Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Former Nats Greats: #1

I am fascinated by former Nationals players. It might be the fact that we have so many players who have ended their not-so-illustrious careers with our humble ballclub (http://natsinsider.blogspot.com/2010/11/from-natstown-to-oblivion-revisited.html). It might also be that we have so many "cup-of-coffee" players who have gotten 10 ABs or less. I love bringing up obscure names in conversation with other residents of NatsTown. Maybe it's my subtle way to gauge other people's degrees of Nats Fandom. In any case, when Joe asked me to write for this blog, I wanted to focus on some of the more quirky aspects of baseball, and for me this is it.

This is going to be a once-a-week recurring series where I focus on former Nats greats. This will be different from the "Where are they now?" feature because I will solely focus on their time spent wearing the Nats uniform (READ: not Expos). Be prepared to re-live some (not so) amazing memories.

To kick off this new series, who better than the player who has so many firsts for the fledgling Nats. Drumroll please......

Termel Sledge.

Lets start with the raw stats.

Sledge played a whopping 20 games in 2005 with a grand total of 37 AB , while garnering only 8 RBI. He had 9 hits, 0 doubles, 1 triple, and a very magical home run. For those who don't remember, Sledge hit the first home run in Nationals history. It was in the 6th inning on Opening Day (April 4, 2005) against Phillies Opening Day starter Jon Lieber (!?!?!?!). Termel also has the 1st RBI in Nationals history, an RBI ground-out in the 2nd inning of the same game, knocking in Nick Johnson to give the visiting team a 1-0 lead.

That was the beginning of his short-lived Nationals tenure. He would only have one other game where he had more than 1 RBI, that game was April 13th during an 11-4 victory over the Braves. Sledge, who came in as a pinch hitter for Luis Ayala in the 9th, hit a 3 RBI bases-clearing triple to put the game out of reach.

Sledge's career as a Nat ended on May 2nd with a 1 for 2 performance that had him taken out early in the 6th inning with a right hamstring "pull". I say pull only because he didn't again suit up for the home team.

As you may remember, he was traded to the Rangers (along with Brad Wilkerson and Jim-Joyce's-Best-Friend Armando Galarraga) for Alfonso Soriano.

Happy trails to you, Termel Sledge. I will continue to proudly wear your Sledge #18 Nats Shirt for eternity!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Missing Dibble

During the baseball season, there is one place to catch a Nats game if you're not at the Park, and that's on MASN, or its affiliate network MASN2. (According to Mac, this is one of the things he is thankful for, but I digress.) If you're committed to watching it on TV, you're stuck with MASN.

Starting in 2009, MASN signed an interesting guy to be Bob Carpenter's partner on the Nationals TV broadcasts: Rob Dibble. I have to admit, I loved it from the beginning. To me, the two were a great duo. Carpenter was the soft-spoken voice of logic and reason; Dibble was the loud-mouth, cocky former player. They're both clearly homers. As offensive and in-your-face as Dibble can be, he truly cared about the success of the Nationals and its players. What's more, I think the few weeks where fans had to listen to Ray Knight toward the end of the 2010 season showed just what the viewers lost when Dibble was fired from MASN.

You have to admit, there were some interesting events toward the end of the year, namely the Nyjer Morgan vs. Chris Volstad fight, where many people were left saying, "Man, I wonder what Dibble would be saying right now?" I was one of them. That's what made him great. People tuned in just because of the hype: "What will Dibble say next?"

I know many of you that read this blog, and many other Nats bloggers, take a very different tone than I do on Dibs. I was one who found Dibble charming in his lack of tact and blatant cheering for the Nats. Maybe that's because I'm the same way, a no-tact Nats fan. Let's be honest, when it's as quiet as it was on a weekday at the Park, someone had to get excited.

Rob Dibble undoubtedly said things that were offensive during his tenure, and dramatic steps needed to be taken to rectify them. A suspension was not out of line for his comments about the women behind home plate. An on-air apology to Stephen Strasburg after telling him to "suck it up" would have been warranted. But to be canned for that? I understand that it was a snowballing situation that finally reached its limits with the Strasburg comments, but it seems like there were many just looking for an excuse to can Dibs at that point.

We don't yet know who Bob Carpenter's partner will be to start the 2011 season on MASN. One thing I do know: They'll have one heck of a time getting a guy that was as passionate about the success of the Nationals and that knows as much about pitching as Rob Dibble. I'm going to keep listening to MLB Network Radio every morning on the way to work to get my Dibble fix.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Time to Give Thanks

Hello NatsTown!

