Reflections from a reporter born in 1987

Archive for August 2010

Nationals Notes: Jim Riggleman has a lot on his mind

August 26, 2010 - 05:10 PM
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It's a busy day at Nationals Park. Bryce Harper arrived for his official introduction and took early batting practice The 17-year old hit some titanic shots to the outfield, including one bomb into the third deck.

Today also marks the return of Jordan Zimmerman to the major leagues as a starting pitcher after missing more than a year of major league play due to Tommy John surgery.

And, of course, sometime in the next few hours, we should be getting the results of Stephen Strasburg's arthrogram, which should determine the exact extent of the damage to the right-hander's arm.

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman spoke on all these topics a little while ago. What he had to say is below the jump.

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Nyjer Morgan has some history with fans

August 26, 2010 - 11:40 AM
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Keep those hands where we can see, 'em, Nyjer (Photo: Associated Press)

Last night, news came out that Nationals outfielder Nyjer Morgan had been suspended seven games for hurling a baseball into the stands at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, striking a fan after "an ongoing dialogue" ended badly.

Morgan is appealing the suspension but this is not the first time he's been involved in some unpleasantness with fans.

Via the SeatGeek blog, it seems like Morgan is not too keen on opposing fans heckling him.

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Nationals' future arrives, departs, and returns

August 26, 2010 - 11:20 AM
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All of the Washington Nationals' hopes, dreams, and plans for the future will come together tonight prior to the first game of their scheduled four-game series against the Cardinals.

At around 5:45 p.m., Bryce Harper will be introduced to Nationals fans with a live press conference that will be broadcast on MASN. Harper is just 17 years old and is not expected to see the field for at least two years. But such is the hype and anticipation surrounding him, and given how bad the news has been for most of this season, the Nationals' eagerness to remind fans that there's hope for the future is understandable.

Speaking of that bad news, Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to undergo an arthrogram today in his injured right forearm after a dry MRI earlier this week couldn't determine just how much damage was done Saturday night against Philadelphia. All signs point to Strasburg being shut down for the season regardless of the result of the arthrogram, and frankly this is the only reasonable and wise way for the Nationals to handle Strasburg at this point. Even if he Strasburg does come right back September 6 when he is eligible, he can only make, by my calculations, five starts (4 home, 1 away), assuming he takes his normal rest. Surely the Nationals realize that four extra home Strasburg starts is not worth the risk of trotting their $15 million arm out just as the cold weather begins to sharpen.

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Mid-Morning News

August 26, 2010 - 10:31 AM
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Give this man whatever he wants: Joe Paquette, Jr. is either a master motivator or a crazy person. What other kind of person would walk 425 miles to see Lions practice? The 63-year-old walked from Munising in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to Lions headquarters to explain to them the power of "sisu", a Finnish term for perserverance that hasn't been mentioned in connection with the Lions since these guys. Paquette also gives us our Quote of the Day when discussing roadside attractions:

“One day four carloads of cheerleaders jumped out and started doing cheers for me ... It was great. It was just fantastic.” 

I'll bet it was, Joe. I'll bet it was.

Cheer up, Nationals fans: The most positive thing to take out of last night's Nationals game is that Jason Marquis knocked his ERA below 10, with 7.1 one-run innings in the Nationals' 4-0 loss. But if that doesn't lift your spirits, then enjoy watching the Atlanta Braves blow a nine-run lead to the Rockies.

We Want ... More Money!! In less surprising news, the NFL owners have their hearts set on an 18-game season with two preseason games. The players are less enthusiastic

"I think if you go to 18, each game kind of loses a little bit of its significance," says Bengals QB Carson Palmer.

David Stern and Gary Bettman, when asked for their opinion, had no idea what Palmer meant by this.

 

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Fairfax Co. youth coach arrested in Poland

August 26, 2010 - 09:15 AM
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The Associated Press is reporting that Polish authorities have arrested John Edward Hamilton, a former Fairfax County youth baseball coach who fled the country in 2009 to avoid pleading guilty to a series of child sex charges. A Polish border guard spokesman told the AP that Hamilton was arrested on board a bus while attempting to travel to Denmark.

Hamilton was arrested in May of 2009 after a former player of his reported that the coach had molested him repeatedly between March and July of 1997. Upon his arrest, Hamilton was found to have a 16-year-old foreign exchange student living with him at his house in Centreville.

Hamilton was charged with one count of aggravated sexual battery and three counts of taking indecent liberties with a child by a person in custodial or supervisory relationship. Two counts of sodomy were added to the charges last June after additional victims came forward. In all, Hamilton is accused of molesting five boys, ages 10-16, between 1992 and 2008.

