, resilient pitcher that is here to stay. The Nationals pitching staff was anchored by Lannan’s left arm and he didn’t miss a start. He led the team with 33 starts, nine wins, a 3.88 ERA and 206.1 innings, up from 182.0 innings in 2008. Lannan doesn’t try to overpower batters with his fastball. He pitches to contact and is a ground ball specialist. According to StatCorner, 41.6% of plate appearances against Lannan resulted in ground balls, against the league average of 31.8%.
He didn’t post a win-loss record to boast about, but that’s more indicative of the run support he received and not his pitching ability. Lannan sported the sixth lowest run support average in baseball this year. During the 2009 season, there were 11 games when Lannan pitched at least 6.0 innings and gave up three runs or less but walked away with the no-decision or loss. In those 11 starts, he went 0-3 with a 1.89 ERA (16 ER/ 76.1 IP) with 41 strikeouts and a .215 BAA.
Look at this interesting comparison:
ALCS MVP CC Sabathia vs. John Lannan
Number of games started allowing three runs or less:
ERA in those games:
Sabathia: 1.78 ERA (32 ER/ 161.2 IP)
Lannan: 2.24 ERA (39 ER/ 156.2 IP)
Individual Record in those games:
Team Record in those games:
Lannan is the only pitcher that is assured a spot in the Nationals 2010 rotation right now and he will give the Nats a chance to win every fifth day in 2010.
John Lannan Final Stats
Nationals pitchers John Lannan and Craig Stammen visited with 10 children and their families at The Children’s Inn at NIH yesterday, their first visit to the facility which houses children receiving treatment for life-threatening diseases at NIH. The Inn was decorated for Halloween–some children already in their costumes for the evening’s Halloween party–and an air of excitement surrounded the day’s activities.
“Our mission is to take kids minds off of why they come here,” said Meredith Daly, a Media Relations Coordinator at the Inn. “They come here for really difficult journeys, they’re going through life-threatening illnesses and if we can raise their spirits and make them feel a little bit better when they come, we’ve done our job.”
Lannan partnered with The Children’s Inn through the Lannan’s Cannons program, created mid-way through the 2009 season, in which he hosted children and their families from the Inn for a day of fun at the ballpark. Along with tickets and food vouchers for the game, John named The Children’s Inn his beneficiary for the $7,500 donation he received when he was nominated for the 2009 Roberto Clemente Award. The visit began with a check presentation to the Inn in front of the fireplace.
Lannan, Stammen and the kids then settled in for a reading of everyone’s favorite baseball book: “Casey at the Bat”. The kids (and Stammen) listened intently as Lannan told them the story of mighty Casey up to bat with the game on the line. After hearing about baseball the kids were ready to enjoy the fall weather and play ball on the sports court. They lined up for a chance to throw to John and Craig. Everyone had a great time running and playing with the Major Leaguers.
“Anything like this makes the stay that much easier and keeps the days a little bit more optimistic and more upbeat,” Colleen Paduani said, the mother of Quinn (Minnie Mouse) and Declan. “The Inn is the greatest place to get away–almost like a vacation when it comes to the kids. There’s just so much stuff going on here it makes it not so bad. It’s like a second family.”
When the children had their fill of the outdoors they returned inside to find “Screech” waiting for them with Build-A-Bear Screech dolls and baseball cards for everyone. The players and Screech signed autographs and talked to the kids a bit longer before it was time to get ready for the evening’s Halloween party.
“This whole thing sparked up during the middle of the season. I’ve been trying to come out here the whole year,” Lannan said. “It’s just great that I was in the area and I was able to come out here and see the kids. They came to the games and supported us. I want to come here today and show our support for them. Overall, it was a great visit.”
“It’s good we can come out here when the season’s over and connect with the kids, get out there on the playground and have a taste of fun,” Stammen added. “It’s great to help out the community when we get helped out on the field.”
Lannan and Stammen walked with the kids to the Halloween party at NIH’s main building and spent time greeting patients, playing games, being wrapped up like mummies and celebrating with the group.
“It keeps you humbled,” Lannan said. “It keeps you grounded. I’m grateful to be in a place where I get to give back. They are sick–I’m glad I can be here and have fun with them.”
The 2009 regular season is in the books for the Nationals. They ended the final week with a bang. They won the last seven games, sweeping the Mets at Nationals Park with a Justin Maxwell walk-off grand slam and the Braves at Turner Field. Of course, baseball has a stat for everything and the Nationals became the first team in Major League history to lose the first seven games of the season and win the last seven games.
Game 162 lasted four hours and 18 minutes, went 15 innings, with a combined 41 players used, 425 pitches thrown, 26 hits and only three runs. That’s baseball. The Nats took a 2-1 lead when Alberto Gonzalez singled to center to score Elijah Dukes in the top of the 15th.
It was a meaningless game that meant everything. With Pete Orr playing third base, Mike Morse playing first base and Jorge Padilla playing left, the Nats made game 162 a memorable moment.
“This is going to be my strongest memory,” reliever Ron Villone said. “I haven’t been involved in a World Series, but I’ve never been in a game on the last day of the season like this — the way we turned things around. We didn’t accomplished what we wanted, but we went out there, battled and left it all out there.”
The Nationals are hoping the 2010 season brings many more winning streaks like this one that closed out the 2009 campaign, more dramatic victories and October baseball to NatsTown.
It may happen sooner than you think.
The storm clouds–literally (22 games totaling 2,460 minutes of delayed, suspended and postponed baseball) and figuratively–will eventually roll away from Nationals Park. The 2010 season is next and the forecast is favorable.
