Monday, April 5, 2010

A great day, til the game started

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Everything went well in the pregame ceremony. Then the Nats took the field.
Even Jim Riggleman's best postgame line was a bit unfortunate.

Asked if his pregame encounter with Barack Obama was a small silver lining on an otherwise regrettable Opening Day at Nationals Park, Riggleman paused and then responded: "That's like asking Mrs. Lincoln how she liked the play."

Good line, Riggs. But a word of advice: You probably shouldn't make jokes about presidential assassinations just hours after shaking the hand of the current president.

Then again, today's events probably called for a morose quip. Could the Nationals have drawn up a worse scenario on Opening Day? Lose to the Phillies, 11-1. Watch as your reliable staff ace gets knocked out in the fourth inning. Watch as your supposedly improved lineup wastes some early opportunities against Roy Halladay and then goes silent the rest of the afternoon. Watch as your bullpen does its best 2009 impersonation, issuing six of the staff's nine walks for the day and allowing six tack-on runs to turn this joyous occasion into a rout.

Oh yeah, and do all of this in front of a sellout crowd of 41,290 that featured at least 15,000 Phillies fans, perhaps 20,000, all who stayed to cheer their team in the ninth inning and turn South Capitol Street into South Broad Street.

Everyone tried to shrug off the Philly invasion, but it was noted by just about everyone in the home clubhouse.

"I think it's a statement of where we've got to get to," Riggleman said. "We've got to get to the point where we far outnumber them, not just on Opening Day. We've just got to get to a point where we outnumber the opposition. That's not given to you. You've got to earn that. And you've got to earn it with wins."

The Nationals certainly didn't earn any new fans with their performance today. Presented a golden opportunity to win over some new converts, they instead laid another Opening Day egg.

An 11-1 shellacking? Really?

"The same goes if we had lost 1-0 or 2-1. A loss is a loss," Ryan Zimmerman said. "I think that's one thing that we'll probably do better this year: Learn from it, get away from it and come right back the next game. We can't afford to go through those spells like we did last year where we played four, five, six games in a row like this. I think the veteran guys here will be able to learn from what we did wrong and come out Wednesday and win that game."

Nats players obviously have to take that approach. It's one game out of 162. It doesn't have any real bearing on the outcome of the season. For evidence of that, just look at the Pirates, who today trounced the Dodgers 11-5 for their fourth consecutive Opening Day victory. The same Pirates who have proceeded to post 17 consecutive losing seasons.

But there were some disturbing trends to emerge from Nationals loss No. 1 today that bear close scrutiny over the next week.

The pitching staff obviously faced a stiff challenge in the Phillies' vaunted lineup, one made all the more potent with the offseason addition of Placido Polanco. But Nats pitchers killed themselves today by issuing nine walks, four of them from reliever Miguel Batista.

"When you put them on base, you don't give your defense a chance," said Batista, who also allowed three hits and was charged with five runs over 1 2/3 painful innings. "I went out there and walked the first guy each inning. But I think it's a minor adjustment. I don't think it's a big deal."

Meanwhile, a Nationals lineup that is supposed to be good enough to at least give this team a chance to win on a regular basis failed to seize an opportunity to take out Halladay early. Four of Washington's first seven hitters reached base against the Phillies' new ace, on two doubles, a single and a walk. Yet only one man crossed the plate.

Sensing he had dodged some bullets, Halladay then bore down and went to business. After that potentially dangerous start to the day, he proceeded to retire 14 of the next 16 batters he faced and finished the afternoon with nine strikeouts.

"He had late break on his ball," said rookie Ian Desmond, who struck out twice and drew a walk in his first confrontation with Halladay. "He kept the ball down in the zone. He didn't really make very many mistakes. We were unable to capitalize on the ones that he did."

No, the Nationals did not capitalize at all today. Presented an opportunity to make a statement, to give their fans reason to believe things will be different in 2010, they instead looked very much like the 2009 Nats.

Does one poor showing on April 5 ensure six months of similar performances? No way.

But one of these days, this franchise needs to make the most of what opportunities it gets.


Anonymous said...

A bright spot: Punch Rodriguez brought some life to the lineup and some sparkle the defense. I like his attitude. Doesn't look like he likes to lose.

JayB said...


