2014 was a year which fell short of expectations for the Nationals. We made the playoffs, but once again could not make it out of the first round.
As we ring in 2015, for my first post of the year I decided to rank all 30 teams of Major League Baseball by how much I like them. Steve just did this yesterday, and he was saying he’d like to see what I thought. I’m excited to see what this year brings! Feel free to comment on your preferences or if you feel, in your opinion, I got something wrong.
1) Washington Nationals – Does this really need explanation?
2) Cincinnati Reds – Without a DC team, I loved the Reds with so much of my family from Cincinnati. I still love the Reds, but only when they don’t play the Nats. If anyone has tickets to the All-Star Game this year, let me know.
3) Chicago Cubs – It’s been a lot of years since they’ve won the World Series. If the Nats aren’t in it, I would guess a lot of baseball fans would like to see them take one.
4) Chicago White Sox – First Adam Dunn and now the beloved Adam LaRoche. They also signed David Ross, the veteran catcher, who I met a long time ago when he was a member of the Reds. I wouldn’t mind seeing them win.
5) Kansas City Royals – Captured America this year during their magical postseason run. Sadly, they ran into a certain roadblock by the name of Bumgarner.
6) Cleveland Indians – Poor Cleveland. It seems like they have pieces to do well, it just needs to come together.
7) Seattle Mariners – I’ve been to Safeco, and the Nats have good memories from this year of their visit to Seattle.
8) San Diego Padres – All of a sudden the Padres mean business. They got Derek Norris, who I’ve watched progress since his days with Potomac, and a bunch of other big name players recently in free agency. I wouldn’t mind seeing them do well.
9) Houston Astros – Their mascot, Orbit, is about the only reason they’re this high on the list. He’s probably the best mascot in all of MLB. Click here, here, here, here, here, here, and here to see why.
10) Miami Marlins – Stanton drops bombs. I’m still trying to catch one of his BP homers when the Marlins come to Nationals Park.
11) Colorado Rockies – Coors Field is so nice, I’ve seen a game there, and my dad lived in Colorado for a while. They also participated in a stand-off with the Nats this season, which I loved.
12) Tampa Bay Rays – One of my favorite movies ever is The Rookie, and Jim Morris was on the Rays.
13) Oakland Athletics – Moneyball showed such an interesting view of baseball, and poor Oakland never seems to succeed anymore. Before the Royals grabbed my attention, I was hoping the A’s would find themselves in the World Series.
14) Detroit Tigers – I played on the Tigers and it gave me some of my best youth baseball memories.
15) St. Louis Cardinals – They win a lot. A lot of people really don’t like them. I, however, are one of few neutral fans who don’t mind them. I love watching the battery of Wainwright and Molina. There’s a reason they’re not higher up on this list, but those are the reasons they aren’t lower either.
16) Texas Rangers –Jim Morris made his debut for the Rays on the road at the Ranger’s stadium. I’ve also seen their stadium from driving around it, and it was a sight to see.
17) Minnesota Twins – Anymore, the Twins are sorta just, there. Not great, not awful, just there.
18) Toronto Blue Jays – You don’t hear a ton about the Blue Jays but watch out this year, they could make a run for the AL East.
19) Los Angeles Angels – Mike Trout is a stud. Also, I rooted for Anaheim when they were in the World Series a lot of years ago.
20) Los Angeles Dodgers – I don’t particularly dislike the Dodgers, but I don’t really like them either; I’m indifferent.
21) Arizona Diamondbacks – Whenever I went to Reds games when I was younger, it seemed like I always saw the Diamondbacks play. There was only so much of Craig Counsell’s swing I could take.
22) New York Mets – I also played on the Mets in Little League, but being in the NL East, I don’t like them as much.
23) New York Yankees – Along with the Cardinals, I don’t hate the Yankees. But Derek Jeter was one of the major reasons I tolerated them, and now that he’s gone, they’ve fallen lower on this list.
