Tag: Washington DC

Updated Chances for Washington Nationals to Sign Top 5 Remaining FA Targets

Most free-agency talk regarding the Washington Nationals this winter will start and end with their search for a second baseman. But MLB‘s offseason isn’t called the “Hot Stove” because of aging middle infielders moving teams. 

It’s true, Washington could probably trot out its roster as is and contend for its second consecutive division title. But, as The Washington Post‘s Thomas Boswell points out, a blockbuster signing is never out of the question with Nats general manager Mike Rizzo. 

Rizzo proved that to be true in 2011 with the acquisition of outfielder Jayson Werth and in 2012 when he brought in starter Gio Gonzalez, two players who have been instrumental in the Nationals’ recent success. 

This time around, it’s free-agent hurler Max Scherzer’s name that is punctuating the discussion of second base options like Jed Lowrie and Stephen Drew. 

Washington’s biggest waves in free agency should come once the likes of Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister are either dealt or signed to extensions, but the Nationals are highly unlikely to remain quiet all offseason.

Therefore, here are the chances some of Washington’s most notable targets don the red, white and blue next season.

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Joe Judge’s Third-Place MVP Finish Produced Disorder in the Sport

Sixth in an 11-part series examining the vagaries of awards voting.

Never a superstar, Joe Judge spent 20 years as a solid, dependable first baseman. Still in the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins top 10 of most batting categories more than eight decades after last playing in the nation’s capital, he has remained in the shadows not only of Hall of Fame teammates Goose Goslin and Sam Rice but of the heavy-hitting behemoths who shared the same position—George Sisler, Lou Gehrig and, later, Jimmie Foxx.

Even away from cavernous Griffith Stadium, the smallish Judge was not a prototypical first baseman (to this day, he holds the franchise mark for sacrifice bunts—a tactic virtually unthinkable for a first sacker since the live-ball era); Judge belted only 57 home runs in more than 1,000 road games.

Yet, like many Senators players, he took advantage of his home park’s deep alleys, legging out 157 triples. And Judge was swift enough to swipe 213 bases during his career.

A lifetime .298 hitter, Judge exercised excellent bat control, drawing twice as many bases on balls as he struck out, giving him a healthy on-base percentage of .378. Judge helped his perennially also-ran Senators to consecutive pennants, spearheading Washington to its lone championship, in 1924, with a .385 average in the World Series—where, as usual, he was overshadowed, this time by the great Walter Johnson.

After 18 years in the nation’s capital, the Brooklyn native went home and put in 42 ineffective games with the Dodgers before being released. Quickly signing with the Boston Red Sox, he eked out another 45 games over two seasons, ending his career with 2,352 hits, 1,184 runs scored and 1,034 RBI.

Despite ranking, upon retirement, seventh all-time in putouts, fourth in assists and holding the highest fielding percentage for a first baseman in baseball history, Judge may be best remembered as the man who hastened the end of Walter Johnson’s career, when he smashed a line drive off The Big Train’s ankle in spring training of 1927.

This is an unfair label for Judge, as the 40-year-old Johnson recovered from the fracture to pitch 107.2 innings, although he was no longer effective—which one would expect of even a healthy 40-year-old.

Judge’s worth was recognized in his own time, collecting MVP votes in four seasons. Yet the fourth of those seasons rings peculiarly. In 1928, Judge tied for third with Tony Lazzeri in the AL MVP vote—well ahead of some big-name players.

That Lazzeri placed third is, in itself, a surprise—although a key member of Murderers’ Row, injuries limited him to 116 games. Why writers shunned George Pipgras (a league-high 24 wins and 300.2 innings) is a mystery.

Perhaps they figured Pinstripes pitching coasted on New York’s battering-ram offense. (It didn’t—New York owned the second-best team ERA in addition to the AL’s best offense.)

Judge came in far ahead of the only two other Yankees to garner MVP votes: Earle Combs (118 runs scored, an AL-high 21 triples) and Waite Hoyt (23-7, 3.36 ERA). (At the time, any American League player who had already won the MVP since its inception in 1922 was not eligible for future MVP awards. This eliminated Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, who, between them would have carted off the lion’s share of MVPs during the decade.)

One wonders what voters were thinking in 1928—the 98-win Philadelphia Athletics saw only two of their players make the ballot. And although the A’s Mickey Cochrane took home the MVP (just edging out Heinie Manush and his 241 hits), Lefty Grove and his Pipgras-tying 24 wins did not earn a single vote. (Incredibly, neither did Grove in 1930, when he won the pitching triple crown.)

