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Once An Inspiration, Now Just An Opponent

Almost exactly four months ago, at the start of spring training, every manager of every bad team in baseball found himself subjected, on an almost daily basis, to the same question: "Any chance [your team] can be this year's Rays?"

Through that prism -- the Rays have given every dreadful team hope! -- anything seemed possible, plus it helps when your team is 0-0 and hasn't even started its Grapefruit League season yet. By about Day 2 or 3 of spring training, the beat writers who saw Acta every day had reacquainted themselves with good judgment and ceased the Tampa-related questions. But national writers would stop by and ask the question, too. Made for lots of material. Here. Here. Here.

Just for kicks, I went back today and checked out the very first interview with Acta from spring training. Sure enough, even without direct questions, the manager made one or two allusions to the Tampa model -- ("I try to win with what I have," he said. "I'm not going in here thinking about 2010. This is a good bunch of guys, and baseball has shown in the last couple of years, do things right and you never know.") -- but ... well ... in just a few moments, you could see the signs of all the upcoming problems.

Just listen.


(On his biggest concern.) "The biggest one is our bullpen. We're rebuilding our bullpen."

(On whether Hanrahan is ready for the closer's job.) "Ready or not, he's getting it."

(On backup options if Hanrahan falters.) "Well, you know, we'd have to mix and match. But you know what, right now, it's too premature."

(On defense.) "We do need to get better defensively. We all know that. And that's something we're really going to hammer in spring training."

So, here we are four months later, and the more suitable question is, Are the 2009 Nats this generation's version of the Expansion Mets?

Boswell argues that the Nats have the attitude and professionalism to avoid a historically bad season.

Oh, and the Nats won a game, completing a 3-6 homestand, which, at least in NatsTown, is the sign of a team hitting a hot streak.

Tampa (speaking of those young, fightin' Rays) gets back to .500 by blowout out the Angels at the Trop.

The final links today are actually pictorial, and courtesy Pam Storen, mother of Nats' first-rounder Drew. When I was talking to her at Nats Park two days ago, she offered to send some photos of their draft party. So we've got a little "before" and "after." The whole fam had been joking that Storen needed to get selected early so his grandparents, Pat and Bonnie Storen (on the couch with Drew) could drive him while it was still light outside. That happened.

Before the Nats selected him:

M2.3.jpg

After:

M2.2.jpg

By Chico Harlan  |  June 12, 2009; 8:38 AM ET
 
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Next: Haunted by Lastings Milledge

Comments

This Storen thing is so feel good, I almost feel bad for saying it was a mistake. But, I'm an anonymous internet commenter, so, it was a mistake!

Posted by: Section506 | June 12, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Great pics, thanks for sharing them.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 12, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

I just love this line from Boswell's column:

"As others joke about the "Natinals" misspelled jerseys or malfunctioning scoreboard clock or the rain that has interrupted a third of their games this season, the Nats themselves just take the abuse like a room full of suffering beasts of burden."

It's as if Boswell himself had never even heard of the Natinals thing, instead of being the one milking it for all it was worth ever since the day it happened. Others, Tom? Et tu, Brute?

Or maybe by saying "others" he means the torch has now been passed to Wilbon, whose next 27 columns will be nothing but plagiarism of Boswell's "Natinals" series. Pure Pulitzer material, that. Can two guys win one for writing the exact same thing?

Posted by: nunof1 | June 12, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

The Bog has a new post up, an interview with Rob Dibble.

Also, carrying forward:

Chalk it up to (natsf)anhedonia 506. I'm always happy to see a win. I had a bit of a double-header last night in that I watched Major League 2 after the game ended. I think I might like it better than the first one (but it's been a while since I saw that). I loved Randy Quaid's interpretation of the trajectory of fan base moods given a losing team. Also, Bob Uecker's beleaguered broadcaster (glug glug).

On the coverage front, I second the thanks for the Boz column (and his chat yesterday). OTOH, it would also be nice to see a summary of draft results. Could that be a coverage fail? ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 12, 2009 8:54 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 12, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Loved the pictures, thanks Pam and Chico, and welcome to to Drew, glad you're on the team.

