Game 152: The One Where Life Stopped Mattering

Against your better instincts you decided to turn off the ‘Dog: The Bounty Hunter’ marathon and go outside.  ‘I’ll go for a walk.. maybe grab a coffee or a beer’ you thought.  You sit down at the bar counter and the man seated next to you glances at you casually.  Crap.  You both recognize each other.  Who knows from where — who cares from where, really.  ‘Is that Gary, or Grant, or maybe it’s Steve’ you think as you shake hands.  It doesn’t matter what his name is.  You’re stuck now.

“Can you believe how beautiful the weather’s been?  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love summer and all but I’ll take 70 degrees everyday all year,” said Gary, Grant, or maybe Steve as he let out a light chuckle.

You smile and agree.  This is how you’re going to be passing the time.

This is what life is like now for everything involved with the Washington Nationals.  Sure, everyone is polite enough to sit through a conversation about the weather because there is nothing interesting to talk about, but no one is enjoying it.  Everything involved with the Nationals is in excitement limbo as it’s just beyond the “OMG NL EAST CHAMPS” phase and a bit too early for the “OMG LET’S FINISH OUT AND PLAYOFFS PLAYOFFS PLAYOFFS” phase.  This is a good problem to have, and many other organizations who are in a tight race right now would undoubtedly trade spots, but boy oh boy is it boring.

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Dan Kolko: A Modern Day Tragedy

Pride has brought down countless people throughout mankind.  Most of the time- us- the mere spectators in their great play, don’t get the access to see it happen in real time.  Sure the events get pieced together after the fact, but it is quite rare when we get to watch it unfold on live TV.  What I’m about to share with you is a true story of what the MASN viewing audience saw last night.  Let it be a cautionary tale.

The Tragedy Of Dan Kolko

Dan Kolko was a hard working kid.  The kind of guy willing to fill in on NatsExtra, or help set up interviews.  He was a salt of the Earth, real blue collar American.  Look at him here:

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Just like us, he was willing to dip fried dough into some sugary sauce before likely heading off to his bowling league. Continue reading

The Expected Unexpected: The Nationals Clinch

With a victory last night in Atlanta the Washington Nationals finally fulfilled their destiny by clinching the National League East division title. To say that this was preordained would be to understate how easy of a path the Nationals had to winning the East. The Nationals entered the season the overwhelming favorites and outside of temporary injuries in May, showed no reason to doubt they weren’t the team they were expected to be. While Nats fans emotions may have been a roller coaster this season, the Nationals’ chances of reaching this day were flatter than Keira Knightley.

On April 1 the Nationals had a 75.3% chance to win the division. At the All Star break the Nationals had a 76.2% chance of winning the division. And on August 8 the Nationals odds of winning the division went over 90%, never to return. The Nats were never more than four games out of the division and that only lasted one day in April. The Nats never had a losing streak longer than four games and they only did that twice, once in May and once in June. There was no drama, there was no doubt. They were the best team in baseball in 2012 and had nearly the same team in 2014 except for a few key upgrades. Doug Fister came over in a trade that will stump future baseball historians for years. Denard Span bumped the stumbling Michael Morse out of outfield, while young phenom Anthony Rendon took over at second base for the struggling Danny Espinosa.

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Johnny Holliday and Ray Knight Discuss The Navy Yard Shooting (Transcript)

Here is a transcript below of their conversation from Nats Extra pregame show.  Similar to 9/11, there thoughts and comments are all heartfelt.

Johnny:

One year ago this morning the tragedy took place at the Navy Yard.  Neighbors of the Washington Nationals just a couple blocks away.  Innocent people lost their lives.  Injuries… 3 seriously injured.. and the thoughts and memories we have of that day will never go away.  The Lerner family, Mike Rizzo, the players, coaches, the staff—everybody—did everything they could to kind of put their arms around our neighbors from the Navy Yard and show their support.  This morning there was a memorial service with about 2000 people at the Navy Yard, Ray, and I were there.  I cannot imagine what had gone through the families minds and the families that were affected by this absolutely terrible tragedy.

Ray:

Senseless- senseless taking of innocent lives and you’re so right Johnny about neighbors and you know just the feeling that we’re all in this together.  Whatever it is that’s negative comes our way and sometimes it is ugly but we do rally around each other and the Nationals were there.  I was reading a story about a lady who was waiting to hear—on the Red Porch—about her husband and unfortunately he was one of the ones that perished there.  There were several of those victims family members there at the red porch provided by the Nationals.  It was all just a natural thing to do.  So today we just thank god for America and friends and family and neighbors.  It is just mindless, senseless things that happen that we have to recover from and hopefully learn and get stronger from it.