I am privileged and honored to be joining the crack writing staff here at Capitol Baseball! I've really enjoyed watching this Blog grow from an idea into reality and I couldn't be more excited to join the discussion!

That being said, I have spent the past week trying to think of the perfect blog entry to introduce myself (tone included) while continuing to focus on the Nats. What better way than me sharing what, in NatsTown and beyond, I am thankful for.

Without further ado - I am thankful for the following...

- That Ryan Zimmerman will be a Nat through at least 2013. Stephen Strasburg a Nat through 2016.

- That five Nats' prospects lead the Scottsdale Scorpions to the AFL Championship yesterday. (Lombardozzi and Harper RBIs, Norris run, Solis win, Kimball save) The future looks bright indeed.

- The 1-2-3 Double Play.

- Charlie and Dave. Bang Zooms, Curly W's, and Wil Nieves' batting music.

- That we have a new Third Base Coach, Bo Porter, whose main focus will be helping with baserunning. (See: Where was he going??? What was he thinking???)

- That baseball writers aren't afraid of Sabermetrics anymore. (See: Hernandez, Felix) Get ready to read more about FIP, WAR/VORP, UZR/150, among others. It's coming. Be ready.

- That the Redskins are so bad that people have no choice but to root for the Nats.

- Pitcher fielding practice.

- Pudge tagging out a runner trying to steal 2B.

- Barry Svrluga and the Viera Panera.

- That, as of yesterday, five major league teams are interested in the Weapon of Minimal Production.

- That the middle-infield is solid for the next 5 years. Though I would rather see Espinosa at SS and Desi at 2B...

- Uniting with NatsTown in hatred for Clint.

- Bringing a scorebook to the park.

- The hope of Spring Training.

- That we don't have Peter Angelos for an owner.

- That there is labor peace in MLB. (See: NBA, NFL, NHL)

- For former Nats Greats: Micah Bowie, Gary Bennett, Alex Cintron, Ryan Drese, etc.

- That even if we only add 1 free agent pitcher, we will be much more solid than this past year. (Mock, 1st Half Marquis, Atilano, Walker, English, Bruney, 1st Half Lannan)

- Playing Guess-What-Channel-The-Nats-Are-On-Tonight?

- New uniforms - While not as good as they could've been they are still better than where we came from.

- That the Lerner's aren't afraid to spend money for free agents.

- The difference between "playing catch" and "having a catch"

- And last, but most important, family. I am thankful that I have a supportive and caring family. A father who coached my teams. Who was always willing to go out and have a catch, whether it be 8 in the morning or 9 at night. Who took us to Mariners games, even if we did have to leave the extra innings game so we could catch the last Ferry Boat home. Who taught me and my brother how to score games.

My dad never got to see the Nats play, he passed away less than two months before the National's first spring training in Marlin's-Teal-clad Viera. And although he never got to see a Curly W put into the books, I am thankful that because of his (and my mothers) teachings, I can appreciate every nuance in the game. From the freshly mown grass, the perfectly dragged infield, the chalk lines, or the beauty of a traditional double-header.

Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Lemon said, "baseball was made for kids, and grown-ups only screw it up." This week, and into next season, take what you're thankful for in terms of Nationals Baseball and keep that youthful enthusiasm with you.

Post what you are thankful for in the Comments section!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

We're Expanding!

Good day Capitol Baseball faithful. We have a major announcement to make today, and I'm extremely excited to do so.

Today, I am adding great friend, and now colleague, Craig MacHenry as your Capitol Baseball Staff Writer Extraordinaire. Craig will be posting at a good clip in the coming months and into the 2011 baseball season. This will provide everyone with more opinions, more posts, and more news on a more regular basis as I transition into a new real-world job over the coming weeks and months.

This expansion wouldn't have worked if it wasn't for all of you regularly reading this blog day in and day out throughout the season and the offseason. So I hope you all continue to read us with even more fervor as we give you even more to read.


As the season approaches, we plan on starting a regular, short podcast for free on the blog as well as the possible addition of future writers. We look forward to sharing all of these experiences with you. Thanks again for being a loyal reader.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Re-Signing Adam Dunn and a Special Thanks

First and foremost, on this Veterans Day 2010, I'd like to take the opportunity to thank all of those who have served and sacrificed for our country over the years to make this country what it is today. My ability to pontificate about baseball on a daily basis is because people have sacrificed for my right to do so over the last 234 years. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now on to Adam Dunn. Ever since... well... all season, Ryan Zimmerman has been Adam Dunn's biggest advocate. There's a lot to explain for Zimmerman's love for Adam. First, almost every player on the Nationals in 2010 has said that Dunn is a crucial element of the chemistry created in the clubhouse. He truly cares about all the guys on that team.