Hamilton was later released from jail on $32,000 bond, which was later revoked, but never returned to jail. He was indicted in August of 2009 and was scheduled to plead guilty on October of that year, but never showed up in court.

A court decision on whether to extradite Hamilton is pending.

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Mystics' season on the brink

August 25, 2010 - 09:20 PM
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The Washington Mystics could be forgiven for entering tonight's Game 1 of their best-of-three Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series against the Atlanta Dream full of confidence. They had beaten the Dream three times in their four meetings this season, including a 90-81 victory in Atlanta just three days earlier to clinch the best record in the Eastern Conference and round off the best season in franchise history.

Tonight, all that collapsed under a tidal wave of poor shooting, an inability to get crucial stops, and some brilliant individual performances from members  of the Dream. In the end, the 95-90 loss meant that the Mystics will go to Atlanta Friday night with nothing less than their season on the line.  

 

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Nats' Morgan suspended seven games, appeals

August 25, 2010 - 07:20 PM
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Shortly before the start of tonight's Nationals game, word came down that Major League Baseball had suspended Nationals outfielder Nyjer Morgan seven games for throwing a ball into the stands last Saturday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Morgan appealed his suspension and was able to play in tonight's game, where he batted in the leadoff spot and played centerfield.

When the alleged ball-throwing incident occurred is not clear. Adam Kilgore, using the official press release from MLB vice president of rules and on-field operations Bob Watson, said that the incident occurred in the middle of the ninth inning. However,Mark Zuckerman reports that the incident occurred after Morgan had caught the final out of the Nationals' 8-1 win, and the ball he threw struck a spectator. 

 UPDATE: Jeff Sullivan over at SB Nation, through the magic of MLB.TV, has a few seconds of video from after Morgan caught the final out of Saturday's game. He makes the catch, then fakes a flip into the right field bleachers, then holds the ball over his head as he jogs off and looks toward the center field bleachers. Sadly, that's all the video we have right now. This is going to be like replacing the 18-and-a- half-minute gap in Nixon's tapes, I can already tell.

 UPDATE 2: Zuckerman now says the throw occurred in the middle of the ninth inning. So disregard that SB Nation video.

UPDATE 3: Kilgore reports that the throw took place after the 8th inning, not in the 9th, and quotes an MLB official saying that Morgan had "an onoing dialogue" with a Philly fan that got heated. That sounds a bit more promising.

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Dibble to miss two games; reasons unknown

August 25, 2010 - 05:30 PM
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Over at the Washington Post, Adam Kilgore has this juicy little nugget: Controversial Nationals analyst Rob Dibble will miss both tonight's and tomorrow's game. Reasons were not given for his absence from the booth, but Nationals President Stan Kasten didn't exactly quash any speculation with his explanation.

 "Rob asked for some time off," Kasten said, according to Kilgore. "Perhaps he's not feeling well. But I'm not a doctor, nor have I seen his records. So I shouldn't say anything more about it."

Well, when you put it that way, Stan ...

Kasten's comments recall these remarks Dibble made Monday regarding Stephen Strasburg's injury, which included:

"I'm not a doctor, and I haven't read the MRI yet, but I'm pretty sure [Strasburg]'s gonna come back fine."

"You can't constantly be complaining over every little thing."

"Ok, you throw a pitch, it bothers your arm, and you immediately call out the manager and the trainer? Suck it up, kid. This is your profession. You chose to be a baseball player. You can't have the cavalry come in and save your butt every time you feel a little stiff shoulder, sore elbow." 

MASN pre- and post-game show analyst Ray Knight will fill in for Dibble alongside play-by-play man Bob Carpenter

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Chris Hanburger: another Redskin in Canton?

August 25, 2010 - 03:45 PM
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Russ Grimm, a member of the legendary group of Redskins offensive linemen known as the "Hogs," took his place among football's immortals this month at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Today, it emerged that another former Redskin might get his day very soon.

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Know the foe: Atlanta Dream

August 25, 2010 - 02:10 PM
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Originally, these "Know Your Foe" breakdowns were supposed to take a closer look at upcoming Redskins opponents. However, we're doing a special edition today because the regular-season Eastern Conference champion Washington Mystics host the first game in their best-of-three first-round playoff series tonight against the Atlanta Dream.

If that's not worth a breakdown, what is? So without further ado, follow me below the jump for a look at the Dream.

