The Beard Appears Ready For Action

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For the first time in quite a while I made my way back to Woodbridge, the area where I grew up. I did not go to shop at Potomac Mills nor did I go to eat some veal marsala at Roma. I did not go to revisit my childhood. I made my way back home because I heard on MLB Network, during Quick Pitch, that the Nationals’ grizzled RF Jayson Werth was in town for his rehab assignment with the Nats Single-A affiliate, the Potomac Nationals.

With a ball in my hand and P-Natitude in my heart, I got in my truck to see the progress Werth has made since injuring his hamstring. Let me be the first to tell you that Werth appears to be locked and loaded. He went 1-2 in the game with a hard-hit single (pictured above). Watching him warm up and watching him in the outfield revealed that he appears to be comfortable on the field and whatever discomfort he may or may not still be feeling is not slowing him down at all.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Werth on the Potomac Nationals was his presence. It is easy to feel the championship-caliber veteran presence Werth has to him when he plays in DC. But it is significantly more evident in the more intimate Pfitzner Stadium. Every time the ball left the barrel of a Salem player’s bat, you could hear Werth shouting in RF on how to field the ball. Whenever he walked back to the dugout, he was accompanied by the young CF, Michael Taylor, who was listening to Werth as if he were listening to a coach.

This is the kind of player Werth is. As much as he is a competitor on the field, he is also a mentor to the young talent that we can expect to know over the next few years. We all see his contributions on the field. We see the clutch hits, the home runs, the walk-offs, the long and collected at-bats, the beard, and his winning mentality. What many do not see is his off-the-field presence that is worth almost as much as his contributions on the field. It is for this reason that I would love to see Werth serve as a coach to this team when he retires from playing.

After the game, Werth delighted a lot of fans by talking with them and signing pretty much anything people put in his face. So Werth and I have crossed paths yet again and I was able to shake hands with the legend. I also managed to get a ball signed for a great friend of mine. Yes, the benefits for going French with the Werth mask keep pouring in!

Rest your weary heads Nationals fans, Werth will be back in no time and, from the looks of it, he will be back with a vengeance.

Let’s Hope Drew Storen Hasn’t Been Brad Lidged

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Let’s get this out of the way–

It is ridiculous to judge a baseball team playing a 162-game season after only 12 games. In fact, I advocate completely ignoring the baseball season in the way of stats, standings and record until at least 20 games are under a team’s belt. Maybe more, but to make rash judgements at this time is just silly.

But this is a blog and it needs word porn. So let’s talk about the elephant in the room– Drew Storen.

No Nats fan wants to talk about closer Drew Storen. We don’t. We want to sit there with a hot dog up our noses and beer in our pants pretending all is well and we have at least the third or fourth coming of Mariano Rivera. After blowing the most important game in Nationals history in shocking fashion in the 2012 playoffs we want to believe that Storen spent the off season getting his head together and is ready to redeem himself.

But has he? After such a definitive, career defining moment– has Storen gotten his head around it? As I said at the beginning: I’m an asshole if I judge Storen on just 12 games and a 3.38 ERA so I will give him the benefit of the doubt– but….

I don’t think he has. My gut says so. His face says so when he gives up a play or a run. Storen used to have the look and confidence of a young buck who was deep in the rut and knew he’d have a choice of does. Now, I have a feeling his mind is constantly stained and stuck on that long, cold October night. After a quote like this, how could it not? Associated Press:

“We had it right there, and the most disappointing thing I’ll say is that I just let these guys down,” Storen said. “I know there’s an unbelievable crowd and unbelievable support, but for the amount of adversity we dealt with this year, for it to come down to that was kind of tough.”

Christ. I feel so bad for the kid and so early in his career. But, greatness, legend, “that time” comes even at the most unwanted of times. And he blew it. He absolutely blew it. People remember those who have moments of greatness but equally remember those who shit the bed. Nats fans will always remember Drew Storen and unless he closes the final game of a World Series game or even more important playoff series in the Nats favor, he will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

I can only think of Brad Lidge at times like these and when you think of Brad Lidge you most likely think of Game 5 of the 2005 National League Championship Series where Lidge’s moment came caving in when Albert Pujols mortared a Lidge  pitch for an eventual game winning home run when the Astros, relying on Lidge, where one out away from a World Series berth. Gone went the baseball as well as Houston’s last post season dreams of glory, Lidge’s soul and pretty much Lidge’s career. Ever since he really hasn’t gotten back on the horse entirely. The young, naive, closer was scared out of him. I am sure he still wakes up in the middle of the nights in drenching sweats.

