Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Now we can get to it

Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday Quickie - Now we can get to it

The Nats won the NL East and fans and the team have had all weekend to celebrate. Great!

Got that out of your system?

Because it doesn't matter.

This Nats team, like every Nats team since 2012, won't be judged a success unless they win in the playoffs. It's as simple as that. I'm not talking by you or me in particular. I'm sure some of you would call them a success today. I'm sure some of the more generous fans might even call a winning season a success.  I'm sure the harshest of you (Sammy?) might not judge them a success unless they win it all. But for the sports world at large the Nats need to at least make the next step. They need to progress. They've had their misstep. They need to win the NLDS vs the Dodgers.

The Nats need it, because they've lost twice now in DSs when they were favored, blowing up in the late innings in key spots. Even if it's a pretty unfair characterization, they've been seen as a cocky team ("World Series or bust" "Where my ring?" "nothing harder in the galaxy") that can't back it up when it counts. In their last appearance Tim Hudson colorfully suggested the Nats didn't have the inner fortitude to win, then they got beat in 4 games.

Dusty also needs it. Despite being a very successful manager Dusty has not had much playoff success. His teams have made seven playoff appearances, and have won a combined 3 playoff series. In his last stop, Cincinnati, he couldn't make it out of the first round be it the NLDS (swept out by Phillies in 2010, collapsed after taking a 2-0 lead over the Giants in 2012) or the Wild Card (giving the Pirates their only playoff success in recent vintage in a non-competitve game).

Right now both the Nats and Dusty are looked at as having issues in the playoffs. A series win would go a long way to putting that to rest. A series loss and, well I'm afraid it becomes a "thing". That becomes how people see the Nats and Dusty going forward until they prove otherwise. Playoff chokers. I don't think they have to win it all. Usually just making the World Series gives you a measure of credibility. I don't even think they have to beat the Cubs*. That is a juggernaut team that everyone believes has mojo on it's side, excusing whoever they beat on the way. But they have to beat the Dodgers.

Other Notes

So Bryce keeps stupidly sliding head first into bases and yesterday it might have done serious injury. Mind you we already believe he is injured so this only adds to it. Some fans were screaming at Kang for deke-ing Bryce into sliding. I wasn't watching the game so I assumed that when several stated the Pirates "got no advantage" from the move that I would see a play where Kang saw the ball clearly in the hands of a Pirate player ready to fire home for an easy out if Bryce tried to keep going. Instead I saw a ball miss 3rd by 15 feet and roll slowly past the bag.

This is not only a situation where a deke may happen, it's a situation where a deke SHOULD happen. You try to trick the player into sliding so he doesn't advance further. It's an old trick usually lauded by players and fans alike. But Bryce got hurt so somehow this time it's wrong and bad. Seriously? This was a perfectly acceptable play and if you don't see that, I don't know what I can tell you. I guess be less of a crazy homer?

Offensively the Nats had a good weekend which is good. But like the bad games the preceded the Pirates series they don't really mean too much. I want to see them hit the Dbacks. I really want to see them hit the Marlins. I accept that none of that may matter for the NLDS, but I want them coming in hot rather than cold if I can have it.

Daniel Murphy hasn't played a full game in over a week (it was the Saturday before last), taking two PH at bats since then. He doesn't need to play today, not really, but it would be nice. Really if you want to go full "DOOOOOOOM" about it - wait to see if he's not ready for the Marlins series. Then I would worry. He's been active. He's played 145 games or whatever. It wouldn't even be a full two weeks out. It shouldn't take him more than a few games to get back into the swing of things.

*Now if it's the Mets or Cardinals or Giants? Yes, the Nats have to beat them too. In fact it's more imperative because those are three teams who are seen as gutsy winners. Lose to them and you not only damn the Nats but you push the other guy up. You make things worse overall for me by extending this stupid narrative. Lose to the Dodgers and well, that hurts the Nats but no one is going to be screaming about scrappiness and grit for LA.


JD said...

I'd wish they'd somehow ban Bryce from sliding head first.
Re:Yankees *sigh*

Fries said...

I'm pissed at Kang simply because he injured Harper with the deke, but that's because I'm a terrible homer. I can't fault Bryce though. All over the twittersphere people were mocking Bryce for not listening to Hendley or for sliding too late or whatever. But it was a split second thing where instinct took over and unfortunately he got injured. Only way to prevent that from happening is for his instinct to not be sliding headfirst, and I'm sorry but 99% of major leaguers do that despite all the evidence that it provides no clear advantage

Harper said...

