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Philadelphia Clinches; Washington Watches

So what does a pennant-clinching night feel like? Depends on the perspective. This one ended tonight with what will surely become one of the iconic plays in Philadelphia baseball history. Ryan Zimmerman was up in the ninth, one out. The bases were loaded. Brad Lidge -- 40 for 40 in save opportunities at the time -- was on the mound in a 4-3 game. A hit, and Washington would take the lead. An escape, and Philadelphia was ready to pop the champagne.

Zimmerman pounded a ball up the middle, but shortstop Jimmy Rollins sprang to his left. From his knees, he flipped to second baseman Chase Utley, who relayed the throw to first. A 6-4-3 double play. A survival. A celebration. Citizens Bank Park went nuts. Zimmerman just walked back to the dugout.

A few Nats (including starter John Lannan) made sure to stand along the railing in the visitors' dugout to watch -- to get a taste for what it feels like. Rookie Collin Balester said the whole scene made him want to start this season over again. But some Nats didn't allow themselves to see the Phillies going crazy. Manny Acta said, "I don't watch celebrations unless it's my own one. I just take off."

The Nats clubhouse, obviously, was quiet. Today, us representatives of the Fourth Estate went in there, asked our questions and got our sober answers. Zimmerman, for one, said he doesn't need to watch another team celebrate to get a reminder of what he's playing for. But he also said this, addressing what his team needs.

"[The Phillies] and the Mets are two pretty good teams. If you look up and down their lineups and look at their bullpens and their rotations -- I mean, look at their payrolls. Everything is self-explanatory in baseball, besides the Rays. You can't go out and have eight 25-year-olds out there competing against teams like that. They're a good team. They have a bunch of talent. And more importantly, they have guys that come through when it counts. And that's why they get paid."

Well after Washington's clubhouse had emptied, the Phillies were still on the field. Just walking through the cluster of humanity, it smelled like a two-day frat party. Players families, wives, etc. were on the field. Every team executive was down there, it seemed. Jamie Moyer, tonight's starter, was wearing an XXL division championship T-shirt and holding a Bud Light. Fans stayed, cheering, for almost 45 minutes after the game had ended.

Said Acta: "You don't want to be on the other side, obviously, but also that's something that it is good for [our young] guys to see -- that you could be in that position, that you could be someday at Nationals Park with 45,000 people waving white towels or red towels or however we want to give them away. And it's a great scenario."

By Chico Harlan  |  September 27, 2008; 8:51 PM ET
 
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Next: Lineups from Citizens Bank

Comments

Zimm's comments sound more like a threat than anything else. But unless there's a total housecleaning of all the Lerner boys, their sons, in-laws, Stan, Bowden et al, this franchise is doomed to this sort of thing. Know what? This time next year, Nats could very well be finishing another 59-and-102 season, and the Lerners have just built up that much more equity. From us.

Posted by: Lerners are | September 27, 2008 9:05 PM | Report abuse

All I know is I broke out my Seattle hat Friday AM and started wearing it proudly. The mysteryhat luck overwhelms Natsluck.

Go Mariners! Remember, "Momentum" starts with an M! Do not punch out Ichiro for at least another day. Raul Rules!*

* Ibanez, not Castro. In a sense, Raul Castro rules, too, but not in a baseball sense.

Posted by: PTBNL | September 27, 2008 9:04 PM

Posted by: Seattle Fan Club | September 27, 2008 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Mark Lerner was right. Johan Santana is a total waste of money. I mean, why would a team possibly want a guy like that?

And Chico, where are the ellipses in your quote from Zimmerman? Surely he can't actually be frustrated with ownership, can he? You must have distorted the meaning of what he said, right? Right?

Posted by: Lerners ARE Cheap | September 27, 2008 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Zimm himself has been a guy who has come through in the clutch before. If his ball had gotten through the infield in the 9th inning today, the story, and his quote, would have been very different.

At this point, his quote sounds like frustration over a very galling moment in an extremely frustrating season. But since Zimm has been part of a team that lost most of its leadership to injuries this season, and has been under pressure to be the face of the franchise, I think the FO needs to listen to that frustration and take it very seriously. If he's still thinking along those lines when it's time to negotiate, he probably will want to negotiate somewhere else.