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Afternoon time-waster: greatest NFL players by number

August 25, 2010 - 01:15 PM
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OK, so it's afternoon. Maybe you've just had a nice lunch and are starting to drag a bit. Well, here's a wonderful cure-all for the afternoon doldrums. Sports Illustrated ranks the greatest NFL players by number.

I know the "Who's the greatest athlete to wear this number?" discussion has been done before, but this is the first time I've seen the list be exclusive to NFL players.

A list of prominent current or former Redskins on the list is after the jump.

 

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Why are Redskins (and NFL) preaseason ratings up?

August 25, 2010 - 11:45 AM
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I received an e-mail this morning from the Redskins trumpeting their high television ratings in their first two preseason games, broadcast on NBC-4 and Comcast SportsNet. Here's the money quote:

"The Redskins’ preseason opener vs. the Buffalo Bills on Friday, Aug. 13 at FedExField drew a 14.75 rating and a 30 share.

"Even more watched was the Aug. 21 telecast against the Baltimore Ravens at FedExField, which registered a 15.1 rating and a 30 share.

"'These numbers illustrate the passion and loyalty of our fans and the excitement they have for the upcoming season,' Redskins’ chief marketing officer Mitch Gershman said.

"Each rating point represents a percent of the estimated television households in the Washington, D.C. area that are watching the game. The share is the percentage of televisions in use that are tuned to the game, meaning that nearly one-third of the televisions in use in the metropolitan area were tuned into each of the two games."

There are a lot of reasons for this increase, which I'll spell out after the jump.

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A look at Donovan McNabb's injury history

August 25, 2010 - 10:30 AM
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Trent Williams and the rest of the Redskins will try to keep McNabb in this position all season (Photo: Jay Westcott)

No one in their right mind can disagree with Mike Shanahan's decision to keep Donovan McNabb out of Friday night's preseason game against the Jets. The last thing the Redskins need right now is their franchise quarterback gutting it out on a gimpy ankle against the Jets' ferocious defense.

Despite the apparently precautionary nature of the various walking boots and air casts McNabb's been wearing over the last couple of days, McNabb's newest hurt is likely to dredge up questions about his durability.

Follow me below the jump for a closer look at McNabb's injury history:

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Now the news: Ryan Howard gets tossed, Oswalt plays the field, Phillies still lose

August 25, 2010 - 09:30 AM
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Ryan Howard apparently decided to pay tribute to Lou Piniella after being called out on a checked-swing third strike in the top of the 14th inning of last night's game against Houston. Unfortunately for Howard, the Phillies had no position players left on the bench to replace him. Inevitably, it was Roy Oswalt who came in to play left field, with Raul Ibanez moving to take Howard's spot at first base, and it was Oswalt, naturally, who wound up making the final out of Philadelphia's 4-2 loss in 16 innings.

Over at Deadspin, they've been running wild all week with some leaked financial statements of various MLB teams. Turns out, amazingly, that the Florida Marlins, weren't exactly above-board with their public claims when trying to get a new stadium.

Forget Johnny Damon to Boston. So how about Manny to Chicago?

The Jets agree to a deal with a long-time holdout. No, not that guy. This guy.

A coroner rules the May death of an LPGA golfer to be a suicide.

Tiger Woods's irons are apparently back on the market after being pulled from eBay in the spring. The lesson, as always: buyer beware.

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How Zambrano shut down the Nats

August 25, 2010 - 07:15 AM
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carlos zambrano
He's struggled this year, but Carlos Zambrano got the best of the Nationals Tuesday night. (Photo: Associated Press)

For the third night in a row, the Nationals were baffled by an opposing starting pitcher. Last night, it was the turn of Carlos Zambrano to do the business. Zambrano went 7.1 innings against the Nationals, his longest outing of the season, giving up just one run on five hits while walking one and striking out eight. Making it doubly frustrating for the Nationals was that Zambrano's performance took place during his worst season as a non-rookie professional.

"We didn't get a lot going against [Zambrano]," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said after last night's game. "He threw a lot of strikes," Ryan Zimmerman added. "He pounded the zone and mixed up his pitches."

So how, exactly did Zambrano shut down the Nats? Let's try to find out.

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UPDATED: Nationals make it official: Strasburg to DL, arthrogram Thursday

August 24, 2010 - 04:55 PM
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The Nationals officially placed Stephen Strasburg on the 15-day disabled list today, retroactive to Sunday, and also confirmed that the rookie pitcher will undergo an arthrogram Thursday to determine the extent of his injury. Head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz made the announcement during batting practice before tonight's game against the Chicago Cubs.