With the Senators finishing a remote fourth—Washington was out of the pennant race before summer began—it’s hard to comprehend how a player from a team with a 75-79 record outpolled so many players from the contenders. (For the 1928 vote, only Ruth and Gehrig, among the Yankees and Athletics, were ineligible.)

Yes, Judge finished in the top 10 in walks, RBI, on-base percentage and stolen bases—yet he didn’t come close to leading in any of them.

And although he enjoyed another sterling year in the field, Judge hit a relatively pedestrian .306, with only 44 extra-base hits and 78 runs scored (trailing even such renowned table setters as Earle Combs and Joe Sewell in slugging percentage).

Judge did put together a strong second half, batting .336 and racking up an OPS of .896, but Washington fell 20 games off the lead before July. If anyone from the mediocre Senators deserved to scale the MVP vote so high, it was Goose Goslin, who snared the batting crown with a .379 average and slugged a mighty .614.

With the possible exception of Manush, Goslin was the most dangerous AL hitter after the MVP-ineligible Ruth and Gehrig (he led all vote-getters in WAR). Yet, enigmatically, Goose collected fewer than half the votes as did Judge.

Likewise, it’s outright baffling that no St. Louis Brown besides Manush made an appearance on the ballot. St. Louis improved by 23 victories over the previous season, yet voters completely ignored General Crowder, whose 21-5 record on a club that played only .532 ball should have put him right in the thick of the award race with Cochrane and Manush. 

Freshly traded from the ascendant Athletics, first-year Brownie Sam Gray, who fashioned a 20-12 record and a fine 3.19 ERA, also should have gotten votes. Didn’t any of those writers pay attention?

For all I know, Joe may have been thoroughly popular throughout the league with beat writers looking for quotes—which could have served him well come voting time. Yet considering that, in 1924, Judge received nary a vote despite hitting .324 while helping Washington to its first pennant (nor did Goslin, despite an AL-high 129 RBI—go figure), finishing third in the MVP race during a lost season is more than a little hard to fathom.

Ironically, Judge may well have been earmarked for a trade that season. The previous December, Washington owner Clark Griffith had bought George Sisler, St. Louis’ slowly fading superstar of a first baseman, for a pricey $25,000.

No longer the batting wizard he had been before losing a full season to sinusitis in the early part of the decade, Sisler was still a productive hitter—and a better one than Judge. Coming off a 200-hit campaign, his acquisition could only have meant that Griffith was looking to move the longtime Senator.

Calls for action about the logjam at first base became an open matter as early as two weeks into the season, even though Sisler had barely left the bench. Yet, strangely, Sisler never got a chance in Washington, pinch-hitting sporadically for a month before Griffith sold him to the Boston Braves at a $17,500 loss, while Judge went on to play all but one of Washington’s games that season.

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Washington Nationals Considering Moving Ryan Zimmerman to Left Field

Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is currently on the disabled list with a broken thumb, but when he comes back, he may no longer be “Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals third baseman.”

According to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post, the Nationals officials and coaches have internally discussed the idea of moving Zimmerman to left field when he returns from the disabled list.

The idea of moving Zimmerman away from third base has been floated around for multiple years now, and with his latest defensive struggles and Anthony Rendon playing strongly at third, it appears the time to do so could be now. And with Zimmerman’s arthritic shoulder, the sooner he can move away from the hot corner, the better.

As Kilgore points out, the Nationals have some confidence in the idea, based on the logic that if Michael Morse can learn left field, the more-defensively solid Zimmerman should have no troubles doing so. Morse was a shortstop coming up through the minors and moved to first base upon reaching the majors. 

Kilgore also brings up the point that the Nationals have no reason to make this idea public just yet. The team is still unsure of when Zimmerman will return from the disabled list, and Zimmerman himself would probably not be fond of worrying about position change speculation during his rehab. The idea is also not set in stone just yet, so the team will likely keep quiet until it is.

The other interesting part of this idea is what becomes of current left fielder Bryce Harper in all of this. Harper, like Zimmerman, is currently on the shelf as he recovers from his own broken thumb that he injured sliding into a base. But when he comes back (most think in early July), there’s no doubt the Nationals will want to get his bat right back into the lineup.

The most likely scenario if Zimmerman does move to left field is sliding Harper over to center. Denard Span is currently manning center field, but he’s posted an unimpressive (though steadily improving) .243 average and .296 on-base percentage to this point. Span is also set to become a free agent after this season, so the Nationals presumably would make taking care of Harper and Zimmerman (both signed through at least 2018) their priority. 

