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So right, but so wrong

This should be the high point of the season for the Nationals, right? Washington is playing .500 ball (14-14) against the National League East, their own division that includes some pretty darn good teams. Problem: The Nationals are 1-12 against the N.L. Central and West -- the lone win against the Padres on April 30. Problem II: The Nationals don't play a game against the N.L. East until June 25. That's 34 straight out of the division.

But the bigger problem: Jason Bergmann goes down. (Check out the notebook this morning if you hadn't heard yet.) Let's review what that Opening Day rotation looked like:

John Patterson -- out with elbow and biceps soreness, though he threw the other day on flat ground
Shawn Hill -- out with a left shoulder problem, though he also has complained of elbow and forearm problems
Matt Chico -- the warrior and workhorse, he's the only one left standing
Jason Bergmann -- they're really hoping he'll miss only one start
Jerome Williams -- out with right shoulder soreness, he still doesn't have a win

Pretty bleak, no?

For more on yesterday, here's the gamer, which covers the day's good news, and the podcast, which is full of what Matt Chico has learned thus far as well as Felipe Lopez's explanation of how a day off can clear your head. And here's some people discussing the Nationals and Orioles on "Washington Post Live" last night on Comcast SportsNet. Josh Barr of the Washington Post staff and Phil Wood, who writes for the Examiner and knows more about the history of baseball in Washington than ... well, I'm pretty sure than anybody. Also, there's author Brad Snyder, who wrote an outstanding book about the Homestead Grays called "Beyond the Shadow of the Senators" that anyone who cares about baseball in the District should read, and now has a new book about Curt Flood out. And wouldn't you know that in, say, 1992, both Brad Snyder and I were on the sports staff of this college newspaper, and we both had this guy as a "professor." This guy was also on the student paper staff at the time, and was a fraternity brother of mine, and you probably see his face in your dreams during "March Madness."

Anyway, I'll get you news on the rotation for the weekend as soon as I have it. Should be interesting.

I would also like to continue the discussion started yesterday about the O's and Nats, and whether a rivalry exists. New O's beat writer Adam Kilgore and I combined on a story in this morning's $.35 edition that looked at the two approaches the teams are taking.

So I'd be interested not only in the continuing discussion about whether there's a "rivalry," but also in your take on the two clubs' views of how to get to future success. They're both in last place, and a sweep for the Nats would give them precisely the same records. But neither is going anywhere this year. I guess the question is: Who do you think has a brighter future in, say, four years -- the Orioles or the Nationals?

Discuss.

(Oh, and for you music people -- Son Volt. Very solid show last night at the 9:30 Club. It's really a Jay Farrar solo act with good players in the band, and he played a couple songs (including a completely different take on "Voodoo Candle" that was really good) from his solo stuff. He brought out a couple horns for some songs from the new record, but my favorite I think was digging deep onto the band's best album, "Trace," for "Tear-Stained Eye." Played "Windfall" as well, which is probably in my top five songs of all-time. Not that you care.)

By Barry Svrluga  |  May 18, 2007; 10:08 AM ET
 
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Next: Bergmann to the DL

Comments

As long as the Orioles are burdened with their current ownership, I can't see them recovering to be as good as the Orioles we knew. As for the Nats, I think sticking to "The Plan" is going to bring them great success within the four year period.

Posted by: Dancer13 | May 18, 2007 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Let's just hope we keep winning despite our starting pitching woes...

Posted by: Juan-John | May 18, 2007 10:59 AM | Report abuse

St. Barry -

Yes, there is a rivalry. It is just in its infancy. Whether it stems from Angelos' one man crusade against the reincarnation of the Nats, the assumption that Washingtonians were satisfied having the O's as their team, or the total collapse of the once proud Oriole Way, a dislike of the owner, fans and/or team does exist.

I tend to think the true reason for the hatred is a combination of the three, but is primarily fueled by the O's disintigration. The post-Cal era (and the last few years prior) has been an unmitigated disaster. (I commend to everyone Basil's recap of that dreadful period in Federal Baseball today) Those from around DC who grew up with the Birds (myself included) became numb to them after their plummet from the top. When OUR NATS became a possibility, and Angelos stood like a one man Berlin wall against it, the numbness blossomed into hatred. Add the O's fans and the Sun's snarky columnists to the mix, and you can see the formation of a rivalry.

Players will never give you that angle, but it is not their fault. Things just aren't as they used to be in that regard. Heck, the Redskins - Cowboys rivalry is almost entirely fan driven these days (save for the Danny and Coach Joe). Only the Sox and Yanks have a pro sports rivalry which appears to trickle down to the teams on the field. Of course Johnny Damon might dispute that notion.