Strasburg left his August 20 start in Philadelphia with a strained flexor tendon in his right forearm and underwent an MRI on Sunday. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said prior to Monday's game that the swelling around Strasburg's injury made it difficult to determine the extent of the injury. In an arthrogram, contrasting dye is injected to the affected area to create a clearer picture of the injury

Right-handed relief pitcher Collin Balester was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse to take Strasburg's place on the active roster. He will be available as a long reliever in tonight's game as the Nationals play the Cubs in the second game of a three-game series.

"We needed a little length out of the bullpen," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said when asked why Balester was called up. "He's a guy who can go a couple of innings if needed. Plus I'd like to take another look at him. He's got a power arm and he's made a little bit of progress."

Balester made five appearances in relief for the Nationals between July 24 and August 5. In total, Balester gave up four earned runs on nine hits over 6.2 total innings, striking out 10 and walking four. In 30 appearances, including five starts for triple-A Syracuse, Balester is 2-3 with a 6.60 ERA over 60 innings, with 41 strikeouts and 29 walks.

More notes after the jump.

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Snyder spokesman denies Washington Times interest

August 24, 2010 - 01:39 PM
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Earlier today, this post by Dave McKenna of the Washington City Paper was making the rounds of the D.C. media landscape. It speculated (with a dash of circumstantial evidence on the side) that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder had emerged as a late potential buyer for the Washington Times, which is reportedly on the verge of closing.

The problem is, however, it doesn't seem to be happening. I sent a querying e-mail to Tony Wyllie, senior vice president of the Redskins. Three minutes later, the response came back: "That is not true. He has no interest whatsoever."

So, there you have it. The Times has been dogged by closure rumors since December 2009, when it laid off its entire sports section (including Mike Jones, now my colleague at TBD), stopped publishing on Sundays, and reduced its print run.

 

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Lo, he speaks again!!!

August 24, 2010 - 11:57 AM
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Rob Dibble, whom I discussed briefly last night, has responded to the vast internet commentariat regarding these remarks which he made about Stephen Strasburg Monday. This morning, he used his radio platform to defend himself and his statements. Federal Baseball has a transcript, but the important bits are after the jump.

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A closer look at Hernandez's performance

August 24, 2010 - 10:30 AM
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Livan Hernandez
Livan Hernandez struggled with his offspeed stuff and cost the Nats dearly last night. (Photo: Associated Press)

Livan Hernandez matched his shortest outing of the season in last night's 9-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs, managing to throw 121 pitches in the process (the fourth-most pitches thrown by a starter who couldn't get out of the fifth inning since 1952, when they started keeping track of these things). The performance was just another source of frustration on a frustrating night for the Nationals

"The thing about Livo is that he really needs that edge (of the plate)," Jim Riggleman said after last night's game. "And when he doesn't get it, that's when he has to work harder."

"I don't expect the umpire to give me a strike," Hernandez said after the game. "I expect him to tell me what a strike is." The phrasing implies that Hernandez felt home plate umpire Tim Timmons lacked consistency in calling balls in strikes. Is that true? Let's go to the chart.

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Oh no, not you again

August 23, 2010 - 08:20 PM
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Nationals broadcaster Rob Dibble took some (deserved) heat a while back for some unpleasant comments about female baseball fans. But what he said Monday on his Sirius XM MLB Network Radio show might have been even worse.

Dan Steinberg has the whole transcript, if you're interested, but here are some of the juicy bits:

"I also look at [Strasburg's latest injury] from the player's standpoint, that this is your job. This is what you do. You're never going to be 100 percent healthy, feel perfect. So you have to take accountability that you're gonna throw sometimes, your arm's gonna hurt. You're gonna be out there on the mound sometimes, the mound is gonna be terrible and the dirt is gonna be a little loose and it might not be so great. You can't constantly be complaining over every little thing. (CHAMBERLAIN NOTE- Because an arm injury is totally the same thing as a bad landing surface on the mound, am I right, guys?)

"So for me, a little bit has to be put back on Strasbug here. Ok, you throw a pitch, it bothers your arm, and you immediately call out the manager and the trainer? Suck it up, kid. This is your profession. You chose to be a baseball player. You can't have the cavalry come in and save your butt every time you feel a little stiff shoulder, sore elbow." 

Yup, that's a part-time Nationals employee questioning the toughness of the Nationals' star young pitcher, who in just a few hours time would be put on the disabled list for the second time this season. Hopefully, Rob Dibble felt about three inches tall upon hearing the news. Somehow I doubt it.

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