Everyone fears the same happened to Storen. Everyone. All of us, even though we pretend to sip the Kool Aid with smiles on our faces and give the kid pats on the back saying, “Next time, killer.” I hate to admit it, but I don’t feel the confidence in Drew Storen right now. I really would rather him not close out games or at least close games at this juncture. Not until he can find his Apollo Creed to hug in the waves. Not until he truly finds his head.

Benching him won’t do anything for him. Like Maverick in ‘Top Gun’ they need to get him back out on the mound as soon as they can after crashing and killing the Goose. But start him small, have him pitch relief in innings of low pressure and against scrub teams. Build up his confidence before he engages the Russians again. I would say maybe a quick trip to Syracuse might do him some good, but I know it will never happen and that might do him more damage than good.

It really is looking like the big problem for Washington this season is going to be the bullpen. The starters are doing alright, the offense is showing up more often than not, but that bullpen with a messed up Drew Storen in it is looking a little exposed. Pitching mechanics can be fixed and tweaked. Head jobs require a little more work.

It is hard working with a mind job. Trust me, I have a staff full of them.

It’s Time To Clear The Air On Jayson Werth

It is no mystery that Jayson Werth is a player of interest for every Nationals fan whether it is for good reasons or bad.

All of us are forever grateful for the walk-off solo shot in Game 4 last postseason and for the joy of seeing that golden beard for 162 games (barring injury). We all also see the impact he has on young players like Bryce Harper who practically idolize Werth for good reason. Despite all of these great things, Jayson Werth seems to maintain a reputation amongst a lot of fans for being somewhat cold and arrogant.

As I was sitting in the bar of my hotel knocking back a nice Sam Adams, I had a nice long talk with the bartender. I asked him if he served drinks to any of the Nationals since I knew a few of them are staying or have stayed in this hotel. He told me that he served drinks to Roger Bernadina last week prior to him leaving to represent the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. From there we talked about the different players on the team and when Werth came up, he said he heard that Werth is “kind of a jerk.”

This is definitely not the first time Werth has been accused of this. Earlier on Friday, some fans were calling him arrogant since it is so tough to get his autograph while various other players like Ian Desmond sign so consistently. But it’s time to go ahead and clear the air on Jayson Werth.

I have met Werth once before. He stopped in his Porsche to sign autographs after a game where he went 2-4 and the Nationals won. When I met him, he signed my authentic Werth jersey and was nothing but nice. Now I am here at Spring Training and have had multiple experiences with Werth where he was a lot of fun and very social. I will even go as far as to say that Werth has the most personality out of every player on this team.

On Tuesday, Werth interacted with fans as he was walking between the batting cages and the field. We all had a good laugh when I told him his beard was awesome and that he was an inspiration to men with beards everywhere. Knowing his reputation, I was a little nervous about how that would go over. But my fears were put to rest when I heard Werth start laughing loudly followed by a friendly “thank you buddy!” I found out later on that he had stopped to sign after the game for a few fans.

On Friday he walked out of the ballpark while on his phone, hung up when I called and came over to sign. He made it clear that as much as he would love to sign for everyone, he wouldn’t have time. However, he stayed for a few minutes and managed to sign for just about everyone. In fact, there were two occasions where he began to walk away and then came back to sign more autographs for fans who weren’t able to get him initially.

Now for the sake of being fair, Werth can be a touchy guy. If the Nationals lose a game or Werth made a few mistakes, don’t expect him to be Mr. Happy. The guy is a pure competitor. He is in it to win it. Also, as this blog found out in 2011, he does not respond well to being photographed. In other words, the man is human.

We all have our quirks. We all have things we do not like. If people were to violate our quirks, would we necessarily respond well? Not really. So why should we expect Werth to? If we work really hard and play our hearts out but end up coming short, would we be in a good mood? Not really. So why should we expect Werth to be? I think a lot of people fail to realize that no matter how famous or talented these players may be, at the end of the day, they are just people like you and me. Werth is no exception to this.

After all of my experiences with Werth, I can honestly say that he does not deserve the negative reputation he appears to have gotten from some Nationals fans. And I am basing this only on the experiences I have had with him. I have also heard from numerous sources that he is a great guy. But their stories and experiences are not mine to tell. But what I can tell is that based on all of my experiences with him, he is a very nice and lively guy who does show a lot of dedication to the fans and, more importantly, the Washington Nationals ball club.

It would be nice if his reputation reflected that and who he truly is instead of these gross misconceptions about the man.

Believing In Gio Gonzalez

When I first heard the Washington Nationals acquired pitcher Gio Gonzalez I was like many: quickly on the computer Googling “Giovany Aramis González.”