Posted by: 422 | September 27, 2008 9:39 PM | Report abuse

When is Zim eligible for FA? After 2010 or 2011? Let's not read too much into his comments at the end of a season like this when his decision on staying or going is a long long way down the road. We go 81-81 next year and this will feel like a hundred years ago.

Posted by: estuartj | September 27, 2008 10:20 PM | Report abuse

81-81 seems like a dream from this viewpoint-- until I remember that we went 81-81 in the Nats' first year here, and have progressively deteriorated to this lowest level. Baseball screwed the Expos for years; Lerners/Bowden are screwing the Nats.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 27, 2008 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Philly has to be the worst example you could choose to make the case for building through FA.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | September 27, 2008 11:45 PM | Report abuse

So, if either the Nats or Seattle lose...

--- Fisch Fry

Posted by: Gimme some o' that Strasburg | September 28, 2008 12:00 AM | Report abuse

"If he's still thinking along those lines when it's time to negotiate, he probably will want to negotiate somewhere else."

Hell I want to negotiate somewhere else! I will negotiate my money to Caps games and Redskins games but I'm done spending my money on a team that doesn't even try to win.
Fire Kasten before he ruins our fanbase like he did Atlanta's!
Fire Bowden before he gets ripped off in another trade or gets another DUI, whichever comes first!
Fire Manny for being DC's version of Alan Trammel in Detroit, a simple yes man until the team decides to try to be good!

Posted by: LEARNERS RIPPED OF DC TAXPAYERS!!! | September 28, 2008 12:20 AM | Report abuse

That 81-81 first season was really fueled by a very lucky, and very well played, 50-31 first half. Things haven't changed much since that 30-51 second half of 2005.

If the Lerners dip into their pockets and sign two superstars, say a Sabathia and a Texiera, they'd end up spending $38 million and still might not have a solid team. It's just not time yet to make that investment. And besides, why on earth would players like those two sign with the Nationals for any amount of money? They go to the Yankees, play in a brand new park, earn millions, and live happily ever after.

The Nationals need to get to a real .500 record (not what happened in 2005) before stars will sign with the Nationals. And I have no problem with that. Where is it written that D.C. baseball fans don't have to put up with bad baseball? Philadelphia has had baseball team since the turn of the century, but that didn't stop them from being one of the worst teams in baseball for large stretches of their time there.

We're building the team right, building a solid minor league system, and we're paying the price for that now. The Nationals already have their nucleus -- they just need time and then, like icing on a cake, they'll do like the Braves did, and add players like Greg Maddux via free agency and Fred McGriff in a trade for prospects.

It'll work.

Really.

Posted by: The Beltway Boy | September 28, 2008 12:21 AM | Report abuse

Oh, we can all breathe easier now, The Beltway Boy promises that everything will work out just fine, like a nice big cake with frosting. I feel much better now.

Really.

Posted by: Lerners ARE Cheap | September 28, 2008 12:39 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Beltway boy it will happen but, the bus driver should'nt be Jimbo and the Lerners need to spend some money this off season. one top free agent this year add a little jump start to the plan. Jimbo tried that this year with Robbie Mac, Estrada and LaDuca their is your cake in his face. Bowden not the man to run Stan's plan. We have a solid core it will take a few years to get there. It was great to see the Nats never give up today. The players who want to be part of it are here and they will bring in the next level in the next few years to come.

Posted by: Junkbucket | September 28, 2008 1:34 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if everything we're all saying and thinking here and now is any different than what Detroit fans were saying and thinking the year that the Tigers went 100-plus in the loss column. A couple years later, Detroit was playing in the World Series.

I for one am still renewing my 20-game plan for next year.

Posted by: Juan-John | September 28, 2008 2:31 AM | Report abuse

Chico,
Congratulations on your first season. You had a tough man to replace and you did well. Please keep NJ going in the off season.