JD: For some reaons Lopes said he wasn't going to bother trying to change Bryce. SMRT.

It was always a pipe dream. Hell if they managed to go 7-4 (instead of 2-9) in their last 11 they STILL wouldn't be in line for the WC.

Fries - it's not 99% but there's def a large segment of guys that do it. It has to be bred out of them early but unfortunately a lot of them are being taught by guys who did it themselves thinking it was advantageous. Oh the headfirst slides into first are the worst and you know somewhere there's a college or HS coach who saw him do that, pointed him out to the team and screamed "THAT'S THE TYPE OF HUSTLE I WANT TO SEE OUT OF THE REST OF YOU!!!!!!"

G Cracka X said...

Couldn't a deke provide a 'disadvantage' to the Pirates in that case? Say Kang doesn't deke, Harper sees the ball 15 feet from 3rd, and starts making a move toward home. The fielder could have fired the ball to Kang for a close play at 3rd as Harper hustles back, or could have gotten Harper caught in a rundown had Harper been thinking ITPHR. All of that is lost if you deke and make Harper slide.

Chas R said...

No doubt that Nats over reacted on the deke. I did not think Kang had any intention of putting Harper at physical risk and didn't think anything of it when it happened... until the blow up. Wow, and did it ever BLOW UP.

I have been to every home playoff game in 2012 and2014, but we will skip the NLDS this time and wait to see if they make it to the NLCS. Regardless of what happens or what the critics might say, I will still feel 2016 was a success... because I said so... (!)

Harper said...

GCX - If I'm Kang what I have is a general picture. I see not only is the throw off-line but it's also off-line and slow enough that I'm not sure about how long it will take for the back-up guys to get to it. I have a moment to make a decision and getting him to stop at third rather than race for home makes the most sense.

Watching the replay I think if Bryce had gone home he would have been thrown out but it would have taken a good throw. Not a great one, but a good solid normal throw.

Carl said...

Boz strenuously disagrees with you on the deke thing, Harper.

JD said...

Won't be the first or last time they disagree. Tell me when they do :D

Harper said...

Boz is wrong. "The only justification for the play is if the runner has a chance to advance another base if he comes in standing and sees the ball get away" Bryce isn't alone in control if he advances or not - he should be listening to his 3rd base coach - who Kang can't see.

Mythra said...

The only thing I have against Kang, and also because I'm an admitted homer, is it was a meaningless game. The Pirates are not playing for October, realistically. And the Nats already clinched the night before and are just playing to keep HFA.

If it's April, I totally agree with Harper's point over Boswell's. And yes, hustling 100% even in a meaningless game for the standings is to be encouraged, but I totally get Werth's reaction as well. Just because you can do something like the deke move, doesn't mean you should. And since JW looks at Harper as a little brother, the big brother in me would be looking to kick Kang's ass too.

All that said, it sucks. Perhaps if Harper is hurt enough to sit, he also gets over the other injuries and can return to October Bryce. Otherwise, Goodwin or Heisey are in right field for the playoffs and neither has Harper's arm.

Worried, but hoping for good luck from the X-rays.

SM said...

So, why do players slide head first? When did that become the standardized slide?

According to an interview Tim Raines gave after the drug distribution nest was cleaned out of the Pirate clubhouse--and the subsequent Grand Jury hearings in 1985--players increasingly began sliding head first to protect the vials of cocaine in their back pockets.

JE34 said...

and the game was in Pittsburgh. COINCIDENCE?

SM said...

Just a delicious irony, JE34.

Incidentally, Raines was one of 10 players named--but not suspended--who were subjected to random drug tests for the remainder of their careers.

Another notable among the 10: Dusty Baker.

Anonymous said...

If Harper were to sit for the playoffs, which is incredibly premature to say the least, why would you start Goodwin? What has he shown you to earn a start in the Division Series? Its a serious question. 9 k's in 17 AB. NEXT! Revere would (and should) get the start in Bryce's hypothetical absence.

Froggy said...

Personally I think a deke is pretty Pony league stuff. But, would Natsworld and the internets be a buzz about the Kangdeke if Harper hadn't hurt himself?

