The Mick, a Winter Baseball Fix, and Bryce Harper

December 19, 2012

Every winter I try to read at least one baseball book, just to satisfy my baseball cravings. I recently finished The Last Boy, a biography of the great Mickey Mantle, and I highly recommend it. Any baseball fan would enjoy it. More than that, though, I think it should be required reading for any baseball player.

I was initially hesitant to read the book, which was given to me. I already knew what it was going to be, because I had read a few reviews. mickey-mantleAn exposé highlighting the lowlights of The Mick’s life, right? Well, yes that was in there, but that wasn’t the purpose nor was it the main arc of the book. It encompassed the great and the terrible, but it simultaneously humanized a legend and put me in awe of one of the most superhuman athletes ever.

As someone who follows the Nationals closely, it is hard to not think of Bryce Harper when The Mick is described. The speed that Mantle had his first season (which he never regained after famously blowing out his knee) is not quite Bryce, but the tales of his power send chills up your spine. When they talk about the mammoth home runs he hits starting at age 19, you cannot help but think of the young Nats outfielder.

The way his home runs are discussed in the book, the way his contemporaries describe it… it’s as if they’ve never seen baseballs travel that far and that fast. Putting it in scouting terms, The Mick had an 80 power, so does Harper and a handful of other players in MLB right now. But Harper’s the only one right now who was in the bigs at age 19 displaying it, just like Mantle. The way they describe his biggest home runs make you hope you can think of something poetic to say to your grandkids when you get to tell them stories of the inevitable time when Harper hit it over the RF scoreboard (or whatever feat of monstrous power he’ll do that will become legendary).

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In 1912 Washington Got Their First Winner

July 9, 2012

I posted this back in October, but with the way the Nats are playing, and the interest that the recent 1924 throwback uniforms generated, I figured why not repost. One thing I noticed is that while I thought 2012 would be their first winning season, I wasn’t so bold as to proclaim it loudly. And I certainly didn’t expect them to win the NL. Of course, that was before the 2nd wild card, and Gio, and Bryce being the first 19 year old in forever to actually hit in the bigs. Now something as simple as being better than .500 seems to be shooting a little low…

2012 should be a big year for the Nationals. Many believe that it will be their first winning season in Washington. And if it is, that would be quite a coincidence, as it would be exactly 100 years after Washington baseball’s FIRST first winning season. The Senators finished 91-61 that year, for their first winning season ever, in their 12th season of existence. Coming in 2nd in the AL, it was also the first time they finished higher than 6th place out of 8.

It wasn’t just the first winning season in “modern” baseball in Washington, which most people put at the turn of the last century. The Washington Statemen/Senators, who played from 1891-1899, never had a winning season. Neither did the original Washington Nationals, who existed from 1886-1889. (For a little background on those teams, click here). The two Washington teams that played in 1884 were under .500 as well. So 1912 really was the first winning season in Washington major league baseball.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the first winning season, and in hopes of the first one for this franchise in this city, it makes sense for the Nats to honor them the best way a baseball team can – by wearing throwbacks. The first picture, on the right hand side of the screen, are the 1912 uniforms, pretty good, although I’ve never been a fan of the “nothing on the front” jerseys.

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The Case For Re-Signing Ryan Zimmerman

January 25, 2012

There has been a great deal of discussion recently regarding when the Nationals will offer Ryan Zimmerman an extension. Of course, it isn’t inevitable that they will do that at all. And an extension isn’t the only possibility to keep him – he’s signed through 2013, but they could rip that up and sign him to a 6 year deal right now (rather than a 5 or 6 year extension on the end) as suggested here. But I don’t want to get into the minutia of how, when or how long here. I just want to talk about why they should do it, in a few simple points.

He is a truly great hitter for his position, and while there are some questions about his throwing, it is pretty unanimous that he is one of the best fielding (pre-throw) players in the league right now. It puts him among the best players in the game. Here just a few points highlighting that:

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In 2012, Nationals Should Honor 1912

October 31, 2011

2012 should be a big year for the Nationals. Many believe that it will be their first winning season in Washington. And if it is, that would be quite a coincidence, as it would be exactly 100 years after Washington baseball’s FIRST first winning season. The Senators finished 91-61 that year, for their first winning season ever, in their 12th season of existence. Coming in 2nd in the AL, it was also the first time they finished higher than 6th place out of 8.

