Over the past few weeks, Major League Baseball has been conducting a “Face of MLB” contest. The bracket can be found by clicking on those words. Basically the way it works is that every weekday, fans take to Twitter to vote for the player they choose using a hashtag for the player’s name and then #FaceofMLB. For example, a tweet may be as simple as this: “#BryceHarper #FaceofMLB” Each tweet with both hastags included count as a vote, and each Twitter account is allowed 25 votes per day.
Today it is the Nationals turn to show their Natitude by voting for Bryce Harper. You can vote for him by including #BryceHarper and #FaceofMLB in a tweet.
Earlier, I tweeted a simple tweet which I did not think would become very widespread. Boy was I wrong.
I am a man of my word, and I promise I will do every push-up. As visual proof, I will post a video right here on my site within the coming days so everyone can see. I guess I better start stretching now.
Voting for Bryce is open until 8 AM tomorrow morning, so keep those votes coming Nats fans!
As Spring Training nears, we come to number 4 on the countdown of my top 5 things to look forward to in this upcoming season.
4. Pitching Performances
Over the past few seasons, the Nationals have acquired a pitching staff which, when pitching at its full potential, is unrivaled in the National League. However, there were the key words: when pitching at its full potential. Young phenom Stephen Strasburg had his struggles last season in his first full year since coming back from Tommy John surgery. Gio Gonzalez showed spots of brilliance while also faltering at points, and finished the season with an 11-8 record. The pick-up of Dan Haren late in the offseason did not play out nearly to the hopes of GM Mike Rizzo. He struggled mightily the entire first half of the season before regaining some sort of success for a couple stretches following the All-Star break. Haren stumbled to a 10-14 record in his first, and what would be his only, season as a National. To his credit, he did come up big at certain points, such as getting a save in a marathon extra inning game in Atlanta, but his struggles ended up outweighing his successes. Even Ross Detwiler, the team’s fifth starter, fought the injury bug for much of the season.
The Nationals’ gem in the starting rotation during the 2013 season came in the form of Jordan Zimmermann. He pitched his way to an outstanding 19-9 record, including a complete game 2 hit shut-out; a marvel of a game I was fortunate enough to witness in person. He was also one of the two Nationals players selected to the National League All-Star team, along with Bryce Harper. Hopefully, Zimmermann’s successes last season will carry over into this year.
The bullpen also produced some pleasant surprises during 2013. Rookie Tanner Roark (Row-ark) burst onto the Major League scene by finishing the season with a 7-1 record and shining in clutch situations. Drew Storen never completely regained his pitching form after the devastating loss in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS and spent a period of time at AAA Syracuse. New closer Rafael Soriano, another one of Rizzo’s offseason signings, untucked his jersey 43 times (Soriano emphatically untucks his jersey after earning a save). We will see how newly aquired Jerry Blevlins performs out of the bullpen in his first season as a National.
Who will the surprises be this season? Will the starting rotation live up to its expectations? How will the bullpen handle the long season?
Worst Case Scenario:
Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez struggle through the season and do not pitch with much consistency. Zimmermann must once again hold down the rotation on his own and the rotation’s back end of Fister and Detwiler do not anchor it enough to fulfill expectations. Mid-season trades are needed for a reliable set-up man and the game cannot be assured when the ball is handed off to the bullpen. Starters try to push themselves to avoid having to use the bullpen, but as the season wears on they begin to get exhausted and give up runs. The Nationals sputter across the finish line due to sub-par performances by their highly touted pitching staff.
Best Case Scenario:
The rotation stays healthy all season long without many complications. Strasburg pitches like the phenom he used to be, and the 1-2-3-4 punch of him, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, and Fister end up being too much for nearly any team to handle. They dominate series after series behind quality starts from their starting pitchers, and 5th starter Ross Detwiler exceeds expectations by pitching at a very high level. The bullpen shuts down games when given the opportunity; solidifying the Nationals as a force to be reckoned with across baseball. Opposing teams cannot muster runs due to shut-down performances by Nationals pitchers and the pitching staff provides the team with a chance to win on a daily basis.
I personally believe the Nationals pitching staff will not have an off year. I do see them having their struggles at points and giving up some runs because of pitching mistakes. Overall though I feel they will be much more reliable than last season. I’m not saying the Nationals pitching was terrible last year, because by some standards it was above average, but it was not near what many thought it would be. I believe they will pitch together as a unit, giving the Nats a strong opportunity to win in any situation. The one variable will be seeing how well they can avoid the injury bug. If they can stay healthy all year with time missed kept at a minimum, then the staff will be nearly unstoppable. Here’s to hoping that is the case.