We'll get to full fledged rivalry status here if both teams become good and the games matter more in the standings. For now, given where we are in "The Plan," nothing will warm a Nats fan's heart more than sweeping the Birds. Even if it is for the somewhat petty reason that we might be bad, but we are not Baltimore bad. Plus, it will be a fun fact if the Nats can win more games than the Birds over the past three seasons and can draw more fans to poor old RFK over that span as well. So far, so good.

Posted by: WebberDC | May 18, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Diamondback > Chronicle

Posted by: DBK Alum | May 18, 2007 11:22 AM | Report abuse

While I agree with much of what WebberDC had to say in his excellent post, particularly DC's disdain being sparked by Peter Angelos, I think the real on-field and in-stand rivalry that's likely to develop down the line is with a team not just in our own league but in our own division. Nats--O's has the potential to be like Cubs--White Sox, but Nats--Phillies has the potential to be like Cubs--Cardinals.

And I, at least, do care about your good time seeing Son Volt (even if your description of Duke days that were about 20 years after my own college days makes me feel old, you young whippersnapper). I'm also happy for you that you got to hear one of your top-five songs live because it makes me remember when Bruce Springsteen and the reformed-after-15-years E St. Band came to DC in 1999 and I finally got to hear one of my favorite songs done live after fruitlessly wishing for that concert hall nirvana for a quarter of a century. (Good seats, too. How good? I was two rows in front of Tony Kornheiser.)

Posted by: Section 502 | May 18, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Re: Bergmann

Sometimes soreness really is just soreness. Maybe we're overreacting to this news, because we've had such bad luck. Just like sometimes a save situation really is a save situation, instead of an opportunity for the other team to come back and win it in the eighth or ninth. We need to be careful as fans to not get too fatalistic! Fans are supposed to be just a little bit pollyanna-ish (or Bozish).

Posted by: Section 506 (After moving) | May 18, 2007 11:34 AM | Report abuse

I have to think that the Nats are going to be the better team, since we are addressing every issue at once, instead of one issue and offseason with weird over-priced signings.

That said, I don't understand how the O's remain so bad. Bedard is nasty! Cabrera can be lights out when he isn't setting a new record for walks. Chris Ray is excellent, Tejada is one of the best in the game. BRob is solid, Mora is decent, and Corey Patterson and Ramon Hernandez do the team justice up the middle. They have the talent. They have the farm system. Where are the wins? How do they find a way to lose?

Posted by: NattyDelite! | May 18, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Farrar > Tweedy

Posted by: Wes Mantooth | May 18, 2007 11:52 AM | Report abuse

You dang right there is a rivalry...at least for those few dinosaurs from the Senators era. While it simmered those 33 years we were without baseball, it is starting to come to a boil again, for us anyway. I'm sure that given time it will become so for the new generation of Nats fans. If there was ever two different ways to run a team, you can see it in the way these two are ran. I am also in the tank for Plan by Stan. GO NATS...STAY HOT

Posted by: SC Nats Fan | May 18, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

As another former O's fan - I had to respect the Oriole Way as the contrast to the fumbling Senators' way in the 60's - It's just not possible to get excited about a rivalry now. The Orioles just don't matter. I feel sorry for their fans, I like B'More and the people, but there is no hope for that team. I feel more of a rivalry with the Braves already - being sick of seeing them on TBS all those years, and how they broke our hearts a few times by figuring out the Chief even in '05. This week was sweet.

Posted by: Geezer | May 18, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

There is a budding rivalry, but I agree with 502 that Nats-Phillies has more potential, if only due to the higher game frequency (and the fact that Philadelphia fans are generally more obnoxious than any others--been to an Eagles-Skins game lately?). As to the future, Nats fans are hoping the new owners/management 'Plan' gives us a quality team in a few years; Orioles fans are mostly hoping the owner goes away in a few years.

Posted by: mjk | May 18, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I agree with everyone that Phillies/Nats will be the premier rivalery with the Mets being a close second. I personally experienced Philly fans at old Cap Centre (They are the sames ones, where do they get the money to attend Football, Hocky, AND Baseball games?). Mets fans are marginally more beheaved (very marginally) than Rangers. Sweep Baltimer--LETS GO NATS!!

Posted by: Section 417 Row 8 Seat 9 | May 18, 2007 12:30 PM | Report abuse

RE: 1-12 against non-NL East

Has more to do with where and when than who. Nine of the 13 games have been played on the road and the four that were at home were played in the first week.