Where are you getting your numbers from....I was in the field level was more like 70% Philly Fans....way over half of the section....I know it is hard to tell from the press box but ask around...I have been to all 6 opening days....this was worse than anything...worse than those Red Sox games last year by Far!

BrownSheep said...

What made this game nerve wracking was the pitching. I think that Lannan will settle down. However, I did not see that we had a true middle reliever. It seemed ridiculous to parade 4 or 5 guys out there to get to our supposed closer. We can't do that every game especially when we do not have the luxury of a day off in between outings. McCatty and Riggleman are going to have to put their heads together and figure out the bullpen immediately or the season will be out of reach before April is over.

peric said...

I soon as I saw Batista I said "10 - 1". I was off by one.

Jenn Jenson said...

On the issue of Phillies fans ... the thing that irritated me the most was that Phillies fans obviously had blocks of tickets in several sections. That means group sales by the Nationals ticket office, at the same time there were no single-game tickets available to buy. Opening Day with the President tossing the first pitch is a ticket the Nationals could have sold to their local market, had they decided to do that.

Dave said...

And of course, Jason "Why-is-he-here" Bergmann gave up the grand salami that made both Batista and him look like losers.

A miserable day for Nats fans. At least the giveaway caps were nice.

Grandstander said...

I was on the field level as well and our section (114) was easily 75% philly fans. We even moved at one point over to 115 to get into the shade and it seemed worse.

The only saving grace was that the philly fans directly behind us were actually fans and were pretty chill, unlike the others just yelling nonstop and behaving like obnoxious animals like they usually do.

I don't think the problem is so much in the numbers as in the fact that as Nats fans we don't put them in their place. This behavior at Shea would earn someone a beer over their head. At Nats Park, I felt guilty for cheering for the home team!

The lone bright spots were Pudge, who absolutely had the best game, and my boy Jesse English!!! I wore his name safety pinned to my jersey today and boy did he come through.

I hope Wednesday goes a bit better for us without Halladay and with more of a hometown crowd.

Dave said...

@Jenn Jenson: I think my "favorite" moment of genuflection to the Phillies fans came when Jerome, the PA announcer, came on with the very important announcement about where the bus for was going to pick up its drunken passengers.

Then I looked up, and sure enough, the announcement was posted on the HD video board.

If I didn't feel at home in my own stadium before that moment, the announcement sealed the deal.

Sectin 109 said...

I wd like to give a shout-out to Jesse English. Admittedly it was too little time on the mound to draw any big conclusions, but kudos for coming in on a first major league appearance, w/bases loaded and Ryan Howard at the plate, and get out unscathed.

Dave said...

@Grandstander, you are the man! I'm the guy in Tortilla Coast who complimented you. Sorry I didn't photograph your jersey so I could tweet it!

phil dunn said...

This team is bad; maybe worse than last year. Prices for concessions are higher. Nobody peddles anything in the stands. How sad! (I'd estimate the obnoxious, drunken Phillies crowd at 20,000 to 25,000.)

Grandstander said...

@Dave I'll wear it again on Wednesday just for you! It was funny because I told my family that as Nats fans we all know each other and post on the same boards and that's part of what it makes it fun. Thanks for proving my point!

Anonymous said...

Minor adjustment? Seriously? Nine walks by a staff and four by an MLB pitcher is flat-out inexcusable. Take away free parking at RFK, change the exit pattern from last year from my parking lot forcing me to figure a new way out of town, the President disrespecting the Nationals and their fans by putting on a White Sox hat, the huge chunk of Phillies fans--all made for an awful first day. Really, very very unacceptable, especially the nine walks.

Anonymous said...


To add insult to injury, did you notice Obama wore a White Socks hat when he tossed out the first pitch? What a classless act.

peric said...

Whoever said the Post was biased toward the Redskins ... I thought it was a bit of an exaggeration now I confess they must be right ... every nuance, every single tiny bit of blurb and twitter about McNabb posted immediately. I have yet to find an article discussing what happened during the game that was played by the Phillies.

As for Obama. Who cares. The guy killed the manned space program. That's like someone telling a 2 year old there is no santa claus because they think that sort of thing is humbug and silly. Obama is telling kids everywhere that there is no space program so forget dreaming about being an astronaut. Well, maybe if you live in China, perhaps Russia. HI think he shot himself in the foot when he did that.

peric said...