It wasn’t just the first winning season in “modern” baseball in Washington, which most people put at the turn of the last century. The Washington Statemen/Senators, who played from 1891-1899, never had a winning season. Neither did the original Washington Nationals, who existed from 1886-1889. (For a little background on those teams, click here). The two Washington teams that played in 1884 were under .500 as well. So 1912 really was the first winning season in Washington major league baseball.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the first winning season, and in hopes of the first one for this franchise in this city, it makes sense for the Nats to honor them the best way a baseball team can – by wearing throwbacks. The first picture, on the right hand side of the screen, are the 1912 uniforms, pretty good, although I’ve never been a fan of the “nothing on the front” jerseys.

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The Beard and A Little History

August 24, 2011

I’ve just updated my article on the local pro baseball team of the late 1800s. Thanks to the Twitter personality known as @MorseBeard, I was given some new information on the location of the original stadium the team used. I’ve added that info, so if you’ve already read it, there’s some nice addition to what was there. If you haven’t, well, go check it out! You can even learn about that Cornelius McGillicuddy fellow that Bob Carpenter was referring to on TV yesterday.


Evaluating “Evaluating Baseball’s Managers”

January 7, 2010

Recently I was contacted by Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times with an interesting request. He wanted me to review pieces of a book he had just finished on baseball. The only condition was to not really quote the book, as it isn’t being released until April. I jumped at the chance, although when he told me it was about managers, I wasn’t sure if I would like it. I am a skeptic about managers effectiveness, usefulness, etc. I don’t think they’re irrelevant, but I’m just not sure how important they really are, as long as they don’t break anything. However, I read the description of the book, and it piqued my interest:

This ambitious study of major league managers since the formation of the National League applies a sabermetric approach to gauging their performance and tendencies. Rather than focusing solely on in-game tactical decisions, it also analyzes broader, off-the-field management issues such as handling players, fans, and media, enforcing team rules, working with the front office, and balancing pressure versus performance.

So wait, he’s gonna actually try to gauge their effectiveness? Using things like logic and numbers? Ok, I’m in.

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Some Medicine for a Rough Monday

September 28, 2009

You may be having a rough morning. The Nats lost their 103rd game over the weekend and were swept by an NL East rival. If you watched the game, you know that they had a great chance to win on Sunday but blew taking the lead late in the game (man on third nobody out). That translated into extra innings, and a loss. Apparently this town had some problems in other sports as well. So rather than spend the WHOLE day complaining or being upset, here are a few things about the Nats that should make you happy:

  1. Ryan Zimmerman – Signed to be a franchise player this past offseason, people criticized the deal, saying he wasn’t worth the same money as guys like Youkilis and Markakis. He’s really come on this year, still very young, he has hit 32 HRs and is hitting .288/.361/.519 with only a week to go. Over 100 runs and RBIs are nice, too. As for the guys he was compared to, his WARP of 6.6  puts him at #23 in the majors, Youkilis’ 5.6 is 46th and Markakis’ 1.2 is way down at 428 on the list. Zimmerman also has a higher VORP (49.6) than the other two (48.3 and 20.5). By the way, today’s Ryan’s birthday, he’s turning 25. Youkilis is 30, Markakis will be 26 in 2 months. Happy Birthday, Ryan!
  2. Mike Rizzo – There’s a real GM here. Isn’t it nice to hear this guy speak rather than the last one? The level of competence just seems off the charts compared to the previous GM, and compared to GM-types on other local teams. (Speaking of that – hey Daniel Snyder, look up the road to Baltimore. No, not the Ravens, the Orioles. Remember the meddling owner who had to get his hands in everything and always needed to have his opinion heard? He’s been a paragon of virtue since he hired Andy MacPhail. I’m just saying… you can do it!)
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