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | September 28, 2008 6:47 AM | Report abuse

Lots of downtrodden comments in here. Let us remember that Tampa Bay was a basement dweller for many, many years, and even lost 96 games last year. Just look at how the Nats minor league teams progressed this year. I remember when the Prince William Cannons won in 89. They were a Yankee farm club and many of those players went on to win world championships with the Yankees in the 90s. So, don't jump ship just yet. I know it costs a lot of money to support a team that constantly makes you look the other way on the major league level, but when you do, just make sure you are looking at the future Nats, down in the system working there way up the ladder. It will happen at some point and perhaps it will be the Phillies in that visitor dugout watching the Nats celebrate someday.

Posted by: SC Nats Fan | September 28, 2008 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of the P-Nats, my championship tee arrived yesterday. I will wear it proudly.

I still have faith in the plan but I do not have it in me to hope for my team to lose or to celebrate when they do - particularly when doing so means that the Phillies clinch. I did not watch the celebration either, Manny. Go Dodgers/Wild Card Team!! Go NATS!!

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 28, 2008 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Re. next year, heck yeah, I'll still be there rooting for the Nats.

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 28, 2008 8:46 AM | Report abuse

This guy is so lame it's almost hard to comprehend. How anybody could leave this fee-simple idiot in charge of a major league club is beneath contempt.

>Said Acta: "You don't want to be on the other side, obviously, but also that's something that it is good for [our young] guys to see -- that you could be in that position, that you could be someday at Nationals Park with 45,000 people waving white towels or red towels or however we want to give them away. And it's a great scenario.""[The Phillies] and the Mets are two pretty good teams. If you look up and down their lineups and look at their bullpens and their rotations -- I mean, look at their payrolls. Everything is self-explanatory in baseball, besides the Rays. You can't go out and have eight 25-year-olds out there competing against teams like that. They're a good team. They have a bunch of talent. And more importantly, they have guys that come through when it counts. And that's why they get paid."<

Posted by: Brue | September 28, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Edit: The second comment was attributed to someone who has a sack. See the difference, kids?

Posted by: Brue | September 28, 2008 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Lets all get a grip. Jim, Manny and the Lerners are going to be here next year. People can pontificate all they want but the owners are going to do what they want. I followed the old Senators for years knowing they had no long term plans to ever win a championship. These guys do have a reasonable long term plan which may actually work some day. I agree they need to spend the money but it actually needs to make sense. No matter what business you are in it takes time to be a long term winner. Not every team can win. The trip is what its about each year. I admit the owners have their issues but give it a chance. Everyone want instant gratification. All of us at this blog are the pioneer fans for the team and we have had to suffer with the players. When they become more competive the highs will be higher. Go Nats. I am with you through the lows and I will be there during the highs.

Posted by: Doug B | September 28, 2008 10:05 AM | Report abuse

"You could be someday at Nationals Park with 45,000 people waving white towels or red towels or however we want to give them away."

Acta better be prepared to answer to this statement when he returns to DC. In all likelyhood the cost of 41,000 towels will be coming out of his payckeck.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 28, 2008 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Hey Brue, What so you expect from a manager who would use Bonifacio to pinch hit for Wil in a crucial situation. Lidge had no trouble showing him up for what he is. That awkward third strike whiff was pitiful.

Posted by: we lost rauch for nothing | September 28, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

SOCH: why did you say what you said about the "Phillies being the worst example of building a team through Free agency?"

If anything, the phillies might have the MOST amount of home-grown players of any team in baseball right now. I've been having this discussion (the composition of teams through development, trades and free agency) with friends over the past few days and its startling.

Taking into account the Phillies main starters; 9 outfield players, 5 starters and the closer, check these numbers out:

(by the way, I consider trades two ways; trades of veterans for other established veterans and trades of prospects to acquire proven vets. If you trade prospects to acquire a good veteran, I still consider it successful player development, in that your prospects allowed you to gain a good player).