Change "played by the Phillies" to "played against the Phillies".

Anonymous said...

Agree completely re: Obama CHW hat.

When someone invites you into their home, you don't go to the bathroom on their floor.

On the other hand, screw the Lerners. When you put a pathetic product on the field you shouldn't be surprised when people go out of their way to distance themselves from it.

Section 109 said...

I hope to God we are overreacting. The Phillies won the Natl League pennant two years in a row, and today they played their best pitcher. I hope that today was about the worst case scenario in terms of the opposition we faced, and that things will get better.

LoveDaNats said...

There was a surreal quality to opening day. Was I really in Nats Park listening to "lets go phillies" while watching Ryan Zimmerman receive his awards?
Did I really see one Nats fan for every 10 Phillies fans?
If that wasn't hard enough, I had to witness the resurrection of the 2009 Nats.
Let's hope the season isn't as disappointing as Opening Day 2010.

CoverageisLacking said...

"I think it's a statement of where we've got to get to," Riggleman said. "We've got to get to the point where we far outnumber them, not just on Opening Day. We've just got to get to a point where we outnumber the opposition. That's not given to you. You've got to earn that. And you've got to earn it with wins."

I am glad to see someone within the Nats talking like this. But while Riggleman is talking straight and getting pissed off about something like this, StanK and his minions are hawking tickets to Philly fans. Rolling out the red carpet for the most vile, classless group of fans I have ever seen.

Jenn Jenson, you are absolutely correct about the group sales. There were tons of Philly-based groups to whom the Nats sold tickets. They had their names plastered on the scoreboard all afternoon, and then, yes, we had to suffer the indignity of hearing Jerome inform the drunken Phillies fans about where they should meet after the game.

There really is no excuse for the Nats to be marketing Opening Day tickets to group sales from visiting fans. It is beyond pathetic. It does show how the Lerners and Kasten view their ownership of the team, and the respect that they (don't) have for DC and its fans.

Anonymous said...

At some point the Nats have to send considerable money to upgrade the talent level on its roster. Scouting, player development are necessary but you need at least 3 exceptional players to carry a team.

peric said...

Have to admit though ... watching a contrite Riggleman with the nice gallow's humor associated with the Obama silver lining question ... then the really kind of hot Riggleman describing Phillies fans standing up with 2 outs left in the ninth celebrating a home victory ... and then stating that was where the Nats need to get to. Have to admit I liked it a lot.

There's no denying work needs to be done to get from where the team currently is to where the Phillies are. At least Riggleman isn't making any excuses for the dearth of home team fans or the state of the franchise. Unlike, say, Stan Kasten?

bdrube said...

That was an utterly classless move by Obama, and I say that having grown up a White Sox fan. Why don't you just kick a fanbase when it's down, you empty suit jackass?

I never, ever, thought I would favorably compare Bush to Obama, but at least Bush had the class not to put on an Astros cap when throwing out the first pitch. What a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jim Riggleman: (from

"Teams are more conscious of defensive stats and people like Bill James believe younger (and therefore cheaper) players tend to play better defense better than aging ones."

Traveler8 said...

Mark, I was pleased to see that Chris Coste was introduced as one of the team players today - I had thought that he was headed straight to Syracuse. Is he only on the 25 man roster until Livan is officially signed -then he goes to Syracuse? Something else?

FYI to all, we saw lots of those Phillies fans waiting for their bus at 1st and M, but SE, not SW as announced for the bus, and of course there was no bus in sight. I thought about pointing this out to one of them, but then my husband pointed out to me that I did not have to be everyone's mother.

FakeReiss said...

"There really is no excuse for the Nats to be marketing Opening Day tickets to group sales from visiting fans."

If Nats fans had stepped up, they could have bought all those group seats before the Phillies fans did. There's no one saying that Nats fans can't form groups and come to the games. I do believe there's even a price break involved if you do that. Perhaps all you Lerner haters might want to consider forming a group and buying a section, because really can you blame the team from preferring to sell the seats to people who want to buy them, instead of leaving them empty?

bdrube said...

"Perhaps all you Lerner haters might want to consider forming a group and buying a section"

Why? To spend even more money to watch this crappy team? You'd have to be certifiably insane.