Posted by: Traveler8 | June 12, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I know everyone wanted Grant Green or Alex White, (Aaron Crow refused the right for us to draft him again, so we couldn't have even if we wanted to)

..but Im one of those few who think Storen was a good pick. If he becomes a solid relief pitcher..than hell ya. I don't know if y'all noticed but we sort of need that right now, even if our bullpen is pitching solid the last couple of games....

Posted by: Cartaldo | June 12, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

"I'm an anonymous internet commenter"

Hardly...

I think the writers are running out of things to write about. Same ol' story...

BTW, did you see Biemel's wool? Combine it with the mullet, and he looks like he stepped out of a different decade. Maybe he's trying channel someone...

Posted by: CajunD | June 12, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

"I just looked at the box score, and according to that, all three runs the Nats scored were earned. How could Guzman's run have been earned when it was scored on an error?"

In determining whether that run is earned or unearned, the official scorer assumes the error did not occur and looks at what happened after that play. If the runners on base would have scored anyway based on subsequent hits, then the run is earned. Specifically relative to the Guzman run, absent the throwing error by Phillips Guzman would have been at third and Zimmerman at first with two outs. (As Dave Jageler often says, you can never assume the double play.) Guzman would then have scored anyway on Dunn's single that immediately followed. Thus Guzman's run is earned.

If an error occurs on what would have been the third out of the inning, then any runs scoring as a result of it and any subsequent runs are unearned.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 12, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

I'll second the welcome for Drew, and I'm with you, Cartaldo.

Also, I forgot to mention that the Boz bit about fans sometimes mailing it in really resonated with me. That's just how I felt in the late innings of Sunday's game - like I was mailing it in. The kids around me were cheering like crazy, hoping for a comeback, but I couldn't quite muster up their spirit. Kids always seem to have a good time at a ballgame, win or lose. Love to see that hope and youthful spirit!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 12, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Didn't Majestic, after the issue came to the forefront, take responsibility for the misspelling on the jerseys? Folks keep harping on that as some tangible illustration of the Nats' incompetence. From what I understand, it wasn't even the Nats' fault.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | June 12, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Yes, Majestic issued an apology. I think the harping on the Nats is because nobody noticed.

Posted by: Section506 | June 12, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Yes, Majestic did apologize. Still waiting on the apology from the weatherman...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 12, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

And evidently I owe 506 a coke.

I believe that at the time the Nats said that they looked at the back of the jerseys but not the front, having assumed that the team name would be correctly spelled.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 12, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, nunof. Your explanation resolves the earned run issue, but brings up aother. Seems to be a bit faulty reasoning. With runners on first and third, you probably pitch to Dunn a little differently than with a runner on first. Assuming that what followed an error would have ocurred without the error seems almost as bad as assuming a double play.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | June 12, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

"Assuming that what followed an error would have ocurred without the error seems almost as bad as assuming a double play. "

Which brings us to our next point, the earned run average v. walks-hits per innings pitch in evaluating a pitcher...

Posted by: Section506 | June 12, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Watching yesterday's game on television was interesting in that it seemed the energy level surrounding the game was like that of a cell phone battery as it barely squawks out the "low battery" signal. The expectations of the fans have been suitably lowered to that of polite resignation. The repeating failures of the heart of the order to have a batting pulse yesterday was accepted by the fandom as a serene status quo. No rabid rallying cries for this bunch. So how fitting was it that the Nats' master of rally killing double plays actually hit a double play grounder (once again) that caused two runs to score? Amazing!

OTOH, Kearns is finally getting on my nerves. I had hopes for him after witnessing his Spring Training resurgence. Now it is just a rewind of the same hazardous batting stroke that we were forced to watch all of last season. At least last year he had the injury excuse as a shield. Thinking of the number of times that we have offed Bergmann from this team for nonperformance it is a shame the same standard could not be held to Kearns. Eight million dollars that contributes nothing is not a bearable weight under any rational management. Time to eat the money.