Phillies:
10 home grown: Ruiz, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Burrell, Victorino (rule5), Hamels, Myers, Kendrick, Eaton
3 traded for prospects: Moyer, Blanton, Lidge
0 traded for vets:
2: FA: Feliz, Werth (Orioles original drafters)

That's amazing in this day and age; 10 of their 15 most important players were developed by their farm system. By way of comparison:

Nationals:
6 home grown: Flores, Zimmerman, Lannan, Balester, Martis/Bergmann, Hanrahan
1 traded for prospects: Dukes
2 traded for vets: Milledge, Bonifacio
5: FA: Boone/Young/Johnson, Guzman, Harris, Redding (6-yr minor league FA) and OPerez.

So, the nats are still really depending on free agents to get us through to this day.

Boston is kind of middle of the road:
Summary: 5 free agents, 5 draft picks, 3 trades for prospects, 2 trades for vets

Yankees: Summary: 8-9 FAs, 5 home grown, one traded for prospects (but their home grown players all came up in the early 90s and are aging)

Rays:
5 home grown (Longoria, Crawford, Upton, Sheilds, Sonnastine)
1 minor league FA (Gross)
4 traded for prospects (Navarro, Gross, Jackson, Garza)
1 traded for vets (Kazmir)
4 FAs (Pena, Floyd, Iwamura, Percival)


anyway, interesting analysis. One more interesting one, since we're depending on Kasten to build us a winner like he did in Atlanta:

Atlanta 95
10 home grown (Javy Lopez, Lemke, Chipper Jones, Blauser, Klesko, Justice,
Avery, Glavine, Merker, Wohlers)
0 minor league FA
1 traded for prospects (McGriff)
2 traded for vets (Grissom, Schmolze)
1 FAs (Maddox)

10 of their main players were home grown.


Posted by: Sec131 | September 28, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

If you need another reason to root against the Phillies, check out the nats320 blog.

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 28, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Poking around over at the Seattle site, I saw a little MLB Shop banner that featured a suggested selection. It was a Nationals adjustable cap.

So MLB's solace to Mariners fans? Root for the Nationals!

We're in a race to lose more than the other guys, and we're winning. The only thing is, as Seattle proved last night, the players don't try to lose. Which makes our sad "winning" streak that much sadder.

I'm a little blue today. It's like the last day of summer vacation before going back to elementary school or something. It's hard to summon the optimism when you know you can't fall back on the old, "We'll get 'em next time" nugget.

Dreary day in Minneapolis, and the Twins could clinch the division here. It's a difficult juxtaposition.

Posted by: John in Mpls | September 28, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

"that you could be someday at Nationals Park with 45,000 people waving white towels or red towels or however we want to give them away. And it's a great scenario."

The Lerners are too cheap to give away 45,000 towels they will probably charge money for them those greedy, cheap b@st@rds.

Posted by: Dagger | September 28, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

OMG. 320's is the most sickening display of nasty Phillies fans I've ever heard. Especially since he and Sohna are such nice people. My gawd, people...

Posted by: NatsNut | September 28, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

What did they expect? You wear the opposing team's jerseys and you expect to get harrassed. Good for them for pulling it off. One day DC will have a team heading into the playoffs and we can return the favor.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 28, 2008 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Happy birthday to Ryan Zimmerman. He is 24 today. Let's hope we can help him celebrate with a victory to send the Philly fans into the playoffs on a sour note.

I was proud of our guys yesterday for almost pulling it off.

Posted by: ladynatsfan | September 28, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

But then, there's a lot of us everywhere.

***********
What did they expect? You wear the opposing team's jerseys and you expect to get harrassed.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 28, 2008 11:59 AM

Posted by: Hugh Jassols | September 28, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm really impressed with the Astros, who've managed to hang in the wild card race even after they've been mathematically eliminated.

WaPo.com
NL Wild Card Standings
Team W L GB
NYM 89 72 -
Milw 89 72 -
Houston 85 75 3.5
Last updated Sep. 28, 2:48 A.M. ET

Posted by: Anonymous | September 28, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

That's nothing, what about Ichiro:

Suzuki records 8th season of 200 runs, 100 hits
http://tinyurl.com/3o7uy8

Posted by: You think that's easy?? | September 28, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Jay Leno.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 28, 2008 12:46 PM | Report abuse

and with that, the preantepenultimate New Post of 2008...

Posted by: I just wanted to get that in | September 28, 2008 3:09 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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