Johnny:

Next time you stop at Nationals Park right next to our set is a memorial set up—a beautiful plaque—so maybe you can stop and reflect for just a moment about those who lost their loved ones in the Navy Yard shootings one year ago today.

Game 148: The One Where Freddi(e) Got Fingered

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Tonight.  Say it with me… tooonniiiiggghhhttttt… the Nats have a chance to clinch the NL East.  Hopefully, Freedie Freeman and Fredi Gonzalez, who were both ejected from last night’s game (pictured above), can stick around for the whole game to watch.  It is fantastic that the Nats can clinch in Atlanta.  According to the Braves twitter, which has almost no sense of time and place, they’ll be ready:

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Ooooohhhfffff. Is there a worse fate for the Braves and their fans then having to watch the Nats celebrate on their own field just to stick around for some postgame concert (that isn’t Darius Rucker)?

Hey, what else is happening in Atlanta (metro) today?  Oh… this…

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This is an opportunity to jinx a team forever, right?  Having a groundbreaking on a new stadium the same day that you lose the division to your rivals in your old stadium can only be a disaster.  The COBB COUNTY CURSE can be born.

Alright that’s enough about those clowns.  Keep on reading for some Ray Knight advice to all the guys out there, the Buffalo going yard, some 9th inning drama, a game saving defensive play, some insight into Strasburg’s shower habits, and MASN’s continued attempt to #YEAHBABY the world.

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The Autopsy of the Braves

The Braves are only mostly dead, but at this point not even Miracle Max could save them. There will be no storming of the castle for the 2014 Atlanta Braves and evil Prince Humperdinck is going to marry Princess Buttercup. The Braves are in a comatose state waiting to be taken off life support and pronounced dead. Instead of waiting for them to be completely dead I’m going to fully acknowledge the fact that they are still technically alive but I’m going to put on my apron, snap on my latex gloves, and do my best Dana Scully impersonation.

It isn’t hard to figure out what went wrong with the Atlanta Braves. They are fourth in the NL in runs allowed per game having allowed an average of 3.66 runs a game. The easy narrative is to say it isn’t easy for a team to win a division when they loss two of their three best starting pitchers before the season starts, but in this type of run environment a team can pull a journeyman pitcher like Aaron Harang off the scrap heap and get 183 2/3 innings of 3.72 ERA ball. Not as good as Medlen or Beachy would’ve given but that extra quarter to half a run an outing doesn’t make much of a difference. Despite the pre-season loss of Medlen and Beachy the Braves pitching was still very good. Their starters produced the fourth best ERA in the NL without Medlen and Beachy and their bullpen was as solid as ever producing the fourth best reliever ERA.

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Game 144- The One Where Bartolo Colon Forgot To Take His Insulin

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Get it, Carp.

The Nats defeated the Mets last night in the opener of their four game series in New York.  Washington’s 6-2 victory reduced their magic number to 9, with just 18 games remaining.

Aside from a bit of late game drama– which Craig Stammen induced a double play to get out of– the game was never really in doubt.  The Nats were cruising the whole time.

That does NOT mean that there wasn’t anything interesting that happened though.  Ray Knight was on his best behavior last night, (and also delivered some nice words in the pregame show regarding baseball and 9/11) so he’s gonna get the day off here. But let’s take a look at the Nats home runs, the Mets TERRIBLE plays, ejections and tension, some reasons why Bob Carpenter and FP Santangelo may need to release some tension…, and payback.

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The Nats are Not the Team you Think they are

Pick up a newspaper or turn on local sports radio and any conversation about the Nats will eventually devolve to how they are a team of guys all pulling in one direction and doing whatever it takes to win. The picture being painted is the Nationals as a team of grit and heart and hustle but most importantly a team. There is a belief that the Nationals have no star players and if you isolated yourself to local coverage it’s easy to believe that but then you’d also believe that the Capitals and Wizards have no star players either and the only star player in Washington DC worthy of praise is Kirk Cousins.

Go outside this area to a national level. Turn on MLB network or ESPN and there will be commercials with Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, there will be talk of Jayson Werth and how he has turned his $127 million contract into a bargain, and there will be talk of how Anthony Rendon (4th in the NL in fWAR) is a player baseball fans should start paying attention to. Sure the Nationals don’t have an MVP or Cy Young candidate but this is a season where one man on the Dodgers is laying claim to both those titles, and the lack of star power can be mentioned of almost any baseball team.

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Ray Knight & Matt Williams Open The Broadcast Reflecting On Baseball And 9/11

Here are their quotes below about baseball and 9/11 from the beginning of tonight’s Nationals broadcast.  Hopefully this transcript does both of them justice as they were speaking from the heart.