Posted by: driley | June 12, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

About time the Nats win a game they should have lost. I loved it when both Rob Dibble and Johnnie Holliday starting screaming "GO GO GO!" when the Reds skied the throw to first base on what should have been the double play. In fact, Rob Dibble has been one of the most positive upgrades for the Nats this year.

Posted by: trezmartin | June 12, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Cavalier83, I didn't write the rule, obviously, but I think your saying that Dunn might not have gotten that hit because they would have pitched him differently and therefore they shouldn't assume it would happen is a bit of a stretch. The rule doesn't make assumptions about what might have happened, and it doesn't give any "extra credit" for anything. All it says is that if the throwing error did not occur, Guzman would have stopped at third. It doesn't award extra credit to the throw by saying Zimmerman would have been out, so therefore he's at first. Dunn's subsequent single actually occurred, and it would have scored Guzman from third. Therefore, if the throwing error didn't happen, Guzman still scores. For a rule that's basically arbitrary anyway, it seems pretty logical and consistent to me.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 12, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Boz's article actually made my eyes well up with pride:

"...this will remain a team that is devoid of fiery leaders, but has a core of solid responsible pros, surrounded by fringe players desperate to stay in the majors and youngsters so excited to be in the big leagues that they wouldn't know how to fake it if they tried. They show up. They try their best."

Posted by: NatsNut | June 12, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I know you didn't write the rule, and I wasn't minimizing its application in this case. Do you really think that you pitch to Adam Dunn the same way with runners on first and third in a tie game and with a runner on first and down by one? I just think it is a stretch to assume that while Dunn did get a single in reality, that it would have happened if the situation was different.

I understand the application of the rule, and it seems rather easy to standardize. I just happen to disagree with it.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | June 12, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

"BTW, did you see Biemel's wool? Combine it with the mullet, and he looks like he stepped out of a different decade. Maybe he's trying channel someone..."

I don't think it's a mullet, it's just long hair. Either way it all looks good on him :)

Posted by: skippy1999 | June 12, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

And Boz hit the nail on the head about fans mailing it in.

I was sitting in the lower bowl, 3B side yesterday, pretty much a lifeless lump of a fan. When Zim came up to bat in the 8th the folks on the 1B side started to stand up and cheer, I didn't even stir. But then people in our section started to get up. I scolded myself, stood up and cheered and soon the whole stadium was alive again, standing up and cheering and screaming until the end of the game.

I'm convinced that's what sparked the good fortune and the win. So I've learned my lesson and promise to be a good, cheering fan from now on.

Posted by: NatsNut | June 12, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Cavalier83, you're going way beyond the question of why was the run earned and not unearned, which is all I'm trying to explain to you. Of course things would have played out differently if the error hadn't occurred. And of course any rule like that has to include assumptions and what-ifs. But the rule is obviously written in a way that keeps them to the bare minimum. Things aren't always black and white.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 12, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I know I'm going beyond the original question, which is what I said in my second post. I'm not disagreeing with your explanation of the rule.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | June 12, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Geico is going to buy the Stadium naming rights and Beimel is just getting into "Caveman" character...
_________________________________________________________

"BTW, did you see Biemel's wool? Combine it with the mullet, and he looks like he stepped out of a different decade. Maybe he's trying channel someone..."

Posted by: TimDz | June 12, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

That will change, at least temporarily, during the upcoming interleague series against the Tampa Bay Rays of the American League. Dunn will become the designated hitter, leaving Willingham available to return to left field and Kearns to start in right.

Oh, joy. More one-handed, three- or four-pitch whiffs from AK.

Lerners, do the right thing: eat this stiff's $8 million.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | June 12, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

"BTW, did you see Biemel's wool? Combine it with the mullet, and he looks like he stepped out of a different decade. Maybe he's trying channel someone..."

Beimel doesn't have a mullet. He just has long hair. From Wikipedia: A mullet is a unisex hair style that is short in the front and long in the back, often referred to as "business in the front, party in the back". As discussed between himself and Holliday on the broadcast the other day, Rob Dibble in his playing days actually did sport a mullet.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 12, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Boz can talk all he wants about how teams don't usually fire their manager when the players are still playing hard and haven't given up on their manager.