My first exposure to him wasn’t an article telling of his feats or a Youtube video of this kid mowing them down. No, it was a photo, a telling photo, that spoke to that psychotic inner fan in all of us, that belief that fan and player have made some sort of cosmic connection. It was a photo of Gonzalez at some sort of Marvel Comic gig standing with Iron Man.

More on that in a moment…

By now most if not all of you have been well versed in what is going on in Miami right now. If you want the nitty-gritty details, I’ll turn you over to the nuts over at Federal Baseball who either have the Jedi Library at their disposal or they are just really good researchers. The quick version is a  PED clinic known as “Biogenesis” (based out of Miami, that blight of a city) is accused of having connections selling various MLB banned substances to (wait for it) MLB ballplayers– one of these possibly being one Giovany Aramis González.

Christ, here we go again. Chemistry is goddamn witchcraft I tell you…

Gio’s name appears five times in notebooks of receipts and orders that have been turned in as evidence. In some instances it is by himself and in others his name is written by that of his own father. None of the substances listed next to Gio’s name appear on the MLB Banned Substance List.

The Gonzalez Family firmly denies any wrong doing or Gio knowingly taking any illegal or banned substances or even having contact with the company. The Nationals released a statement that they remain mum. The MLB remains deeply involved in the investigation and any actions or official word are forthcoming. Read the Federal article. It is all there.

This is all devastating news on several fronts. The herpes on the game that is steroids still lingers waiting for someone to scratch. A young Cy-Young candidate on a young and rising team has been accused of cheating which is neither good for the team, the fans or Gio himself. His career now holds a stain that he won’t be able to get rid of. Even if investigators and the MLB come back and declare him completely innocent, you know there will be those douchebags at every turn who you couldn’t convince of his innocence even if you threatened to feed their children to rabid crocodiles.

If Gio is guilty, how absolutely disappointing and terrifying. If innocent, tragic. Everything Gio has fought for and bled for stamped out. His very character pulled through the mud by the sins of the game that are catching up with it.

It is that character where the answer lies.

If you look over the evidence that is known and provided, Gio Gonzalez is innocent and the threat of a 50-game ban is crap- or should be. Nothing on the banned substance list was listed next to his name and his father admits contact only for himself with BioGenesis and Gio had no association with the organization or anyone in it. They have nothing on Gio except some alphabet soup labeled next to his name in some notebooks from a disreputable business.

Back to Iron Man– it takes a special sort of geek to take his love of comics and superheroes into adulthood and put it out there on display for all to see. I should know: I am one of them. Comic book lovers share a deep connection with their graphic work of choice be it Batman or Iron Man. It is like these heroes become a part of our lives and oddly enough we become or “take” certain things from them and apply them to our own lives. I make no apologies in confessing I learned more morals, ethics and the desire to just be a good person in life from Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing adventures than I did from the Bible.

I am going completely out on a limb here and say it was probably the same for Gio. His heroes in ink (like those in real life) made their mark upon him, even subconsciously. Everyone wishes they could be a superhero: that pillar of fortitude that fights for justice and liberty with incredible powers and a strict code of responsibility. Gio Gonzalez has come closer to being a superhero than many of us. A baseball player from Hialeah, Florida making good, making the Majors and bringing style and greatness to a franchise in Washington D.C.

Something about this whole Miami thing just doesn’t make sense when Gio is in the equation. A guy who grew up reading about heroes, loving his heroes and eventually becoming one to many I can’t see doing something like this. It is a tarnish, a kryptonite of sorts to Gio’s character. Something like this would hurt him more than it would hurt us or anyone else. It doesn’t mesh with the little kid reading comics inside him. I don’t think he would do it for this reason and that is why I believe him when he says he didn’t.

Is this stupid? Naive? Completely off? Probably. Maybe. But I don’t care. To me, it just feels right. I’m going on gut here, NQ readers. I guess I feel this way because I would be devastated if I was in his position. I would feel ashamed. I would feel like I let down the people of Gotham.

The chemistry that makes up Gio Gonzalez I believe is already set in ink. That is why it is safe to believe in Gio Gonzalez.

Superman will never stop fighting for us. The Batman will never kill the Joker. Spiderman will never shun his responsibility. Professor X will never cease in his quest for equality. Giovany Aramis González would never take steroids and betray the trust a team and community have in him.

I believe in Gio Gonzalez.

Ryan Zimmerman’s Shoulder Is Dirty

According to Bill Ladson’s Twitter feed, Gold Glove third baseman and Nationals icon Ryan Zimmerman will be opting for shoulder surgery– at the end of the 2012 Wonder Season. Davey Johnson gave Ladson the goods.