CoverageisLacking said...

Mark, this commenter is pretending to be me, and is not me. I think most Nats fans who follow these blogs know who it is, but in any case...I hope there is something that you can do in order to prevent people from posting here who fraudulently spoof other posters' blogger accounts.

And as to your comment, JK, the point is that group sales historically aren't made for Opening Day. Period. Much less to visiting groups. This has nothing to do with Nats fans "stepping up." It has all to do with how the Nats choose to market themselves. But of course you don't get that, since you have as little class as do Philly fans.

Jim again but fed up this time! said...

What an awful day!!! We stunk up the place. Major league play only from Morgan, Zim, Pudge and English. The rest was Spring Training continued! Our bullpen doesn't look any better than last year along with no timely hitting. Then to have all the rotten Philly fans rubbing our nose in it. I know it is only one game but I have been sitting through this "only one game" stuff for a lot of years now. We need to have a fire lit under these guys. I think Rizzo et al needs to put the best they can on the field and in the bullpen and not those who are out of options, or hurt feelings, or those who had some good days last year but can't find the plate unless it is right down the middle. I don't expect Kennedy to cough up the first ball hit to him. He is paid too much for that. I don't expect Lannon to scoop the ball with his glove like a little leaguer showing off, I don't expect Dunn to look like a weak hitter as he has for the past six weeks. I understand that we will loose a lot this year but we shouldn't have to put up with this as major league baseball. It is not! Halladay or not, we should have had him out of the game before Lannon blew up! When was the last time one of our guys threw a few things in the dugout after making a bonehead play or grooving a pitch. We have no passion!!! This just can't continue to be routine business as usual. If it continues then all 42000 will be Philly fans.

Anonymous said...

Wow what a polarizing moment! I hope the impetus from it carries over into the locker room, from Riggleman to Pudge. Cut the losses by cutting Batista and Bergmann and bringing up another Jesse English or two.

Mr. Doggett said...

FakeReiss, thank you for pointing out the obvious. You can't fault the team for trying to sell the game out. This happens with every losing team around the country in every sport. I know it sucks to see our park filled with obnoxious Philly fans, but until the Nats start winning, we'll have to put up with it.

Anonymous said...

""Perhaps all you Lerner haters might want to consider forming a group and buying a section"

Why? To spend even more money to watch this crappy team? You'd have to be certifiably insane."

Well, if that's your position then why are you so upset when Philly fans buy the tickets that you obviously don't want to buy? How can you be mad if they're stealing something that you don't want in the first place? You're basically saying that you only want to support the team if it's good. That's the very definition of a front-runner fan, which is exactly what you claim not to like about Philly fans and Red Sox fans. But say what you will about Philly fans, they come out even when their team is bad, and boo them. You so-called Nats fans who are outraged because the park is filled with opposing fans are too lazy and too cheap to do that. You just sit at your computers and bitch and complain, all high and mighty. Really, which fan base is it that's the scum of the earth here anyway?

CoverageisLacking said...

"But say what you will about Philly fans, they come out even when their team is bad, and boo them. You so-called Nats fans who are outraged because the park is filled with opposing fans are too lazy and too cheap to do that. You just sit at your computers and bitch and complain, all high and mighty. Really, which fan base is it that's the scum of the earth here anyway?"

JK, I was at the game today. I paid for 8 tickets. So while I disagree with your premise, even under your analysis I have a right to bitch about the Lerners and Kasten rolling out the red carpet for Philly fans. And if you have such disdain for Nats fans, why are you even posting here?

Also, you're totally wrong about Phillies' fans support of their team. Before the final season, their attendance figures at the Vet the last 7 years there were pathetic. I guess they were lazy, cheap, scum of the earth, huh?

natsfan1a said...

+1 Traveler. :-)

Chris S. said...

Enh, the Vet. I'm not that impressed by the comparison.

As I recall it, mostly, people went to Phillies games to talk about the Eagles.

DCLance said...

You can blame MLB as well. Losing to St. Louis or LA 11-1 would have been tolerable. But they really set the Nats up for failure as the Phillies are only a 2 1/2 hour drive away, and they travel so well. You can't blame Philly fans for coming (blame Kasten and MLB), but you can blame them for being rotten boorish people.

Anonymous said...

