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A final thought on the Nationals chemistry

I hope the story I wrote for today's birdcage liner, about the Nationals' improved team atmosphere, does not obscure the most important reason why they Nationals are winning more. Mostly, the Nationals are better because they have better players. Their defense isn't full of stone gloves. Their bullpen isn't full arsonists. It's not a Disney movie.

That being stated, the Nationals believe their clubhouse is a more enjoyable place to be this year than last season. That may not describe their success, but it is an important and (I felt) interesting part of it.

"It's a huge help," Adam Kennedy said.

"It can help you win ballgames," Manager Jim Riggleman said.

The presence of more veterans, it seems, has changed the way the Nationals look at themselves. Before a game this week, one younger Nationals player looked at a sheet displaying the standings. "The Nats and Mets leading the NL East," he said. "Who would have thought that?"

A veteran player looked over at him and asked: "What's the surprise?"

That may be something as important as liking one another. The Nationals, despite their current two-game skid, may be winning more in part because that's what they expect.

"They talk about the previous years," Kennedy said. "Well, we don't know anything about that. It's irrelevant to us. Guys like Pudge and myself, we haven't played on a lot of losing teams. We don't think that way. We think whatever team we're on is going to have a chance to win. All that other stuff, we don't know anything about. It's not really a burden over our head.

"You know about the losing. The problems maybe in the clubhouse, you know nothing about it. I don't know anything about it. I don't care about it. I know how it should be and how we can play well."

FROM THE POST

With the Caps and Wizards nowhere to be seen and the NFL season a ways off, the Nats have the local sports scene all to themselves -- and an opportunity, Boz writes.

Here's the story about the Nationals feeling they've got a closer clubhouse.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse 6, Columbus 4: Drew Storen allowed one run on two hits while striking out one in one inning. Shairon Martis allowed three runs on six hits and a walk in six innings. Seth Bynum went 2 for 4 with a home run.

Bowie 5, Harrisburg 3: Jesus Valdez went 3 for 4 with a home run. Matt Chico allowed two runs on four hits and no walks in 6 1/3 innings, striking out three. Rafael Martin allowed a run on two walks and a hit in 2/3 innings.

Potomac 4, Myrtle Beach 1: A.J. Morris allowed zero runs on two hits and a walk in 5 2/3 innings, striking out five. Michael Burgess went 2 for 3 with a walk.

Hagerstown 6, Rome 5: Daniel Lyons went 3 for 3 with two doubles. Jack McGeary allowed one earned run on seven hits and one walk while striking out two in five innings. McGeary lowered his ERA to 3.81 for the season.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

Here's visual evidence that a Philles fan got tasered last night.

Jon Heyman writes Bryce Harper could demand a record signing bonus, and he also takes a nice look at the rest of this year's top draft prospects.

By Adam Kilgore  |  May 4, 2010; 9:05 AM ET
 
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Next: Stephen Strasburg promoted to Class AAA Syracuse

Comments

Think how much better the Nats would be with Elijah Dukes patroling right field and the clubhouse!

Posted by: Section314 | May 4, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Ah, Harper will have 3 years to mature in the minors most likely... to hopefully get over any attitude issues...

Posted by: Ghost7 | May 4, 2010 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps. But I've always thought that money tends to make you more of what you already are as a person. If you're a generous person, having a lot of jack allows you to be more generous. If you're an ass, having a lot of money allows you to be a bigger ass, and get away with it. If this guy is arrogant and has a sense of entitlement before money, how's he going to be as a multi-millionaire?

I'm not necessarily saying the Nats shouldn't draft him. His talent may justify the risk. But if they do so, it should be with the understanding that his behavior may not change, and could, in fact, get worse.

Posted by: rbpalmer | May 4, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Nice piece, thanks. I thought I remembered a story about Nats pitchers playing a game with St. Claire back in the day, but it was pepper, not flip (thanks, Google).

http://tinyurl.com/277d6yc

Oh, and re. the Elvis wig, I read somewhere (maybe the MASN site) that it was Dunn's idea, but that Nyjer procured it.