The NL East record is a much more representative sample.

Posted by: p_chuck | May 18, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Barry, thanks for all the info.

I have to agree that the Phillies and Mets are the Nats' rival teams. Atlanta and Miami aren't close enough. As discussed below, Baltimore is (a) too hideously maimed a franchise to hate seriously and (b) in the wrong league.

(a) My experience at O's-Nats games has always been pleasant, in the sense that baseball in general is pleasant. Who can't admire Nick Markakis, or Cabrera when he's on? Inter-fan bitterness, however, is utterly lacking. The tone between "rival" fans at the last game I attended at Camden Yards was courteous almost to servility. I had the impression we should have been going to each other's homes afterward for ice cream and lemonade. This is not the stuff of rivalries, folks.

(b) On Baseball Prospectus, David Pinto posts a plan for reorganizing MLB out of the anachronistic "leagues" and into 5 six-team divisions sensibly based on geography:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=6205
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=6236

I am in enthusiastic agreement with his general plan, quibbling only about details. If the New York teams shared a division in the 6x5 plan, Baltimore and Washington would be in the same division. Now you have a geographical basis for rivalry. (No, realignment won't fix the Orioles' current disfigurement, but in the foreseeable future it is doubtful that anything will.)

Posted by: Hendo | May 18, 2007 1:05 PM | Report abuse

From what i am reading, the views on this seem to depend on how old you are. If you grew up around here after the Senators left and had the Orioles pounded into you every day by the WP, then thats one group. If you moved here more recently, then you have to be wondering what all the fuss is. If you were a Senators fan who refused to become an Orioles fan for a whole host of reasons,,,then you are maybe like me and see this as BIG. Recommend that you read (as charlie pointed out yesterday) NO GUTS, NO GLORY, NO BASEBALL ---you can get on the WP archive....written by M Wilbon from August 10, 1999. THat sums it up very nicely.

Posted by: Nats/O's rivalry | May 18, 2007 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Son Volt is pretty good, but I'm partial to the now-defunct Blue Mountain. They opened for Son Volt years ago at the old 930 Club, and stole the show.

Posted by: frenchy | May 18, 2007 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Totally different subject, if that's okay. Seeing Flores on the cover of the "Express" today reminds me that his mask looks an awful lot like Brian's. Is Brian sharing his very cool mask? Is that done? Sorry for the naive question.

Posted by: Section 406 | May 18, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

They let Francoeur post on this blog?

Posted by: Hendo | May 18, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Journalists are too often limited by their sources, and I felt that your coverage of the O's - Nats rivalry was unfortunately limited in this way last year. Of course there is no rivalry between the players on the field, and there probably never will be. Only the Mets and Yankees even arguably maintain an interleague rivalry.

However, there is a very significant and growing rivalry between the two groups of fans similar to that between the White Sox and Cubs fans. It's not universal, and I probably hate the stupid philly jerks more than the sad b'more clods, but its there.

Cal Ripken probably used steroids too.

Posted by: Steve | May 18, 2007 1:16 PM | Report abuse

As long as we are gonna start talking rock music on this thing. Did anyone here besides myself make it out to see the BEATLES at RFK? (it was called DC stadium in those days)

Posted by: sun volt? | May 18, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Barry-

Speaking of totally different subjects, where the heck are our relocation packages that were promised in April? I was hosed by the original "lottery" even though I made a 81 game deposit on the first day, and am less and less confident that I won't be hosed again. Any insight on the new stadium seating?

Thanks for all your work - I am a journal-ist, a podcast subscriber, and occasionally I even drop .35!

Posted by: gonats | May 18, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Barry:

"Windfall" should be in anybody's top five. I caught the show last night, as well. Perhaps the Guitar Tech that the band allowed to sing the Stones cover in the last encore should be considered for a spot start in place of Bergmann. Tall guy, lanky, seemed to have good movement on the mike stand to left-handed batters.

Posted by: Capitol Hill | May 18, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Yankees' bullpen is just as shredded as the Nats, but the big difference is:

They're losing, we're not. :-)

Posted by: Juan-John | May 18, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Yankees' starting pitching staff is just as shredded as the Nats, but the big difference is:

They're losing, we're not. :-)

Posted by: Juan-John | May 18, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

so next time you're at 9:30, stop in at Duffy's across the street. TVs, darts, good beer, decent food.

Posted by: Wille Gandabol | May 18, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

sorry, ignore the first one.