Not sure what “clean up” entails, but this doesn’t sound all that concerning to anyone involved except the bits of awesome that will be removed from Zimmerman’s shoulder by doctors in the next couple months.

Then, with his DNA in hand, we can unlock all his secrets and grow our own Zimmerman and build a Zimmerman army that will cease all spice production until the Emperor of the Known Universe is forced to deal with us– “FATHER! THE ZIMMERMAN HAS AWAKENED!”

My God, what a dork post…

It’s Not A Vincent Black Shadow, But It Is A Kurt Suzuki

Here are some catcher Kurt Suzuki highlights. Why am I posting a video of Kurt Suzuki highlights? Jesus Christ, you are nosy. But fine: because Kurt Suzuki is now a member of the Washington Nationals.

There. You happy now?

The Washington Nationals have acquired catcher Kurt Suzuki from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Nats minor league catcher David Freitas. The Nationals plan to pick up some of Suzuki’s contract and fit him in the role of starting catcher, at least until Wilson Ramos returns next year. Nationals Press Release:

Suzuki is a .254 (643-for-2530) career hitter with 134 doubles, 57 home runs, 302 RBI and a .689 OPS in 703 games spanning six seasons (2007-present) with Oakland. Defensively, Suzuki leads all qualified American League catchers in fielding percentage (.996), caught stealings (23) and caught-stealing percentage (38.3%). Suzuki has posted a double-digit home run total each of the last three seasons (15 in 2009, 13 in ’10, 14 in ‘11). During the same three-year span, Suzuki’s 121 extra-base hits as a catcher ranked third among all big league backstops behind only Brian McCann (139) and Miguel Montero (128). He also twice (88 in 2009, 71 in ‘10) led the A’s in RBI during his tenure in Oakland. Since becoming a regular in 2008, Suzuki’s AL-best 588 starts trail only Yadier Molina (598) among big league catchers. Twice in the last three seasons, Suzuki has finished second in American League Gold Glove voting among catchers.

So there is that.

I’m inclined to like this trade. It is no secret the Nats are in desperate need of an animated body behind the plate, Suzuki is 28, but has been around and anything in the world is better than watching Jesus Flores trying to gun someone out at second base. I feel bad for the guy. He once was such a bright spot for Washington and had a cannon for an arm. Injuries are a bitch.

I liked David Freitas, but I found the 23-year old a bit lackluster. I know there is a contingent of people who loved the guy and believed him part of the future, but I’m only going off what I have seen of him. He is a good catcher and who knows, maybe he will go off and have a glorious career, but Wilson Ramos, Jesus Flores, maybe Sandy Leon and even Derek Norris when he was still in the D.C. farm system was going to make things rough for Freitas. Perhaps this is the best for both parties. Yes, I tend to believe overall it will be.

But let me finish watching these highlights– yeah. Yeah man. Those were some good strong plays. I hope his hands are made of diamonds. Just look at how he nails some of those runners down. It will be nice to see something like that in D.C.

Nationals Park has become a den of thieves lately.

Nationals Considering Bringing Back The Glory Days Of John Lannan

The Nationals Journal reports that the Nationals might give starting pitcher John Lannan his 2012 season debut this Saturday during a doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves due to not having an available starter between now and then. Lannan has been moping in Triple-A Syracuse where he is 6-9 with a 4.39 ERA.

[Manager Davey] Johnson did not come right out and say Lannan will be called up. But he made the point that Yunesky Maya and Ryan Perry were the only other healthy minor-league starters on the 40-man roster. “So it’ll be one of them,” Johnson said. “Who do you think?”

Damn. Johnson does a pretty good job burning Maya and Perry while at the same time betraying the utter excitement he has because he knows he is going to have to somehow insert John “Freaking” Lannan into a dominant Major League Nationals rotation.

Lannan enjoyed a good many seasons with the Nats being named “ace” of the staff several times and tagged as Opening Day starter, but ever since the Nationals started getting serious about this baseball thing and started developing players on the farm and making smart transactions via free agency and trades, Lannan has sort of fallen to the back burner that is off the radar and under a manhole cover. Johnny Boy was noticeably left off the starting pitcher depth chart at the start of 2012 and when he found out he wasn’t going to start out with the big team, he got a little big for his britches and requested the team trade him.

They haven’t. Obviously. They were saving Lannan for a rainy day like this coming Saturday, but one has to wonder if that was a big mistake not unloading him. I can’t see him really meshing well with the current chemistry of the team. This guy has been weeping and sucking in Syracuse all season, wants to leave the team and now he is suddenly getting a locker and spot in the rotation? I completely appreciate what Lannan has done for Washington, he was there during the Dark Days, but his ship has long passed down the Anacostia.