24) Milwaukee Brewers – I still remember sitting in the hotel room in Virginia Beach and watching Josh Willingham hit his second grand slam of the game for the Nats in Milwaukee.
25) Baltimore Orioles – Peter Angelos, why do you make things so difficult? They also ruin the National Anthem.
26) Philadelphia Phillies – Lingering dislike from when the Phillies fans would pack Nats Park.
27) San Francisco Giants – I’m just not a huge Giants fan. Used to love them with Barry Bonds, but then he used steroids.
28) Pittsburgh Pirates – I don’t have a ton against the Pirates, except that they play in Pittsburgh. And that right there is the major problem.
29) Boston Red Sox – Boston and Pittsburgh, my two least favorite sports cities in America. I’ve visited Boston (not Fenway), and the city itself has so much history. But we’re talking sports and baseball here, and man do I not like those two cities’ teams.
30) Atlanta Braves – If you thought anyone else would be last, then you obviously don’t know me very well.
I have finally gathered myself in the wake of the abrupt, disappointing finish to the Washington Nationals’ 2014 season. After the Nats were eliminated by the San Francisco Giants, I found myself in the same quandry I often find myself after the team I root for is no longer in contention: do I cheer for the team who beat us, so that we know our loss was not in vain? Or do we cheer against the team who ousted us; wishing that the next team will avenge our suffering?
I could not bring myself to root for those Giants, the now dynastic franchise which has won the Commissioner’s Trophy three of the last five seasons. Along with so many others, I hopped on the Royals’ bandwagon, hoping for a glistening end to their Cinderella story. Alas, it was not to be, and the Giants were victorious yet again.
Every time I attempted to voice my frustration through this medium on the internet, I found myself at a loss for words. It’s hard to describe the feeling of loss after being so attached to a team day after day for months on end, especially after the regular season had ended on such a tremendous note. With so many lofty expectations, and so many others who provided more in-depth analysis, I was simply left dumbfounded in the wake of the events.
Much has changed since the final out was recorded in the 2014 Major League Baseball season. Beloved first baseman Adam LaRoche parted ways with the Nationals and found a home with the Chicago White Sox. Slugger Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins signed the richest contract in American sports history at over $320 million. The Athletics parted ways with one of their cornerstones, Josh Donaldson, and it seems their franchise has entered rebuilding mode.
The proverbial Hot Stove season of free agent deals and blockbuster trades is just heating up as the cold, brisk air envelops the country. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the off-season plays out, especially for the Nationals. They are looking to re-sign pitcher Jordan Zimmermann and shortstop Ian Desmond, along with solidifying pitcher Doug Fister, but all three might be too steep of a price to pay. I’m sure Mike Rizzo has a plan in place, it’s just time for us to sit back and watch it all unfold.
The annual NatsFest is much earlier this year, happening on December 13th. I don’t think I’ll be able to make it, so I’ll be anxious to hear how it goes from all those in attendance.
Check back in for more updates as the winter progresses. I’ve been busy writing numerous articles for my school’s sports website, so when I’m not busy, I’ll enjoy writing more about both the Nationals and the rest of Major League Baseball.
On Sunday, September 28, 2014, Jordan Zimmermann threw the first no-hitter in Washington Nationals history. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for the historic event, and I am excited to share my perspective of everything that happened. So much happened in fact, that I decided to split it up into two posts: one about the actual game and one about after the game.
Unlike Opening Day, Sunday consisted of perfect weather. We got to Nationals Park early in order to meet up with some family friends. As I was standing around checking Twitter, I saw a tweet that not too far from where I was standing, MASN Dan (Dan Kolko) was taking pictures with fans. I hurried over to the MASN area in left field and got a picture with him myself:
From there it was time to make our way to our seats. We walked around the stadium to Section 319 and took in the sights on what I mentioned was such a fantastic day; maybe an omen for the events which were about to transpire.
