Harper Jacks “Daniels” Two In Opening Day Victory

“He is going to hit it out again,” I said.

My apprentice, Dr. W, turned to me with an unbelieving look. And why not? Rookie phenom turned man-warrior Bryce Harper had already homered on his first at-bat of the young 2013 season, on the second pitch. The chances were slim of a repeat performance the very next bat and plus my logical mind was already in an alcohol induced fog ($9 beers!). Regardless, I knew it was coming. I was calling Harper’s second shot. Why?

Simply because a Jack Daniels ad had appeared behind Harper on the backstop wall. Jack Daniels– perfect. The stars were aligned. All I had to do was wait. Harper worked the count to 3 and 2 and I turned once again to my young apprentice.

“Here it comes. This is exactly where he wants to be. His pitch is coming.”

The rest is history. See the banner photo above. The Washington Nationals defeated the Miami Marlins 2-0 on Opening Day 2013 at Nationals Park. Harper became the youngest player in MLB history to jack two on his first two at-bats of the season and lead the Nationals offense while starter Stephen Strasburg delivered seven shutout innings. Rafael Soriano, with his badass bow-and-wind up collected his first save of the 2013 campaign.

Granted, it is Opening Day. It is perhaps one of the most worthless games of the season next to Spring Training games because what can you really tell about the season from the first game? But goddamn the team put on a terrific show. I imagine if you asked all the writers and jackals how they would script Opening Day 2013 this game would pop out of their magical tripe and masturbatory prose. You couldn’t have written anything so close to perfect for this game. The fans were great, the team was great and you felt the general excitement surrounding this organization. Speaking of which–

Judging by the jacked up prices from everything from parking to beer the organization knows this and is ready to use that to suck your wallet dry like some shyster vampires from Wall Street.

Couple notes, observations and rants from Opening Day– hold on, let me find my list. Lord knows if this makes any sense:

  • I was not impressed by the Opening Day hat giveaway. Boring. Didn’t scream “I want to be NL East Champions again.” I did however like adding another Rally Towel to my collection.
  • Team store wasn’t that impressive either. No swag in there that jumps out at me and says “MUST HAVE. CHICKS WILL HAVE SEX WITH YOU AGAIN.” I did spend a little while longer than I wanted to in the store because the music playing was bitching and suddenly I realized our old friend DJ Stylus Chris was working the tables live in the store. Nice touch. Good to see you, Stylus.
  • Beer was $9– I actually paid $9 for a Coors Light. I remember in 2008 and 2009 being raped on the field at Nationals Park. Now in 2013 I am being raped up in the stands.
  • Miami hardly made Washington break a sweat. Except for a Giancarlo Stanton double, the Fish really made no threats, or couldn’t. Strasburg was dominate, but not in the young fire baller sense. I think you could notice an ungodly amount of focus coming from that guy and a confident maturity. He is determined to be known as a true pitcher and not a thrower.
  • Flower. It was Flower that followed Bryce Harper to the plate both times.
  • Tyler Clippard hardly looked to be in proper form, but then again he escaped the inning with the score intact so maybe he is already in proper form. Look, it wasn’t pretty but I don’t care how they do it as long as they shut them down and keep the needle in the green.
  • Surprised they didn’t put Drew Storen out there for the close. That kid needs a boost, but so entered Rafael Soriano. Dr. W informs me Soriano was sort of a dick to fans at Spring Training this year. If so, that sucks, but man, that dick can pitch! I am absolutely in love with that little bow he does before going into the windup. It has an aura of arrogance, confidence and gentlemanly class.
  • That whole “Take On Me Thing?” Never again, please. Michael Morse is no longer here.

It was nearly a perfect day at the Park. It really couldn’t have gone any better– though we might want to keep watch on the offense a little and see if they’ll show up with Bryce Harper over the next few days. We need some lumber.

Sorry this report is a bit late. I was on the road all day yesterday and WordPress crapped out on me last night so I couldn’t do anything until they could replace the hamsters that turn the hamster wheels that make this service possible.

A lot on my mind as of late about this blog and the direction it is going, but ride the bear with us for a bit. The season just started and it started pretty damn well.

Nats Blue Ribbon and– Bratwurst

The NQ pulled up to the (full and closed) Yards to try and find decent parking today and head over to reader @Powerboater69‘s tailgate in said Yards, but couldn’t get in due to huge masses of people already partying and getting juiced like degenerates and fake rock star Washington politicians.

However, it wasn’t a total loss. As we pulled up, so did the Pabst Blue Ribbon truck to Nats Park. Baseball Gods, be praised! Glory! If that wasn’t a good sign about how the day was going to go, I don’t know what would suffice.

Tailgating was pretty tight. Beers and bratwurst. With Dr. W having season tickets I am seriously considering a future NQ Tailgate event which would probably include beer and– bratwurst. And hopefully chicks. Yeah, chicks. Any chicks wanna come drink some beer with this blog?