Philly fans don't deserve to be reimbursed for the bullets in their heads they so truly deserve.

Anonymous said...

I am ecstatic to see there are other Nationals fans who were embarrassed and disgusted by today's Opening Day SNAFU, from the President slapping the fans and the franchise in the face during the first pitch, to the traffic debacles before the game, to the team's insistence of getting Philly for Opening Day to boost ticket sales and the outright turd the Nats laid on the field today, this was the most miserable Opening Day I've ever experienced. I took a day off from work and bought tickets for what was supposed to be a beautiful and special day and I was embarrassed to be a part of it.

I grew up a White Sox fan, and even though I do still hold a special place in my heart for the Palehose, I'm a Washingtonian and a Nationals fan now. The White Sox are here for a three-game series later in the season. If Obama threw out the first pitch for those games and wore his Sox hat, I wouldn't have a problem with it in the least. But the Nationals invited the President to throw out the first pitch, the least he could have done is shown a modicum of class, humility and respect and left the Sox hat at home. That outright sign of disrespect disgusts me as a loyal Democrat and Obama supporter. Just another sign that government Washington could care f'n less about the District of Columbia. Kind of makes me believe those stories about the White House giving visiting heads of state bush league gifts like DVDs and Ipods. After today, I wouldn't put that past the White House.

Saying the stadium was 1/3 Phillies fans is a serious understatement. It was at least half, if not more. And the insistence of the team having the Phillies for Opening Day to sell tickets is a slap in the face of fans from the Lerners and Kasten. The most insufferable, degenerate fan base on the face of the earth taking over our stadium with the APPROVAL of management. Disgusting. I grew up in west Michigan and never truly understood growing up why so many people despised Philly fan. Only took me less than two years of living in Washington to find out why on a first-hand basis. The behavior of Philly fan would never be tolerated by the fans of traditional fan bases and I yearn for the days and the stories I've heard about Flyers fans getting their just desserts at the Cap Center.

I am still so disgusted by today's entire debacle I can't even sleep.

Dave said...

@Anon 1:28 AM: "I am still so disgusted by today's entire debacle I can't even sleep."

Agreed 100%. I actually had a hard time sleeping last night. I'm up right now because I awoke an hour early worrying about this.

This year's Opening Day was utter misery on many, many levels. For the first time in five years--really--I am deeply depressed about all those Nats tickets I bought for this year.

(And speaking as somebody who knocked on doors for Obama in November 2008, I am thoroughly disgusted with his disrespect for our home team. Yes, I guess he is just a shallow opportunist after all.)

Anonymous said...

Watching Obama walk to the mound, I say to myself: "He's not wearing a cap, he's not
wearing a cap. Wait, is he going to? Naw,
he wouldn't do THAT."

Anonymous said...

To those of you who voted for Obama:

He sold you hope and change and you bought it. He said Washington wouldn't be run with politics as usual. Then he got behind a health care "reform" bill full of pork, carveouts, and backroom deals that is an unprecedented government takeover of our health system. He says he has a plan to cut the deficit in half, but has already spent way more of our tax dollars than any of his predecessors. And you're surprised he wore a White Sox hat? Get over yourselves.

Anonymous said...

I think this idea that we couldn't sell out without the Silly fans is a crock. We tried to get tickets on the first day and they were already gone.It's not like they waited until it looked like we couldn't sell tickets. It's really a shame when regular fans, who support the team can't go to opening day because it has been hijacked by the rude, boorish bunch. And no Nats express, either - I would have paid for it, too.

cass said...

Why were thousands of tickets being sold in Philadelphia in January before Nats fans had a chance? There should have been a cap on the number of tickets sold to the Phillies, and they should have not been sold early. There were none left once the sale date came around for Washington fans. Stan Kasten needs to be fired.

mjames said...

It was depressing to see Willie Harris playing right field. I know Bernadina and Maxwell are not great and perhaps not major league ready but I would rather see them than Harris and Tavares patrolling right field. Enough with the retread or aging veterans. To see Harris frantically and futilely throwing himself against the right field wall during one of the Phillies "bat arounds" in an attempt to catch a ball hit over hiss head was not only depressing but spoke volumes about the state of this team.

Also we do not need Batista. He is past being a major league caliber player. This band aid approach is tiring and old. Also it does not work.

alm1000 said...