True, the Nationals didn’t look like a contender in 2009. Still, there is a growing sense of progress within the Nationals organization that has spawned optimism about 2010. So how does a team with consecutive 100-plus loss seasons turn it around? Well, it helps to first see them as a 71 win team, the pace the team has kept since the All-Star Break. That turns the math from calculus to simple subtraction. The magic number to win a wild card or a division varies each year but 90-91 wins almost certainly secures a spot. Plenty of teams have improved 20.0 games in one season. It is less of a feat than the 31.0 game improvement completed by the Rays in 2008, they too had the worst record in the Majors the year before.
The Rays aren’t the only team to complete a 180 degree turnaround in one season. In 1999, the Diamondbacks improved 35.0 games. The Giants improved 31.0 games in 1993. Since 1991, seven NL teams and two AL teams completed the climb from cellar to Division Champion. The Nats would gladly settle for the Wild Card. Nationals President Stan Kasten keeps 1991 close to his heart. It provides an immediate rebuttal to anyone who says it can’t happen. He references the 1991 Braves when looking at the Nationals future. He joined both franchises, the Braves in ’87 and the Nationals in ’06, at a similar stage in the building process–the bottom. He is using the same building principles and philosophies with the Nats that helped orchestrate an unprecedented 12 straight division titles from 1991-2003 under his watch with the Braves.
In 1990, the Minnesota Twins finished last in the AL West Division with a 74-88 record and the
Atlanta Braves finished with the worst record in the Majors at 65-97. In 1991, two teams went from worst to first, the Twins won 95 games and the Braves won 94. It took seven games to determine the World Series Champion.
There is a stark difference between opportunity and achievement–it separates a team from a 70-
92 record from a team with a 92-70 record. The Nats know that. They know what has to happen if they want to be celebrating with champagne at the end of September.
The bullpen is bolstered.
This will be the Nationals main priority. They had 20 blown saves and posted a 5.71 ERA at the All-Star break. They have revamped the relief corp and there is only one bullpen pitcher left from Opening Day. They only blew five in the second half of the season.
“I think it’s a major point of emphasis for the offseason,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “We have gotten better. We have many more capable hearts than we did at the beginning of the season. But I’m certainly not satisfied with it.”
Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard have been nice additions. Mike MacDougal has provided stability out of the closer’s role that was missing earlier in the season. Who stays, who leaves is still a question mark but a bullpen makes or breaks a potential playoff ballclub in September.
The young guns lose… young.
Kasten points to future Hall of Fame pitchers John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine’s collective sub-.500 record their first two years in the Majors when talking about young pitchers struggling early in their careers–almost all pitchers experience growing pains.
“I think our young pitchers have kind of grown up right in front of our eyes and offensively we have hit our stride,” Adam Dunn said. “It’s going to be fun next year… It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The Nationals have watched their young guns John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann (out for the
2010 season), Ross Detwiler, Shairon Martis, Craig Stammen, J.D. Martin, Collin Balester and Garrett Mock experience it firsthand. But all of them have shown signs of promise this year. The starters posted a 3.86 ERA in the month of June. At least three of them need to lose the “young”
moniker in 2010.
The defense turns hits into outs.
The Nats will be searching for a free agent field general up the middle. Their defense has drastically improved since the All-Star break but their shortstop-second baseman combo committed the most errors in the Majors this season. That isn’t a formula for success. “It’s hard to win,” Ryan Zimmerman said, “when you give the other team more than 27 outs.” Dunn has smoothly transitioned to first base and Zimmerman is a Gold Glove caliber player at the hot corner. Nyjer Morgan solidified a place in center field for the coming years and covers more ground than Rock Creek Park.
What is good gets better.
The Nationals defining moment of the 2009 season happened off the field, tucked behind home plate, adjacent to the Lexus Presidents Club, in the press conference room at 4 p.m. on April 20. The soft-spoken, clean-cut Zimmerman–with the stroke of a pen–became a National for the next five years. Add Dunn and Josh Willingham to the mix and you have a ferocious heart of the order that will carry the offense. “We’ve got a lot of guys that are in their prime offensively and if we can continue to make progress in pitching and defense,” Dunn said, “that’s the formula to go from last to first.”
Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen become the wild card.
Someday the 2009 First-Year Player Draft might be viewed as the turning point for the Nationals. Time will tell but it has left a strong first impression. The Nationals used their 2009 compensation pick (No. 10 overall) to draft Storen, a closer, who had a sensational first season in the Minor Leagues. Strasburg and Storen will pitch in the Arizona Fall League this October and will get a chance to make the team out of Spring Training. During the 1991 season in Atlanta, left-handed pitcher Steve Avery was the X-factor. The third overall pick in the 1988 First-Year Player Draft went 3-11 in 1990. He had a sensational sophomore season as a 21-year-old and went 18-8.
A veteran pitcher arrives.
The team picked up the rubber armed Livan Hernandez to eat innings in September. Will he pitch for the Nats in 2010? The Nats believe the additions of Dunn, Willingham and Morgan will attract a veteran pitcher and persuade them that it is the beginning of a good, exciting ballclub.
“We have to have a special type of veteran pitcher, who is willing to give of himself as a
teacher and mentor type of guy,” Rizzo said. “We have to get a team-oriented person, a person that is going to give his time and his knowledge. It’s not an easy task.”
The Nats task isn’t easy. Baseball teams can’t be built overnight and turnarounds aren’t instant, seamless and easy. It takes time, a lot of it. The Rays endured 10 consecutive seasons of losing. The Braves had seven straight losing seasons before 1991. But then it clicks and it will click eventually. So consider yourself warned because the future is bright and the Nationals are primed to put Washington back on the baseball map in 2010.