In other news, maybe the new Phillies Nation motto should be "Don't tase me, bro"?


Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 4, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Nice article in the birdcage, Adam. It's nice to get this kind of thing, though I'm still trying to recover from the Nyjer Morgan interview. The audio on that was something.

And natsfan1a, I believe their motto is still "Don't mess with me or I'll upchuck on your daughter!" Given that last incident was aimed at a police officer's daughter, I wonder if the tasering was retaliation. I do think the tasering was excessive, though. Just tackle the guy as usual.

Posted by: cassander | May 4, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

314-

I bet there isn't a one of us that didn't think about whether the release of Dukes had a sizable, beneficial effect. There is certainly no good argument for how things would have been better. It is telling that no team has even been willing to give him a minor-league deal. It seems that perhaps the Nats really were his last chance. Poor guy- what a sad story.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | May 4, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Think how much better the Nats would be with Elijah Dukes patroling right field and the clubhouse!

Posted by: Section314 | May 4, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone know whether Dukes caught on with another team? And, is anyone surprised that it was a Philly (and Phillies) fan that got tased? What is it with those people? Is it something in the water up there?

Posted by: rbpalmer | May 4, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Whatever the explanation, after 25 games, the Nats record is 13-12, but based on run differential, the expected W-L is 11-14.

Last year at 25 games, the W-L was 8-17, but the expected W-L was an identical 11-14. The Nats are giving up fewer runs than last year, but have also scored fewer.

Last year, they were consistently below expected W-L, and this year above it. Hope they can keep it up.

Posted by: KenNat | May 4, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I thought of doing a motto for that, cassander, but I couldn't come up (as it were) with a pithy version.

My husband's theory on taser use was that the guards didn't want to try to catch up with the guy. After seeing the photo, I'd have to say that his theory has some merit, as there seems to be some indication of Dunlop Disease. ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 4, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Loving the weather and the pitching match-up tonight. Let's get a win!

Posted by: Kev29 | May 4, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

cassander-

I would expect more tasering from here on out. The Times Square incident is bound to make everybody jittery again, and it will be a worse idea than ever to randomly run where you shouldn't in crowded, public places.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | May 4, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

After seeing the photo, I'd have to say that his theory has some merit, as there seems to be some indication of Dunlop Disease. ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 4, 2010 10:12 AM

Well, in fairness, it is tough to catch the only non-morbidly obese Philadelphian.

Posted by: Kev29 | May 4, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

@rbpalmer: From Sunday's Boston Globe:
"Evidently, Elijah Dukes will take the year off from baseball. The troubled former Nationals outfielder backed out of a deal with the Tabasco Olmecas of the Mexican League in early April after not showing up for a reporting date, according to a source with knowledge of the deal. It’ll be interesting to see whether Dukes ever plays baseball again."

Posted by: Eyewitness1 | May 4, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Nice article by Boz - What a difference a year (and a new GM) makes. Although he does seem to be shamelessly stealing from one of our more creative NJers with "Clip, Store, and Save"

Posted by: lowcountry | May 4, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

@rbpalmer ... It was recently reported that Dukes is taking the year off baseball, after the only offer he got was from some indie league ballclub.

Posted by: CapitolWill | May 4, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

As for the tasering..bring it on. Would love to video of it! Anything to help curb that behavior is well worth it. I do not recall many incidents of fans running on the field in RFK or Nats-town.

Posted by: mintbucket | May 4, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Good point lowcountry ... hey Boz? Adam? What about those attributions particularly since you work with one of the originators of "clip 'n save"? You might get tasered at the water cooler!

Posted by: periculum | May 4, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

It was a 17-year old kid being stupid, but not hurting anyone. I don't think the tasering can be justified. He wasn't a threat to anyone, which I suppose is more than can be said of most Phillies fans.