Ray Knight​- after the intro to the broadcast about the role of baseball. 
Well it does take a sidestep, but its also been a big healing for a lot of people.  Last night a gentleman came out on the set– talked about [how] he’s a New York fireman and [had] 9 years of therapy.  So many lives ​were made better by the fact that they were able to talk about baseball.  The fathers that were deceased had talked to their 5-6 year old sons that are now 18-19 years old about baseball and [who now] play baseball.  So we have to remember that that it is a healing thing.  A sobering day.  Something that we all just have a heavy heart when you think about all the events and all the people that lost families.

Matt Williams-  on playing in the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium for the Diamondbacks.
I was one of the fortunate guys to be able to play in the World Series that year and standing on the field and having the President throw out the first pitch during that World Series put it into context for us that baseball really didn’t mean that much in the grand scheme of it all.  We were a part of it and probably a healing part of it from a baseball industry perspective- because it was baseball season at the time- but you know we’re honored to stand on the field tonight and remember those who paid the ultimate price and [those] who continue to live with it everyday.  [It] Happened in this city and there’s no city that could’ve rebounded better than this one with a tragedy such as that.  We’re proud to be part of it and try to respect everybody involved and do our best to help celebrate those who paid it. 

Game 143- The One Where The Nats Were Losing by Enough to Pitch Soriano

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The Nationals lost the final game of their series with the Braves yesterday afternoon by a score of 6-2.  The Nats won the series 2-1 though and have an 8 game lead in the N.L. East with 19 games to play.  The Nats were playing in their Patriotic Series blue uniforms yesterday as It was “Heroes Day” at Nats Park.  “Heroes Day,” which was kicked off with the Navy Parachute Team landing in the stadium, recognizes “our nation’s members of the military and first responders who put their lives on the line every day to protect our freedom.”  Thanks, Heroes.  Now, go watch Jerry Blevins, Ryan Mattheus, and Rafael Soriano all pitch.  [Immediately re-enlists]

Batters sometimes have a tough time with the late afternoon games at Nats Park due to the position of the sun.  That was illustrated beautifully yesterday by FP Santangelo in the above screenshot that he drew for his 2nd grade class.

While FP was drawing, Bob Carpenter, who clearly was also watching Star Wars for the first time, seemed to be justifying and recapping the destruction of Tatooine by the Death Star:

Keep on reading for Laroche’s hunting techniques, Ray Knight rebuffing your proposal, Carp being a good wingman, and more.  As always, if you have any ideas for things to include, please shoot me a message on twitter @fitnessmcdaniel.

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Game 142- The One Where The Nats Invent A New Catchphrase

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Before we dive in here a quick note… If you like Ray Knight, and joy, and laughing, and seeing the lighter side of a Nats game, then stay here.  If you are cynical and angry and want to read the ramblings of a lunatic then go to the other story I wrote today about #YEAHBABY.  You’re more than welcome to do both. 

Another great win for the Nats last night, defeating the Braves 6-4 and extending their division lead to 9 games.  This is the largest division lead that the Nats have ever had in their history and it also secured their third straight winning season.

There’s a lot of good stuff to cover here. I’ll show you all the hits from the Nats explosive 4 run first inning in just 5 seconds; some terrible math by FP and Bob; a couple nonchalant EMS guys; some more good Bob/FP quotes; another fantastic fist pump; why everyone was terrified about Desmond possibly being hurt; and of course, Ray Knight x2.

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A Brief History of #YEAHBABY…

…because I’m going to buy the T-Shirt anyway.

Quick note: If you like Ray Knight, and joy, and laughing, and seeing the lighter side of a Nats game, then head on over to the Game 142 recap.  If you are cynical and angry and want to read the ramblings of a lunatic then you’re in the right place.  Of course, you’re welcome to read both. 

The Nationals recently upped the ante on their ‘N-A-T-S NATS NATS NATS WOO!’ chant by painting it into the back of its originating section.  The Sports Bog does a good recap of the history of that chant here. This is all well and good.  What about the newest Nats ‘catchphrase’ though?  Now, I’m (hopefully) not going to get all cynical and dark with the #YEAHBABY hashtag that started yesterday.  I want to like it.  I think it is cool (disclaimer: I am not in any way an authority on cool).  I just want it to grow on its own– like the above chant– rather than have it be a “Here is a catch all phrase we can print on everything now that we’re almost definitely going to the playoffs that defines the team.” I’ll just provide the history of it below but long story short, I believe the Nationals REALLY want this phrase to be coined and stick around.

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