Harper, a converted outfielder in his own right, has had experience in center before. In 2012, he played 92 games at the position and he saw nine more games in 2013. While it may sound like he’d struggle transitioning defensively, Harper has actually posted a higher fielding percentage (.978 as opposed to .971) and UZR (9.8 as opposed to -3.1) in center field than left over the course of his big-league career.

While first base has long seemed like the most likely new position for Zimmerman, current first baseman Adam LaRoche is hitting too well (.319, five home runs, 21 RBIs) to justify benching him in favor of the third baseman. Additionally, locking Zimmerman in as the first baseman of the future would potentially limit the team’s power production from the position down the line; Zimmerman’s bat fits much better out of left field. It’s an idea that we haven’t heard before, but when it’s broken down, it just might make perfect sense.

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Bryce Harper Has Fun with NFL Draft, Jadeveon Clowney Pick on Twitter

On Tuesday, it will be 11 months to the day since Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper uttered his famous “That’s a clown question, bro” response to a reporter during a game in Toronto. The response ultimately turned into a pop-culture reference, as well as a line of Under Armour T-shirts. Almost a year later, the 21-year-old is still willing to laugh about it.

When South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney went first overall to the Texans in the 2014 NFL draft on Thursday night, Harper made the joke that everyone was hoping for. 



To be clear, Harper was just having fun, and congratulated Clowney as well, tweeting “Congrats to on being the number 1 pick in the draft..He deserves it! Guy is an absolute stud! .”

But it’s good to see that Harper is willing to laugh about something that has probably got on his nerves over the last year, and the Internet benefited because of it.

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Washington Nationals Should Stand Pat at Catcher in Wake of Wilson Ramos Injury

It was recently reported by the Washington Post that Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos is likely headed for surgery on his left hand that could keep him out for four to eight weeks. That leaves current backup Jose Lobaton in line to get the majority of the action behind the dish, with Jhonatan Solano likely in line to become the team’s new backup. 

As indicated by the fact that Ramos hit fourth (ahead of All-Star Bryce Harper and Silver Slugger Ian Desmond) on Monday, the Nationals clearly expected him to be a big contributor in the lineup. But suddenly, whoever starts at catcher will be an obvious candidate to bat eighth each game, and the depth in Washington’s lineup takes a significant hit. 

However, the Nationals shouldn’t panic. A lineup featuring the likes of Harper, Desmond, Denard Span, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon and Adam LaRoche is still plenty talented enough to score enough runs to win ballgames. And at this stage of the season—the Nationals have yet to play their second gameit’s unlikely that Washington will be able to acquire a catcher who presents a significant upgrade over the team’s in-house options without vastly overpaying. 

And to be fair, Lobaton hasn’t yet had a chance to show what he can do. He hit just under .250 (.249) in 277 at-bats with the Tampa Bay Rays last season, so based on his track record, he’s not a total liability offensively and deserves a shot to prove he’s worthy of the starting job. Considering Washington gave up Nathan Karns, their former Minor League Pitcher of the Year, to get Lobaton, they obviously think somewhat highly of him. 

Worst case, Lobaton struggles for a week or two and the Nationals go out and acquire a catcher. If the team loses enough games in that span that they’re in a significant hole in the standings, there are more serious issues at hand than Jose Lobaton being the starting catcher anyway, so why not give him a shot? 

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Washington Nationals: Jayson Werth Dealing with Hamstring Issue, Bruised Ankle

With concern centering around Stephen Strasburg following Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Braves, the offense also may not have come out unscathed. Right fielder Jayson Werth, the team’s second-leading home run hitter and run producer, fouled a ball off his ankle and aggravated his hamstring.

Near the end of the game, Werth felt cramping in the seventh inning while racing to catch a fly ball and make a throw home. During his eighth inning at-bat against reliever Eric O’Flaherty, Werth fouled a ball off his left ankle.

He fell to the ground, rolled around and got up gingerly. Nationals‘ trainer Lee Kuntz and Davey Johnson came out to check on him. He finished the at-bat but was replaced the next inning in right field by Roger Bernadina.

Via Dan Kolko of MASN Sports:

The ankle was a little swollen after the game, Werth said. The hamstring, while it bugged the veteran outfielder, doesn’t seem to be a major concern, yet. “I’ll be fine, it’s not like a strain or anything,” he said. “Just a cramp. Those things happen. Sometimes they happen and you guys never hear about them. The ankle probably (makes) the situation worse.”

Two teammates have dealt with hamstring issues over recent weeks, Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos. Zimmerman’s hamstring strain, which landed him on the 15-day disabled list, began as hamstring cramping.

Ramos was reinstated from the DL on Monday, backing up Kurt Suzuki in the loss to the Braves.