Countdown to #Natitude: 4 days
In creating this blog, I pondered for a long time how to give it my own unique spin. There is such a large number of blogs out there, especially on my die-hard favorite team, the Washington Nationals. I watch the games every day, tweet my frustrations, and vent my enthusiasm to many of my friends who probably couldn’t care less about the great sport of baseball, much less the Nats. So I sat back and thought, how could I virtually verbalize my thoughts and knowledge about this sport and team I love so much, while also adding a spin to it which, hopefully somewhat, might separate it from the vast number of other writing outlets that have been created. A separation which can sort of set it apart so that it does not get lost in the heaps of more popular blogs surrounding it. While I know there are plenty of other sources you can read to acquire the knowledge you’re looking for, maybe there will be a bit of info in here that will suit your needs.
I’ve been a sports fan, first and foremost baseball, as long as I can remember. I grew up in a baseball-less Washington, D.C. and rooted for my mom’s hometown team, the Cincinnati Reds. It was around the age of 6 when my life as a live baseball fan really took off. I had attended games at Cinergy Field in Cincinnati, even seeing a brawl I still remember between the Giants and the Reds. While those games were fun, I was too little to appreciate everything going on around me (plus I hated fireworks so every time there was a long fly ball my hands immediately went to my ears). That was when my dad decided to take me to our local minor league team, then the Potomac Cannons. Oddly enough, they were the Single-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. For those of you who, through obviously no fault of your own, are not familiar with Potomac, they have a small, run-down stadium with game attendance that often times you can count yourself. I brought my glove to the game and couldn’t wait to get to our seats – in the field box which is right on the field. It was during the game that my life of baseball and bond with the game was forever sealed.
There was a foul ball rolling down the fence which a member of the opposing bullpen picked up. He made sure the ball got to me, and I couldn’t believe what I now had in my possession. A game used foul ball. I couldn’t wait to show my mom. However, in my youth and excitement, I was not keen enough to put the ball away and mark it as my first. It has since gotten lost among the heaps of foul balls which I have collected from both major league and other Potomac games over the years.
Later on, the Washington Nationals moved to DC from Montreal and I finally had a home team to root for. They promptly acquired the Potomac Cannons from the Reds, and their name was changed to the Potomac Nationals. I have since grown up watching and becoming attached to many
current members of my favorite team in their earliest professional stages. I’ve watched my favorite player, Ian Desmond, ascend the ranks. I’ve seen Espinosa, Lombardozzi, Eury Perez, as well as countless others, in an up-close game. I’ve also seen a number of players, such as Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos,
and Ross Ohlendorf, make rehab appearances there. When I see a player enter the Washington games which I’ve seen at Potomac, I can clearly recall the announcer’s voice calling out their name in that small stadium in Prince William County. I have raced out of the stadium to chase foul balls (yeah, it’s small enough to do that), and analyzed game after game with my dad in those creaky old stands. One day I finally became savvy enough to write who hit each foul ball on the ball so I know who hit it when they make it into the major leagues. I most likely have a ball from Desmond, but it kills me every time I watch him play to know that just like my first ball, one of his foul’s is probably sitting amongst the bucket.
You may be thinking by now, is this a life story, or a blog? I wanted to give you some insight into my career as a Washington Nationals fan so that you can see I’m not a bandwagoner of the 2011 or 2012 seasons (which by the way I do not condemn by any means. The more fans the merrier!). I suffered through ’08 and ’09 along with my beloved team, but all the while knowing that one day we would achieve greatness. I have sat all over RFK stadium, and listened to the number of MASN broadcasters over the years. So now nearly every summer night, somewhere in the house can be heard the voices of FP Santangelo and Bob Carpenter, breaking down every pitch of our team.
Not one spring has passed where I have not donned a uniform myself and helped a team win baseball games. I am now a junior in high school and a member of our Varsity baseball team. It’s one thing to watch the pros perform at the highest level every day, but it’s another to actually be a part of the action; spitting sunflower seeds in the dugout and going through highs and lows yourself. Playing baseball and watching baseball has become somewhat of a lost art, a passion which many today fail to grasp. That is what I hope to bring about with this blog. That someone out there somewhere, be it a Nationals fan or a curious reader, may come to appreciate our National Pastime just a little bit more. And hey, maybe become a Nats fan along the way.
So that is what I hope sets this writing space apart from the others. My unique articles on the Nats, baseball goings-on, and intriguing historical pieces which will draw in the non-Nats fan. I plan on writing nearly everything about the Nationals, from my personal thoughts to team news, while also including other posts about happenings around the MLB, historical baseball events or notable achievements, a post here and there about high school baseball, and the off article on my thoughts on other large news. That was what I thought of with the name; to include, but not completely limit it to, the Nationals. Rather, for it to be about baseball, just mainly on the Nats. As an aspiring journalist, perhaps this can be an alley to bettering my skills and improving my chances for a successful future. I hope you can find useful information out of reading my posts. Here’s to a winning year.