And I do know of one incident of fans running on the field at RFK, but that was nearly 40 years ago, and wholly appropriate.

Posted by: cassander | May 4, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Regarding Haper and his alleged bad attitude. No source for the story was willing to be named, so why credit it? Every named source has said his attitdue is good for a 17 year old. I said at the time and I say it now, some scout was trying to drive Harper down in the draft so his team could pick him.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | May 4, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Tasers should be used on human beings only as a last resort. Philly fans, on the other hand, should be tasered early and often as a matter of general principle.

Posted by: joebleux | May 4, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

A few years back took 4 boys, ages 9 - 11 to floppy hat day at Camden Yards on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Sure enough, some guy jumped onto the field wearing absolutely nothing but his floppy hat (and it was not the only things flopping around). The crowd, and my boys, loved it. The guy got a Standing O.
It was clearly harmless, and the cops / security did not even bother to chase him. He ran out of steam after 20 seconds and jogged over to security, who walked him off the field.

I'm not opposed to tasering per se, in that there have been incidents of violence from fans, but by the time that guy got tasered it was already very clear he was not an threat to anyone except as an embarrassment to the fat slow security guards. Given when the decision was made to taser him, it was an inappropriate decision.

Worse, if he had just been tackled and walked away, he'd face minimal charges and minimal punishment.

Now, the club and the security people need to rachet up the charges and try for serious punishment as a backdoor strategy to justify their tasering.

Wonder how many lawyers have called the kids today wanting to represent him in a civil suit against the Phillies for excessive use of force and reckless endangerment?

Would be great if this story had staying power.

Posted by: Sunderland | May 4, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

>I bet there isn't a one of us that didn't think about whether the release of Dukes had a sizable, beneficial effect.

I don't. They'll get exposed in right when they start leaving all kinds of runners on. Maxwell will never hit, and Harris is a backup player with no power either. You're supposed to have a plan when you drop someone who's good for about 80 rbis, and they don't. There's no one in the minors either. It's just like Kennedy - he seems like an upgrade, but if he continues to do his uppercut wannabe power routine, it'll harm the club in the long run. Same thing with Guzman - he'll be his usual undisciplined self, and wear out his welcome too. He'll probably start barking when Zimm comes back full time and his ABs are cut back. The pitching's already getting exposed. They're not that much better talentwise imo. Outside of Clippard and Capps, there isn't much to talk about in the bullpen either. What the hell, I suppose we can enjoy it for a little while anyway. Beats watching what went on last year at the very least, but that isn't saying much.

Posted by: Brue | May 4, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Ben G. (MASN) is reporting that former 1st round pick Colten Willems has left the Hagerstown Suns, & is retiring. The Nationals have placed him on the restricted list.

Posted by: BinM | May 4, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Video of the Philly scene:
http://gawker.com/5530506/taser-takes-down-excited-teenage-baseball-fan

I wonder if the kid yelled: "don't tase me bro!"?

Posted by: MBUSA | May 4, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I was at RFK back in one of the last few seasons for the Senators when Morganna the Kissing Bandit ran on the field and kissed Senators' backup catcher Jim French. No one, especially French, seemed to mind that Morganna was on the field!

Posted by: VaNat | May 4, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Nice article on the team chemistry, Adam. "Nieves a fuera" (that's funny!) sounds like something we could use in here.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 4, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I saw someone run onto the field at least once in the contemporary Nats era.

In other news, new post up re. MiLB changes.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 4, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

At RFK, fwiw.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 4, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Tasers should be used on human beings only as a last resort. Philly fans, on the other hand, should be tasered early and often as a matter of general principle.

Posted by: joebleux | May 4, 2010 11:26 AM
_________________________________

This is all part of the Phillies "Taser-them-before-they-puke-on-someone" initiative.

Posted by: TimDz | May 4, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I recall few fans on the field at DC/RFK until the last year or so before the move. It seemed more common that final year.