But what about when their manager has given up on the team? If the players really do "show up and play for Manny" every night (which I'm not sure I agree with), don't they deserve a manager who also shows up and fights for them, as opposed to an unimaginative, lifeless lump in the dugout?

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | June 12, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I'm a little bit scared to ask, but what's his "wool"?

Speaking of Dibble and Holliday discussions, I liked when Dibble asked him if he'd ever done any Shakespeare (he hadn't). Dibble then followed up with a question about whether he'd done any dinner theater (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum). Stream of consciousness broadcasting. If you don't get it, you don't get it. :-D

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 12, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Also, I hope that Carpenter is back for the road trip. Given that Holliday seemed to think we were playing the D'backs (I think the trivia question may have confused him), it could *really* confuse him to go on the road.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 12, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

from MLB.com
http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090611&content_id=5273974&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

With their 34th pick, the Nationals took right-hander Shane McCatty out of Oakland University. His dad, former big league pitcher Steve McCatty, was just named the club's big league pitching coach last week.

Posted by: dclifer97 | June 12, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

An early look at the Nats' 2010 possibilities with their second-consecutive No. 1 overall pick. (You decided if that's an optimistic or pessimistic outlook ... )

http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/draft2009/insider/news/story?id=4253106

Posted by: GoodThingHeSigned | June 12, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

From MLB.com
http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090611&content_id=5273974&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

With their 34th pick, the Nationals took right-hander Shane McCatty out of Oakland University. His dad, former big league pitcher Steve McCatty, was just named the club's big league pitching coach last week.

Great to know the nepotism that is ruining this franchise doesn't stop at the Lerners' corner offices.

Stooge Rizzo got any kids? Manny? StanK?

Posted by: jdschulz50 | June 12, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Comparing the 2009 Nats to the 1962 Mets ... after 58 games, they're tied.

http://tinyurl.com/natsmets

Posted by: SilverSpring8 | June 12, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

"Comparing the 2009 Nats to the 1962 Mets ... after 58 games, they're tied.

"http://tinyurl.com/natsmets"

Mets, 232 runs. Nats, 267.

Mets, 363 runs allowed. Nats, 343.

Posted by: Section506 | June 12, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

"I'm a little bit scared to ask, but what's his "wool"?"

I'm pretty sure that's his beard, but the original poster can clarify.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 12, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Chico,

Last year the Nats offered Crow 3.5 (he wanted 4.0) and this year Storen came in at 1.6. Could you please ask Rizzo if there is a connection between money offered and talent or worth of the player? In other words, ask him who is the better player, in the Nats estimation, Storen or Crow?

Obviously the difference of 2.4 between Crow and Storen is extraordinarily important to the Nats' ownership. I'm just wondering if Rizzo will admit to sacrificing talent in order to derive those savings for his bosses? It is understandable that Rizzo will want to do what he can to keep his job, but I just wonder how he will try to spin it?

Posted by: EdDC | June 12, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

"Great to know the nepotism that is ruining this franchise doesn't stop at the Lerners' corner offices.

Stooge Rizzo got any kids? Manny? StanK?"

I suppose you'd prefer another former Red? This is a step forward, limiting it to immediate families only, not "extended baseball families." I've got no problem with them drafting the pitching coach's kid in the 34th frickin' round. Provided he's a five-tool player, of course.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 12, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Interesting math, EdDC.

Why are you bothering substract Storen's sign bonus from what Crow wanted? The two numbers have nothing to do with each other.

The only numbers that are relevant (if you really need to rehash the Crow non-signing over and over and over) are 4 and 3.5.

Posted by: joebleux | June 12, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

"Last year the Nats offered Crow 3.5 (he wanted 4.0) and this year Storen came in at 1.6. Could you please ask Rizzo if there is a connection between money offered and talent or worth of the player? In other words, ask him who is the better player, in the Nats estimation, Storen or Crow?"

Keep in mind that the Nats' final offer to Crow was about double the slot money for a #9 pick. Crow's demands were even more above slot. So it doesn't make much sense to be comparing a player who wanted over twice slot money with another player who signed at a little below slot for the same draft position and then accuse the Nats of cheaping out on account of that.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 12, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

"Great to know the nepotism that is ruining this franchise doesn't stop at the Lerners' corner offices."