The Nationals were playing the Miami Marlins, and Jordan Zimmermann was being opposed by Henderson Alverez. As you may remember, Alverez tossed a no-hitter in last season’s concluding game. He took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, but the game was still scoreless. Then in the bottom of the ninth, the Marlins walked-off in what was one of the craziest endings to a no-hitter in the history of baseball.
All my life, whenever I attend a baseball game, I go hoping to see a no-hitter. I constantly check the scoreboard until I see both teams have recorded a hit; it’s just one of my baseball-watching obsessions. So on Sunday, unlike Tyler Moore, who didn’t know a no-hitter was being thrown until the ninth inning, I was attentive to the fact of what was occurring before my eyes the entire game.
The game started off quickly. Zimmermann recorded a 1-2-3 first inning and the Nats were also set down in order. However, when Ryan Zimmerman came to the plate in the first inning, the crowd sang Happy Birthday to him, as he had just reached 30 years old.
In the second, it was six up six down for JZ, who just kept on rolling. Then in the bottom half of the inning, Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond launched his 24th home run of the year and that gave the Nats a 1-0 lead.
The Marlins could not muster a baserunner in the third inning either. When the Nationals got up, it was time for the crowd to begin acknowledging the hard work the starters had put in all season long. After Denard Span doubled, he was replaced by Nate Schierholtz, and he received a standing ovation as he walked into the dugout. The same happened in the bottom of the 4th, when Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper were replaced by Tyler Moore and Scott Hairston, respectively.
Zimmermann’s perfect game was intact until the fifth inning. Chantilly High School’s own Justin Bour drew a two-out walk to give the Marlins their first man on base of the day. I was slightly disappointed the perfect game was gone, but I could tell how well JZ was pitching and I knew there was a strong possibility I could still witness history.
The game continued on and the tension continued to build. While no more runs were scored, the excitement grew as each out was recorded. I have never been to a baseball game before where the whole stadium was so into every pitch; it was an atmosphere I will not forget for a long time.
In the top of the seventh, Miami was able to put a second person on base. Garrett Jones struck out, but the ball bounced away from Wilson Ramos, and Jones was able to make it to first on the dropped third strike. I was glad he was not the only baserunner for the Marlins. If their only runner had been on a dropped third strike, that would have been quite disappointing. Ramos made up for not blocking the pitch though, by picking Jones off of first base. The crowd erupted as the umpire signaled him out, and just like that, Zimmerman was six outs away.
The Nationals did not score in the bottom of the seventh or the bottom of the eighth, so the game went into the top of the ninth with the Nats still ahead 1-0. Stephen Souza Jr. was inserted into left field as a defensive replacement. Jordan Zimmermann needed only three outs to secure his place in Nationals lore. The crowd was on their feet, cameras were recording, and I stayed nervous.
The first two outs were recorded quickly. Then the magic happened. Christian Yelich stepped to the plate as the last chance for the Marlins to avoid being no-hit. On a 2-1 count, he drove a ball to deep left field. The crowd held its breath and Zimmermann threw his head back as he was sure the ball would drop for a double. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, the aforementioned Souza came flying in and made a spectacular diving catch to save the day. Bedlum ensued as the players stormed the field.
After the celebration, it was time for Zimmermann to be interviewed by none other than MASN Dan. Zimmermann was showered in Gatorade, bubble gum, and even an equipment bag as well as a rosin bag. Jayson Werth did the honors of throwing the pie in Zimmermann’s face and Werth took no mercy on Kolko either, pieing him as well.
You can see my first hand account of all these events in the YouTube video below. It covers the entire ninth inning as well as the on-field post-game events.
It was a spectacular day. However, the final out did not spell the end of interesting things for me. Be sure to read the next post containing what happened after we left our seats. You definitely won’t want to miss it…
This post is more of a post to let you all know that yes, I am still alive. With AP testing and my high school baseball season all culminating in the last couple of weeks, it has been hard to find the time to really sit down and give the time due to writing a quality post. However, save for maybe finals week, I’m back now for the long-haul of the rest of the season. I do have a variety of posts I’d like to write, and I will be attending a game at Nats Park in the near future, so be sure to keep checking back in for the latest updates.