Posted by: Juan-John | May 18, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I think it will mean more to Baltimore than it will to DC. There's just an inherent inferiority complex there. So maybe Mets-Yankees isn't too bad of an anaolgy of what the rivalry could become if The Plan works out and we're competitive. Hopefully the Nats will become "Those jerks that get all the attention."

And, Wes, dude. I love Farrar and everything. But he don't hold a candle to Wilco. But I don't want to quibble. let's just listen to some old Uncle Tupelo and forget the whole thing...

Posted by: Mick | May 18, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Barry, you've just managed to raise yourself even further in my esteem. Windfall is one of my favorite songs, though that sentiment is somewhat tied to context for me. It reminds me of driving an ex down to Lynchburg for his mother's funeral... we listened to Trace in the car a few times. That song in particular just fit the moment perfectly.

Back to baseball, I agree with others here about the likeliness of a Nats/Phillies match-up. I bet they're still pretty bitter about that 2am loss on Sept. 28/29 last year that helped kill their post-season hopes. And I saw some inkling of an emerging Nats/Mets rivalry after the whole Jose Guillen/Pedro Martinez glare-down last year, but then it kind of fizzled. Honestly, it will probably be hard for anyone to view US as a rival until we're contenders.

Posted by: JennX | May 18, 2007 2:19 PM | Report abuse

I believe that Steve's suspicions about Brady Anderson's best buddy are correct.

Go Nats! Keep the MASN Cup at RFK for another year!

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | May 18, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Don't look now, but Collin Balester has produced two quality starts in a row at double-A Harrisburg and is sporting a 2.38 ERA.

Now, before we get all zotzed up, bear in mind that Manny is not about to torch promising young guys like Balester and Hinckley, as Barry noted on the chat the other day. Remember that Balester's just 21; it would seem a hideous risk to push him as hard as we did Mike O'Connor last season.

Not only that, but Harrisburg is approaching historic badness at least by Eastern League standards (10-28, .263, 12 GB barely a month into the season), so the Senators' fans might storm the barricades if we were to rob them of one of their last glimmers of hope.

Still, am I ever hoping this kid keeps eating his Wheaties(tm).

Posted by: Hendo | May 18, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

You people are the best. "Catchin an all-night station/somewhere in Louisiana/sounds like 1963 but for now/sounds like heaven"

I wanted the bluegrass band that played at our wedding to play that song, but they said they couldn't do it justice.

Went to Duffy's last night before the show.

As for Farrar v. Tweedy/Son Volt v. Wilco, let's listen to a little "Anodyne" from Uncle Tupelo and leave it at that.

Posted by: Barry Svrluga | May 18, 2007 2:46 PM | Report abuse

"On Baseball Prospectus, David Pinto posts a plan for reorganizing MLB out of the anachronistic "leagues" and into 5 six-team divisions sensibly based on geography"

Yee-Haw!!

... do I smell the end of the insanity known as the DH??

... Yes!

Posted by: david f watts | May 18, 2007 2:49 PM | Report abuse

... first Hill, now Bergmann. I sure hope these turn out to be minor injuries... I don't want to see this turn into a Wizards type situation!!!

Posted by: John | May 18, 2007 2:52 PM | Report abuse

... first Hill, now Bergmann. I sure hope these turn out to be minor injuries... I don't want to see this turn into a Wizards type situation!!!

Posted by: John | May 18, 2007 2:52 PM | Report abuse

There was more of a rivalry when Jorge was reporting for the Post, but now its just not the same. I grew up an Orioles fan, I still like the Orioles, but I'm bored by the Orioles. This weekend my son will wear an Orioles shirt and I will wear my Nats shirt. The Nats are more interesting to me for many reasons -- not the least of which is the fact that I can get to the games. Plus NL baseball better, NL more competitive. Frank Robinson was a fun and unpredictable manager (Acta needs to show a little more fire for theatrical reasons if nothing else). Rivalry? So hard to have a meaningful rivalry when there aren't meaningful games. In AL baseball I still root for the O's, in NL I root for the Nats. We don't need a rivalry, we need a starting pitcher.

Posted by: NatBisquit | May 18, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

To NatBisquit: Be greedy, ask for two (starting pitchers).

Posted by: Dancer13 | May 18, 2007 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Seems like the best rivarly is Tweedy vs Farrar. At least those guys have produced good records over the past few years, way better than the records of the Nats and O's.

Posted by: Rob | May 18, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Bluegrass -- now we're talking my kind of music! I loved when WAMU played it daily back in the day. Now it's down to a few hours a week. The Birchmere in Alexandria is a fun venue for bluegrass.

Posted by: natsfan1a | May 18, 2007 5:16 PM | Report abuse

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