The Nationals organization is certainly hoping Werth‘s fate won’t be similar to Zimmerman’s. With the offense currently dealing with inconsistencies, they can’t afford to lose Werth‘s bat in the lineup. Especially with Ryan Zimmerman expected to return this Friday, against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Werth is due to test things out Tuesday before determining whether he’ll need any time off. 

With the additional scare to Stephen Strasburg on Monday night, who is currently dealing with forearm stiffness following his start against the Braves, the Nationals fan base will now hold their breath until both Werth and Strasburg are in the clear health wise.

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Nationals vs. Braves: Who Is the Better Team in the National League East?

As the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves set to go head-to-head this Saturday, one question remains on everyone’s mind: Who is the better team in the National League East?

The Braves are off to a blistering start with a 9-1 record, and not only are their bats on fire, but their entire pitching staff (with the exception of Julio Teheran and Christian Martinez) is pitching like they already have October in their sights.

However, the 7-3 Nationals may just be the better team. Led by phenoms Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, the Nats have one of the most complete teams on paper. Not only is their lineup stacked with talented bats, but they arguably have the most dominant pitching staffs in all of baseball.

So who will prevail as the season goes on?

This weekend’s games should offer a lot of insight as to how these two teams will fare against each other. I think the most interesting thing will be seeing whose bats perform better against each team’s pitching staffs.

If I were to pick a clear-cut winner now, I think I would have to go with the Nationals. 

Harper is arguably hitting better than anyone in baseball right now, Denard Span is looking great at the top of the lineup and even Ian Desmond and Jason Werth are starting to heat up and look good. And though Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche aren’t off to blazing start as of yet, both guys are way too talented to not rebound and start regularly contributing sooner than later. 

So who will win the National League East this year?

It’s way too early to start speculating this early in the season, but one thing is for sure: there’s going to be a lot of exciting games between these two teams as the season goes on.

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Michael Morse: The Smartest Move the New York Yankees Can Make Before the Season

The American League East is the most competitive division in baseball. From this division, the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles made the playoffs last October. The Tampa Bay Rays came up just short in their playoff push, but have competed for the division crown in each of the past five seasons. With the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox improving their rosters dramatically this offseason, there’s an argument that any of these five teams can win the division this season. 

The Yankees enter the 2013 MLB season with a bunch of question marks. Amazingly, it’s not just their pitching that should make them worried. It’s the bottom of the lineup. Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson taking up the first five spots in the lineup is still an elite top of the order. After that, it gets ugly rather quickly. 

Their biggest offseason acquisition, Kevin Youkilis, is expected to bat sixth. Sure, everyone remembers Youk’s abysmal start to last season with the Red Sox that got him traded. However, people don’t realize that he wasn’t much better with the Chicago White Sox. His batting average improved by three points (.236 from .233 as a member of the Red Sox) during his time in Chicago. His on-base percentage last season was .336 (.346 with the White Sox), which was by far Youk’s worst output in his career. Let’s also not forget that he hasn’t played more than 125 games in a season since 2009. 

Infielder Eduardo Nunez, rookie catcher Austin Romine and left fielder Brett Gardner are the final three spots in the lineup. Nunez and Gardner are good for steals, but those three guys will not intimidate pitchers at all. And Nunez is the Yankees designated hitter! I don’t think the Yanks will be able to win the AL East this season with a bottom of the lineup as inexperienced and offensively limited as this one. 

So what should the Yankees do? The smart and obvious answer is to acquire Michael Morse from the Washington Nationals.

After signing Adam LaRoche to a two-year deal, the Nationals have a logjam of position players. They have LaRoche as their starting first baseman, along with Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jason Werth roaming the outfield. This means that they have no room for Morse in the lineup. 

Morse is a great fit for the Yankees for several reasons. One of them is because of his weak glove. Teams love Morse’s bat, but they will shy away because of his fielding. Morse is not a strong outfielder, as proven by his advanced defensive stats. 

However, he would be a huge improvement over Nunez as the Yankees designated hitter. The past three seasons, Morse has accumulated 1,194 at-bats for the Nationals. His .296 batting average, .516 slugging percentage and .861 on-base plus slugging percentage would give the Yankees a huge boost in their lineup. This guy has a plethora of natural power, and he would give the Yankees another offensive threat that they really could use. 

Another reason why Morse makes sense for the Yankees is his contract. As evidenced by their lack of spending this offseason, the Yankees have made it a priority to be under the luxury tax by the start of next season. Morse is a free agent after the 2013 season, so he would actually would not hurt the Yankees’ monetary restrictions.