The Nats are so zoned in and on the right path right now, I can’t see how inserting Lannan into the team isn’t just like feeding an onion to an award winning dairy cow: you are going to sour the milk. Look at it this way, which does not belong:

  • 2.66
  • 3.89
  • 2.48
  • 4.39
  • 2.93
  • 3.15

In case you can’t figure it out, I’ve bolded it for you. Those are the ERAs of the current rotation. No one is over 4.00– except one. The outlier is Lannan and that is when he is pitching in Triple-A.

It just doesn’t seem a good idea to me. The Nationals have too much going for them to have the disturbance of a possibly disgruntled player who just doesn’t match up with anything the Nationals have accomplished and are trying to do, but as Johnson was pointing to: what other options do they have?

I did an unofficial mini-poll on Twitter on Tuesday asking if fans were excited about the possibility of seeing John Lannan in D.C. again. The results spoke for themselves. Yes, fans are excited to see John Lannan back in the Nationals rotation.

It is just too bad those fans are Phillies fans.

Michael Morse To Finally Make Those $40 Beast Mode Shirts Worth It

The world was rocked yesterday as someone on Twitter claiming to be injured Washington Nationals outfielder Michael Morse (@MLBeastMode38) entered the social flow of the Internet and said that he would be returning from his DL stint (torn left lat muscle) and that he would be making his 2012 debut Friday night at Nationals Park against the Atlanta Braves.

Since then, the account has been somewhat verified as Morse, but his “debut post” has long since been deleted which probably means the team isn’t as solid as to the “when” he will return. Make no mistake, Morse will be at Nationals Park and Davey Johnson plans to use him if he is ready to go. So he might actually make an appearance Friday, but it might be something as small and simple as a pinch hit opportunity.

Regardless, this is good news to a Nationals line up that is in desperate need of reinforcement as injuries continue to plague its starters. A big bat in the line up is exactly what the doctor ordered. Whether or not Morse can replicate his 2011 season has yet to be seen obviously, but the NQ is of the opinion that Morse is going to have a hard time of it. Last year he had the element of being an unknown. This year pitchers will be looking for him so I suspect there will be a lot more challenges and a lot more walks. However, Morse will be inserted into a line up full of guts and grit and perhaps that is exactly what he needs.

Morse’s return is also good news for the fans, especially those who spent forty f**king dollars on those Beast Mode shirts. Forty f**king dollars. Holy smokes! What the hell is it made out of that it is forty dollars? Mithril? I don’t even spend $40 on a pair of shoes!

This might explain why I wear tennis rackets tied to my feet.

Xavier Nady Has A #1 Fan– And He Wears V-Necks

Believe it or not, my apprentice found this guy or was already friends with him or whatever. It isn’t everyday you find a closet Xavier Nady fan, especially one who wears V-Necks or is called V-Necks. Dr. W’s report:

On Wednesday night I attended the Nationals vs. Pirates game with my friend Mike, or as I call him “V-Necks.”  The reason for this nickname should be fairly obvious; he always wears v-necks.  But on this night, he wore a normal shirt which was paved the way for a night of unusual happenings.  As I do with everyone I attend a game with, I call who I think will hit a home run.  Being a firm believer in the number 34, I called bomb on Bryce Harper.  V-Necks decided to live on the edge with his call and decided to use his call on Xavier Nady.
I have seen Xavier Nady go the distance before on Friday the 13th when the Nationals faced off against the Reds.  I was also fully aware that he had launched one deep the other night.  But let’s be honest, the guy was batting well under .200 despite his fairly consistent playing time during the pre-Harper era of the 2012 season.  And we all know that his playing during the post-Harper era of the 2012 season is a result of the injury of Jayson Werth a.k.a. Chewbacca.  Needless to say, I laughed at his call as most people would.  But my laughter quickly turned into utter amazement in the bottom of the 6th when I heard a pop off of Xavier Nady’s bat and watched the ball soar into the left field crowd.  I remember screaming a loud profanity as I watched that ball fly for what felt like an eternity.  I never thought this would happen; someone called home run on Xavier Nady and ended up celebrating his own victory off of his call being correct.
This man is, and will forever be, the champion of my home run game. Touche V-Necks, Touche!
Yes, there is a fan called “V-Necks” running around Nationals Park and even more bizarre he is an Xaiver Nady fan. They actually do exist.
Which means sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster and the original line up for Guns And Roses also have a good chance of existing as well. What a world.