But thanks to Tom and the rest of those particular hooligans for the invite, beer and– bratwurst. Big supporters of this blog even though we totally suck. Also saw these flags in The Yards and thought I’d take a shot of them:

A NQ tailgate… the idea gives me both nightmares and wood.

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.

Whoever Is Stealing Stuff From Kids In Viera Deserves The Bastinardo

The NQ apprentice, Dr. W, is down in Viera this week taking in Nationals Spring Training for the first time and he is sending us constant reports and photos that we will be posting up on the NQ as soon as we get them organized.

First up comes a disturbing story of a recent string of thefts coming right out of Space Coast Stadium involving what is known as “The Pit” and bags of Nationals gear and autographs belonging to kids. In three instances someone has stolen bags belonging to kids while they wait down by the field waiting for players to come sign items. Apparently, these thefts have made officials at Space Coast and the Nationals nervous enough to consider closing down the Pit to the public and not having players sign before games.

“The Pit” is a concrete slab just to the right of the Nationals dugout at Space Coast Stadium. It is supposed to be a walkway for grounds crew, media and photographers, but one of the many perks at SCS is they open this walkway to the public before the game so fans can get right down on the field and possibly get autograph and meet-and-greet opportunities with the players.

It was here Dr. W was suddenly thrust into this story as he was somewhat accused of being the perpetrator (as I’ve written before, weirdness always seems to follow him) even though today (Tuesday) was his first time ever at Space Coast Stadium. Here is his report:

While down in the Pit for the first time today there was a Nationals or Space Coast official named “Thomas” who was talking with fans about a recent string of thefts that were happening down in the Pit and it was enough for them to consider shutting the Pit down and telling players not to sign.

Three kids have had bags of memorabilia stolen right from under their noses while down there. SCS knows of these thefts and believe the stuff is being hawked by a regular autograph seeker.

It was at this point Thomas turned and sternly pointed at me and said, “You’re an autograph regular. I think I have seen you quite a bit.”

This, of course, is nuts because this was my first time in Viera and SCS– like ever– and I informed him so.

So there is some jackass in Viera now looking to spoil a good thing for everyone. It would be a damn shame for the Pit to be closed for it offers wonderful opportunities for kids and fans to make contact with their heroes.

I guess the morale of this story is: keep your eye on your gear at all times and if you see some cowardly a**hole nabbing things from little kids, report them to the proper authorities. This poltroon needs to be stopped.

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.

The Most Pointless NatsFest Recap Ever But With Guinness

[Editor's Note: The following prose actually has no point. It is perhaps the most boring recap of the 2013 Natsfest you will ever read. We didn't want to spoil the surprise or anything for you, but you won't get much out of this recap other than some behind the scenes NQ Writer protocol in action. Basically: if you fail to get a story, end up in a bar. That is a secret of the blogging trade and our agent pulls it off quite nicely.]

Like many other Nats fans, I consider Saturday, January 26th a very special day.

It marked the highly anticipated arrival of Natsfest 2013. This event provides a great opportunity for players to interact with fans and vice versa. The event had batting cages where you could hit balls. You could get your photo taken with both mascots and players. There were Q&A sessions where kids could ask the players questions. There was also an amusing game of Jeopardy  where Jayson Werth, Ross Detwiler and Drew Storen faced off in a battle of wits and brains. And, most importantly, William “Bill” Taft was introduced as the fifth racing president. It would be highly unrealistic to think that no one in the NQ would attend Natsfest in 2013. So I figured I would take this opportunity to share my experience and what I learned.

Before I go into details on the events that transpired on Saturday, I deem it necessary to give you a back-story. On Tuesday, January 22nd I attended the Washington Capitals home opener with my friend Dylan and saw them face off against the Winnipeg Jets. While racing to our seats to avoid missing the first puck drop, I had an unfortunate incident where I blew out my knee and most likely tore something or other in my knee. But hey, I made first puck drop! That’s what really matters!

Saturday morning around 11:45 in the morning, I receive a call from Dylan claiming he had an extra ticket to Natsfest and wanted to know if I was interested in joining him. Here are the four things I learned:

  1. Gio Gonzalez was apparently not invited to Jordan Zimmermann’s wedding.
  2. My knee is still sore.
  3. Jayson Werth has a beard.
  4. Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant is a great place for all Guinness lovers such as myself.

I would say I spent a grand total of about 20 minutes in Natsfest as my hosts did not want to wait in any lines. So my experiences at Natsfest were limited and all I was able to really see was Kurt Suzuki and Steve Lombardozzi signing autographs and Ian Desmond taking pictures with fans. I also overheard Gio Gonzalez say he was not invited to J-Zimm’s wedding during a back and forth in front of thousands of Nationals fans. Don’t worry Gio, you will be invited to my wedding!

The vast majority of my times was spent at Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant surrounded by Guinness and obnoxious Georgetown students celebrating a basketball victory. You would think there would be a ton of hot college babes, but that was not the case unfortunately.

But hey, Guinness is awesome!