This happens with every team in every draft. Once you get beyond the 30th round, teams start selecting people as favors or for the story. The White Sox drafted another of GM Kenny Williams' sons yesterday. The Red Sox drafted the son of Dodger owner Frank McCourt. The Angels drafted Muhammad Ali's son. The Phillies drafted the son of one of their scouts. The list is honestly endless.

Posted by: Brian_ | June 12, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

(continued) ... the White Sox drafted the daughter of one of their executives several years ago

Posted by: Brian_ | June 12, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

The inspiration would be appreciated if we were making strides like tonigt's opponent but that ain't the case,in fact we are so far behind the Ray's in terms of progress(minor league) and major league that it ain't even funny.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 12, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

CiL: I think if the players really felt Manny doesn't have their back they wouldn't play so hard for him. This is a theme I've mentioned all season... I can totally understand the general clamor for Manny's head based on the team's record, but the fact that they're playing hard for him still really does mean something. They're not mailing it in. They hang in, they claw back, they battle. Whether the rest of us like Manny's laid back demeanor or handling of pitchers, the bottom line is his troops respond to his leadership. That's an intangible that's hard to overlook.

Posted by: outsider6 | June 12, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I seem to recall a coach's son that played up the road in Bal'more for a few years. That seemed to work out alright.

Posted by: twinbrook | June 12, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

The Braves drafted John Schuerholz's son while he was the GM there.
___________________________
This happens with every team in every draft. Once you get beyond the 30th round, teams start selecting people as favors or for the story. The White Sox drafted another of GM Kenny Williams' sons yesterday. The Red Sox drafted the son of Dodger owner Frank McCourt. The Angels drafted Muhammad Ali's son. The Phillies drafted the son of one of their scouts. The list is honestly endless.

Posted by: Brian_ | June 12, 2009 11:57 AM |

Posted by: lowcountry | June 12, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

You're exactly right, Brian. I'm in Boston this week-end, and everybody's making a big deal of the Red Sox drafting Yasztremski's grandson in round 30-something. Kid will likely pass on signing and attend college, but it makes for a nice sidebar to the story.

Posted by: Bethesdangit | June 12, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Piazza's dad was an old buddy of Tommy LaSorda -- hence Piazza was drafted in the 62nd round as a favor. That worked out ok too.

Posted by: outsider6 | June 12, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I loved the photos of Storen and his family. We were at the game this week when he was introduced to the crowd and threw out the first pitch. It's wonderful to see his joy and optimism. I hope all the cranky bloggers bemoaning his selection don't suck all that enthusiasm out of him before he's ever thrown a pitch for us.

Posted by: Natsgal | June 12, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Accumulating pitching talent is sound strategy. However, you still need defense to go with it.

And I still think they should give Jorge Padilla chance in the big leagues. Looks like he's earned a shot given their current standings and record. He can't be any worst than Kearns, decidedly better as he has much to prove.

Posted by: periculum | June 12, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

The Nationals have also drafted coaches sons before. They drafted the son of Frank Robinson's bench coach in 2006. He never signed and I don't think they expected him to.

Posted by: natsguy | June 12, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

WHat ever happened to that kid the Nats drafted in like 2007 where they came up with some sort of special deal so he could complete his college at Standford, or something like that? I can't remember who that was. Is he still with the organization?

Posted by: twinbrook | June 12, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

I've never been a believer that a manager wins or loses many games. Still, when your team is on a pace to equal the worst record ever (with apologies to the Cleveland Spiders), on the heels of 102 losses, a change in the dugout can't hurt and would at least send a message to fans that the FO hasn't written off the season. We can talk all we want about how the players are really trying hard for Manny, but what difference has it made? The Nats are still 16-42. A team that was mailing it in couldn't do much worse.

Posted by: nats24 | June 12, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

McGeary is the Stanford guy -- he's at Hagerstown, but is 0-5 or 0-6 so far

Posted by: nats24 | June 12, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

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