But just think about the kind of season that Zimmerman just had. He finished the season hitting .307, the best of his career by 15 points. His second best? The year before in 2009, where he hit .292. Sure, those numbers are partially due to the fact that Zimmerman is entering the prime of his career and should only be getting better over the next few years. But what else was different compared to previous seasons? The guy hitting behind him.

For most of Adam Dunn's tenure with the Nationals, Zimmerman hit 3rd, Dunn hit 4th. So when a pitcher is looking at that lineup card, there are some real decisions to make. Do they pitch to Zimmerman to try to avoid the slugging Dunn? Do they pitch around Zimmerman and get to Dunn with Zimmerman on base? That 3-4 didn't make it easy on anyone, and was one of the most potent 3-4 spots in the National League, except for Braun-Fielder in Milwaukee and Utley-Howard in Philadelphia.

So with the thought of Adam Dunn not hitting behind him for the first time in 2 years, Zimmerman is justifiably concerned. Who is his protection? Let's explore those options:
  • Josh Willingham: Willingham is a perfect 5 spot guy. He has a high OBP, but he doesn't typically hit for tremendous power.
  • Michael Morse: Morse hits lots of line drives and hit for good average this year, but he's not a home run hitter.
  • Free Agents: Whether you look at Huff, Peña, or really any other viable options at 1st base to replace done, none of them will replace a 40 HR/100 RBI hitter in Dunn, no mater how many strike outs he had (more than 200).
So it's truly no wonder that Zimm has been so high on Dunn. I'm sure the two have developed a great friendship as Zimmerman has said, but Zimmerman's numbers certainly play some part in the equation.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Zimmerman Gets Screwed Again

Wednesday afternoon, Scott Rolen of the Cincinnati Reds was named the Rawlings National League Gold Glove Award Winning Third Baseman. I am incensed.

Scott Rolen entered the league in 1996, won Rookie of the Year in 1997, and had an all around outstanding career. A career that should be recognized as being one of the best among defensive third basemen in recent memory. But that run ended in 2006.

Sure, Rolen had just 8 errors this year. And some people (yes, including Jim Bowden) say that errors are all that matters. But what about when Rolen's 35 year old legs didn't get him to nearly as many balls as Ryan Zimmerman did. Or Padres 3B Chase Headley for that matter.

Nevertheless, the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards continue to nothing but a popularity contest as Jim Memolo and yes... Rob Dibble both put so eloquently this morning. As long as Ryan Zimmerman plays for the Nationals, he will continue to be screwed with his pants on for the recognition he deserves and has earned. When the Washington Nationals start winning, maybe Zimmerman will start winning, too.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Where Are They Now?: Elijah Dukes

Photo Courtesy NBCSports.com

We're back here at Capitol Baseball for our first post since the Giants won the World Series. Congrats to them and the City of San Francisco. I promise, it won't be 2 weeks before my next post.

Most of you know the Elijah Dukes story. In 2008, he was the latest kid that then-Nats GM Jim Bowden thought was part of the team's future. He had talent, and a laundry list of personal issues to match. But nevertheless, he was given the opportunity to succeed. He was unable to do so.

He failed in both Tampa Bay and in Washington, but most were shocked at his sudden release by the Nationals in Spring Training 2010. The story doesn't get any prettier from here.

After his release in March, not one of the 29 other teams wanted to pick him up. So he fluttered around for a while before being picked up by the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League on July 1, 2010. Dukes' stint with the team lasted a mere 51 days when he was placed on the Suspended List in August.

On November 2, AOL Fanhouse reported that Dukes was put in jail for not paying child support. It turns out that he owed back payments to the tune of $140,000. To put the icing on this extremely sad cake, it turns out (according to Yardbarker.com) that Elijah doesn't own a home and when the judge asked he said "I live where I lay my head." This former MLB player, as recently as last season, is on the verge of homelessness.

Over the course of his 3 year MLB career, Elijah Dukes made about $1.2 million. That money is all gone, obviously. In the mean time, he hasn't been owning up to his financial responsibilities for his children. So where has the money gone? I imagine we'll never know.

This is just another sad example of a professional athlete being destroyed by the combination of fame, fortune, and pre-existing personal issues. I think I speak for all of Nats Town when I wish Elijah good luck and hope that he can get is young life back on track.