Was that the year a woman got on the field after the game, and started taking her clothes off? Then there was the notorious Morgana running out to kiss Frank Howard. Was that at RFK or on the road?

Fans storming the field at the final game was another matter, and like cassander, I considered it appropriate.

Posted by: KenNat | May 4, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Don't know, as I wasn't in the area then. The RFK episode I witnessed was with the current team.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 4, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Brue - Suggesting that Dukes would be good for 80 RBI's this year is indeed the great debate.
My feeling is that based on what we saw last year, based on what he did (and did not do) over the winter, and based on what Rizzo and Co. saw in spring training, they determined that he could not hit his weight, and that's why they cut him loose.
If he could hit .270 and 20 HR's, I think they would have kept him.
And if other evaluators thought he could hit .270, he'd have been signed long ago.
He has some baggage, yes, but not enough baggage, and not recent enough baggage, to scare people off.

He hit well in 2008, but everyone adjusted except him. He sucked in 2009, and he showed nothing in his actions in the winter of 2009 and the spring of 2010 that would indicate he had improved or could improve.
He can't hit a breaking ball, and a bunch of baseball people are betting that he never will.

Posted by: Sunderland | May 4, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

OK, A, that *wasn't* the field, it was just the batters eye, and 2., I wasn't running.
But I guess I should be glad I only got escorted out. Maybe if I *had* run, they would have tasered me.

*************************
I saw someone run onto the field at least once in the contemporary Nats era.
Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 4, 2010 12:57 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 4, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for sharing, but the incident I made reference to was at RFK, and the guy ran into right field, if memory serves. He was escorted off the field. ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 4, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm of the opinion that in sports a player deserves an oppourtunity to win or lose their job on the field not in the clubhouse or the office,now Brue may or may not be right about Duke's anticipated production for this year but, releasing him before spring training ended was unfair in my opinion and with a growing lack of african-american players in mlb well.................you leave yourself open to criticism, look Dukes has a checkered past no doubt but he seemed to be going in the right direction here no problems at least none reported,in my opinion Rizzo or a team a spokesman could have at least given a reason for his release,some site the fact that no one has even offered him a minor league contract like i said about a month ago we aren't privy to what Rizzo has said to other teams showing even a remote interest in Dukes.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 4, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

dargregmag:

I don't think his past off-field stuff is much of a factor anymore. I could be wrong of course.

But I do believe that releasing him was a baseball / performance decision.
I don't believe this because this is what Rizzo said.
I believe it because it makes sense to me.

Perhaps it was coupled with a maturity / commitment assessment, in that they saw a guy in spring training who knew he needed to improve and did little about it over the winter.

As for releasing him early or late in spring training, one could certainly argue that they did him a favor releasing him early, giving him a better chance to catch on elsewhere.

I'm not saying Rizzo and Co. did the right thing. I'm just trying to put some reasoning behind why and when they did it, because the Nats basically told us nothing.

I'm surprised the Nats just gave up on him and did not want to invest further in him in spring training or in Syracuse. After all, he's younger than Maxwell, Taveras and Bernadina.

I'm surprised that no one else has picked him up.

All that said, I don't believe he would have been close to an 80 RBI guy this year.

I also think it a failing that Rizzo entered training camp without a better plan for RF.

But with or without Dukes, I think we'd be looking at the same problem with our production from right field.

Posted by: Sunderland | May 4, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Maybe I'm mistaken, but I was under the impression that Justin Maxwell and Willie Harris were African-American as well. Roger Bernadina, of course, is just an "imposter"...

Posted by: cassander | May 4, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Nyjer Morgan and Ian Desmond, too. With Hood and Burgess in the pipeline, the Nats may soon be a shining example of African-Americans in MLB -- which would probably be a smart move in DC. It's tough to advertise that tastefully, but I'd say the Nats could make a real breakthrough with a potential African-American audience with the right outreach.

Posted by: fischy | May 4, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

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