As of right this minute, the Nationals are a half game back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. The Nats defeated the Mets today 6-3 behind a solid outing from Jordan Zimmermann and a monstrous performance by Wilson Ramos at the plate. He led the way by going 2-3 including a walk, double, and 4 RBI. Ian Desmond left his own stamp on the game, launching a mammoth solo home run over the visitor’s bullpen in left field.
The Braves rallied late and earned a win over the Cardinals today. As one fan put it on Twitter, the Nats can’t seem to beat the Braves even when they aren’t playing them. With the win, as I said, the Braves hold a half game lead over the Nationals.
On the injury front, Gio Gonzalez is the latest National to land on the Disabled List. He has shoulder inflammation, but an MRI revealed no structural damage, which is a huge relief for the Nats, meaning that he won’t need surgery. Gonzalez has struggled this year though, not earning a win in his last five (5) starts. Hopefully after this stint on the DL he will take the rest of the season in stride and turn out more consistent pitching performances.
Adam LaRoche made a surprise appearance on the MASN broadcast of today’s game and said that he hopes to resume playing on Sunday. This is another good sign for the Nats who will regain a consistent starter at first base. Nothing should be taken away from Tyler Moore though, who started there today and made this fantastic catch to sit down the first batter of the game and made this fantastic catch to sit down the first batter of the game.
We will see how the Nationals fare over the next couple of weeks. They open a three game series tomorrow against the Cincinnati Reds before hitting the road for four games against the Reds’ NL Central foe, the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Nats return to DC following that series for a 9 game homestand: three against the Marlins, three in an inter-league matchup against the Rangers, and then three against the Phillies.
More to come on here as more transgresses!
There are just two days standing between pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training in Viera. This means we have come to number two on my countdown.
#2 – Veteran Leadership
Clubhouse leaders are an essential component to any successful team. They are players who take it upon themselves to guide inexperienced teammates. They know the value of having a mentor show them the ropes in order to become a better player. The value veteran baseball players have for the team is an intangible aspect of the game which often times goes un-recognized. However, even though there is no award for Best Leader, any knowledgeable player knows the importance of having an experienced core of talent in a locker room.
The Nationals are not low on numbers in this area. Seasoned veterans such as Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth, Denard Span, Adam LaRoche, and especially Ryan Zimmerman are part of an essential make up of a contending team. They take the younger players such as Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg under their wing when times get rough. In return, it is necessary that the younger players absorb what they are told. When the team works together and helps those who are struggling, they roll along like a well-oiled machine.
While it is important that the veterans convey verbal leadership, leading by example is also beneficial.When the rest of the team sees the vets stepping up and producing, it often rubs off on the other players. When the Nats hit a rough patch, it is important the veterans step up and take command in re-directing the team back onto the right track.
Worst Case Scenario:
The worst case scenario for veterans is a tough one. It is easy, yes, to simply say that they won’t perform well. However, that doesn’t provide much insight besides something we all could have thought of on our own. I think what would be the worst case scenario in this situation is that the veterans don’t come up big in clutch situations. This will be a key in this upcoming season; to be able to win games in late inning contests when either side could steal a victory. It will be these defining moments which characterize the season for the Nats.
Best Case Scenario:
This scenario is not as difficult to contemplate. The vets take the rookies under their wing and the team becomes a unit. Everyone feeds off each other and wins come from the positive attitude as well as on-field performances. Rookies learn from how the more experienced members of the team act in stressful times, and this enables the rookies to become reliable contributors by the end of the season. I may not be stellar in math, but it’s a pretty simple equation here: if the veterans play well and lead by example, the rest of the team will follow suit and it will be one amazing season.
It will be interesting to see where the Nationals get the majority of their contributions from this season. Will it be the veterans who take charge? Or will it be the younger players who step up when their team needs them? Only time will tell.
What will be number one?! Be sure to find out tomorrow!
Only two more days…
Countdown to #Natitude: 2 days