Regardless, I liked how AJ took care of business and how the boys stood up for each other afterwards. Good old Pirates baseball.

Harper said...

Mythra - that's probably the best reason to get angry you are going to get. Like if in the last game of the year, all HFA decided, Trea steals second and third up 3 in the 7th inning. You can probably justify it - game isn't quite out of hand - but what is the point exactly? Of course you can say the same for Bryce. Who cares if you get a triple? Or if you get tagged out? You can't get instincts out of the player that easily.

I watched it a third time looking specifically for the "lateness" of the move and found Kang to make the fake tag right as Bryce slowed up. He saw Bryce running full speed, saw the ball bounding away and decided to do something. It wasn't a last second move to cause injury (A f'n ridiculous statement by Boz). As much as FP and Boz says the tag outwieghts what the coach is saying, I remember as an 8 year old being told by my coaches "Listen to me. Do as I tell you to, and if you're out it's my fault" and I have to think that's taught all the way up. Bryce doesn't listen, has never really listened and combined with his naturally questionable base-running - well there you go.

SM - Pete Rose? I think ti's always been a sign of going that extra mile and also seen as a slightly better way of avoiding a tag (since you are more used to manuevering arms/hands around). The cocaine thing makes a nice story though.

Froggy - there's a video out there of Murphy deke-ing Cespedes to keep him from potentially going 1st to 3rd (probably wouldn't have but maybe). If he snapped an ankle stopping short to go back to first I have no doubt Boz et al would be defending Muprhy vigorously. Yes it's different but not that much - questionable advance and all - the true difference is who does it to who and really, what happens. We have dekes all the time on bad catcher throws on SBs - if a guy were to twist an ankle we'd hear the same thing. The deke is just baseball and overreacting to your guy getting hurt is just baseball too I guess.

SM said...

"The cocaine thing makes a nice story though."

I'm not going to quibble, so I'll leave it at this:

Sliding head first to protect his cocaine vials was actually part of Raines's testimony. In subsequent interviews, Raines opined that that was the reason for the surge in head first slides.

If it was to emulate Charlie Hustle, you'd think head first slides would have become the predominant style 20 years earlier.

Who knows? Maybe Rose slid head first to protect his betting slips.

Harper said...

SM - I'm not going to doubt he did it - if that's what he said. That it caused a surge though - that sounds apocryphal. But hey! Let's get a reporter on this!

Josh Higham said...

This is only tangentially related, but I feel like sharing. One time in a softball game I had a liner hit right at me at shortstop and I tried to deke a runner into going to third while the ball was in the air so I could tag him out after snagging the liner (second baseman was not moving to cover the bag and softball base paths are short) and instead of making a tricky double play, I got hit in the face with a line drive. Not a proud moment.

Jay said...

I think it was sort of a dirty play IMO. The Nats were upset that it was late and most guys if they see a fielder act they are tagging - natural split second reaction is going to be to try and slide. Especially at third where the throw is coming in behind you. This isn't the first time the Pirates have been accused of being dirty. Usually they are a winning team, so the so-called experts call them "gritty" and "hard nosed". If the Pirates were in the thick of the wild card or divisional race and every game truly mattered, then I think the Nats are unhappy about the play but not quite so irate. The Pirates are going home come October 3. The Nats without Harper bc he hurt his thumb most likely going home a week or so later. Not cool.

Fries said...

Which deity did the Nats piss off? Stras, Harper, Murphy, and now Ramos?? What the hell???

Anonymous said...

is RAMOS done for the SEASON?!!!!

JE34 said...

good gravy. After being healthy and productive all year... Brutal.

Harper, when can we yell the doooooom?

Josh Higham said...

Wilson was not giving off vibes to communicate, "aw, don't worry guys. I'll be all right in a couple of days." I'm just about ready to start shouting doooooom, even if Harper can justify staying calm.

Related, I really hope Harper can share with us a reason to stay calm.

Anonymous said...

Welp, need to pull out all the stops now. it's go time.

Harper at C? Goodwin in RF? Drew at SS?

I'll tell you this, if we roll out a 7-8-9 of Espi, Lobaton, and the P, it's gonna be a laughable 3 games.

Ahhhhh, DC sports....where you lose 3 all stars the final week of the season, 2 in meaningless games.