Posting before I read any of the other comments.

What an embarrassment, on the field and in the stands.
"Lets go Phillies" echoing through the park during the intos. Obama putting on an White Sox cap. Then the massacre of Lannan and our team. We were a joke and for the first time since the Nats returned in 05 I am embarrassed to say I am a Nats fan.
This is a low point for me.
Mark, please do some investigating on this. WHY WERE THERE 15-20,000 PHILLIE FANS WHEN ON THE FIRST DAY WHEN TICKETS WENT ON SALE IT WAS HARD TO BUY 2 TOGETHER??? Why did they not have a problem buying 20, 30 even 50 together and we couldn't get 2???
I want answers from StanK and the front office on this.
Yesterday sucked.

Anonymous said...

Leonsis blocked sales of Verizon Center hockey playoff tickets to Pittsburgh residents during the Caps-Pens series so that he could save tickets for Caps fans. What does Lerner do? Allow huge sales to Filthadelphia residents so that some Nats fans I know were unable to see the Prez throw out the first pitch, and those who did have tickets had to feel disgusted and bullied by the drunk Filly fans surrounding them. I suggest that all Nats fans should take their tickets to upcoming Filly games and give those tickets to biggest, nastiest D.C. thugs they can find--along with enough beer money to get them drunk--and encourage them to ruin any pleasure the Filly fans take from visiting our stadium.

alm1000 said...

Good idea Anom at 10:04, but I don't know any DC thugs.
I had circled Nyjer's bobblehead day as a must attend but now I doubt I will go - I don't think I will attend any more Nats games where we play Philly.
Until we can contend with them on the field, I don't plan to try to contend with them in the stands.
StanK better get on the Phily radio for the rest of the Philly games this year. Better yet, StanK gan get the hell out of DC, he is just a Brave in an expensive suit with a crappy attitude.

dale said...

When a fan base turns from from indifference to embarrassment to seething rage then it is time for the owners to make some instant changes. The changes on the field may or may not come, but the changes in the owner's perception of how to treat its fans and to create enthusiasm for the team has no grace period now.

You would think that having lived their lives in a political town that the Lerners would have a clue how to stage an event to get the maximum positive publicity out of it. If not maybe they should start hiring some of the myriad campaign promoters out of work in between election cycles to bring in more supporters for the team on Opening Day. "Lets go Phillies" is not the chant that fans on Opening Day in Washington should ever be subjected to. Whatever off-season good will tours this team conjured has now been negated in one pitiful display.

Chris S. said...

I actually object to the Caps discriminatory ticket sale policies. They shouldn't favor Caps fans, just as the Nats shouldn't favor Phillies fans. Tickets should go on sale and be equally available to everyone, and the free market (quality of the fanbase, team, etc.) will determine who ends up buying them.

Anonymous said...

A negative, ugly experience. That's what Opening Day was for me and my family.

We all got caught up in the Nats' happy talk of the off-season. It was all talk. I'm already hearing echoes from 2008 and 2009 from the team: "We're much better than this." "We didn't show what we can do." The next phase of quotes, on schedule, will be "There's no way this team loses 100 games--I'm not even worried about that."

The Obama hat thing was classic Obama conman. Almost all the previous presidents had well-known, favorite teams, but never pulled such an arrogant, self-centered stunt as that one. Let's be certain never to invite him back. Why does he speak well of Chicago when he's in Washington, but he doesn't speak well of America when he's overseas?

I'm not going to any more games against Philly. Those fans are scummy. It was very, very unpleasant to be taunted in front of my family. I promise you one thing: if that had been a night game, there would have been fights. I'm not going to take the chance.

We had lots of happy talk all winter. Then we go to Opening Day and the opposing team has a better player than the Nats at almost every position on the field, including rotation, bullpen, and back-up players.


Anonymous said...

holy crap nats fans, after monday's game i didn't know if there were such a thing.(phillies fan (or as you guys all like to refer to us as scum of the earth) by the way)

Daniel said...

I actually think it's better that the president didn't pretend to have allegiance to a team he definitely doesn't love. Could have had a little more tact, but it's better than pretending that he loves the Nats. At least he showed up this year.

Awful game. I hope the Nats have some serious improvements waiting to burst forth.

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