Now, how can the Yankees acquire Morse? The Nationals lineup and starting rotation is loaded, so they won’t have any interest there. But, their bullpen is lacking left-handed relievers. The Nationals lost three of them this offseason, including late-inning lefty Sean Burnett and long reliever Tom Gorzelanny. In fact, the only lefty reliever they currently have on their roster is Zach Duke. Not the guy I would want to face left-handed batters in tight situations.

The Yankees have two lefties in their bullpen, Boone Logan and Clay Rapada. Now, I doubt the Nationals would accept either of these guys straight up for Morse in a trade. But, if the Yankees add a middle-tier prospect, I think the Nationals pull the trigger. Washington will not re-sign Morse after this season, so why not get value for him that will help the team in the short-term and long-term? 

Trading for Morse is the type of move that could enhance the Yankees’ playoff hopes significantly. It helps the bottom of the Yankees order and it gives them a legitimate designated hitter. He can even play first base whenever Mark Teixeira needs a day off. All I know is, Morse is probably the lowest valued impact bat that the Yankees can acquire. But that bat would make the Yankees the favorites in the AL East again. 

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Real World Reaction: When Tragedy Eclipses the Sports World

Let me begin by saying this is never an article I envisioned I would ever have to write.

There are times in the world where we, the fans, lose sight of what is important in the world. We become so obsessed with free-agency signings, poor performances, wins, losses and lockouts that we forget that the games we become so obsessed with our merely that: games.

We clamor for the big-name player, victories, championships and heroes. We at times consider selling all of our possessions just for the opportunity to gain access to a ticket to the big game.

We put things like key games, playoffs, and sports rumors in front of what really matters: friends, family—our loved ones.

Yesterday was one of those days that truly helps put the world into perspective, making us realize that there are scarier things in the world than losing a game. When we realize how trivial one game seems in comparison to a life. What is more difficult to imagine is that it wasn’t just a life.

It was 27. And 20 of those were children.

I will not rehash the incomprehensible story that occurred on Dec. 14 in Newtown, Connecticut, if only to demonstrate humanity and sympathy to the families who are suffering from despicable evils that came to be.

I will simply try to understand and explain the impact that a catastrophe like today can have.

When we awoke that morning, it appeared as if it were a day like any other. The sun rose as it always does, and most of the world woke up to continue life as it always had.

We went to our respected jobs, sat down at our desks, sipped our first cup of coffee and began working as if it was just another day.

The athletes we have grown to worship went to their respected weight rooms, began there workouts and continued on as it it was just another day.

We all felt excitement for the events to come later on in the day—whether it was students in Ohio hoping that Mt. Union Football would take home it’s 11th national championship, or whether it was Brooklyn Nets fans hoping to witness the continued development of what they hope will be a championship year.

Even people as small as myself woke up yesterday looking forward as to how I would spin for my fellow Seattle Mariner fans the recent signing of Josh Hamilton by the Los Angeles Angels.

We were all looking forward to things that were so small, things that were so minuscule, that we forgot to look forward to the biggest thing of them all.


We all learned yesterday just how small our events truly are. Just how small a national championship seemed in perspective to the fragile life of a child. It seems that the only way many people in the world today can realize this perspective is through tragedy.

I will not try and cast myself in any higher light, for I am just as guilty as the rest of the world in that regard. But incidents like the Newtown shootings should not be what reminds us that professional sports are but a small luxury we have in our lives.

Regardless, what is important today is that we all remember and cherish the opportunities we are given. This is not something that is limited to just sports fans. It doesn’t matter your race, religion, economic standing or political opinions.

This is a lesson we all had to be reminded of.

Yesterday will forever live in infamy as the day 27 human beings lost their lives, with 20 of those losing them before they had even been given the chance to begin. The only way we can learn is by waking up tomorrow morning with a new understanding of the true importance of life.

So before you leave your loved ones tomorrow, remember to hug them and remind them just how much you care. Because caring for them is so much more meaningful than caring about the result of some game.

Because the biggest game in the world today is life, and the result of THAT game is the one we should all care about.

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MLB Playoffs 2012: Keys for Washington to Take 2-1 Series Lead in Game 3

In Game 1 of the NLDS, fans saw a competitive contest. In Game 2, fans witnessed a different outcome as the St. Louis Cardinals put on a slaughtering over the Washington Nationals.

With the series tied 1-1 between the Cards and the Nats, the newbies to playoff baseball are looking to take that series lead as they play at home for Game 3 on Wednesday afternoon.

However, there are two vital components necessary for Washington to be victorious and remain hopeful with their eyes on the prize for that World Series championship title.

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