Monday, March 21, 2011

Wrapping up a manic Monday

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Livan Hernandez allowed two runs in five innings today.
JUPITER, Fla. -- Boy, I sure picked the right day to return to Florida.

It turned out to be quite an eventful Monday in the Grapefruit League, beginning with Bryce Harper's sprained ankle and continuing through the bench-clearing incident between the Nationals and Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.

Let's run through all of the significant developments of the day...

Looks like everything is going to be fine with Harper, who suffered a sprained left ankle trying to beat out a grounder to short during this morning's minor-league intrasquad game but avoided significant injury. X-rays were negative, and the team is saying Harper's status remains "day-to-day." I wouldn't be surprised if the Nats are cautious with their 18-year-old prospect, letting him rest for a while before throwing him back into the fold, though Harper clearly wants to get back on the field. As he posted on Twitter this evening: "Everybody thank you for all the kind words and thoughts about me getting better! I feel good and I expect to be out there asap!"

It was both surprising and refreshing to hear Livan Hernandez flatly acknowledge he intentionally threw at Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus today in retaliation for Chris Carpenter's plunking of Laynce Nix minutes earlier. But I'm sure the folks at MLB headquarters aren't happy about a quote like this one: "I hit the guy because he hit somebody." I fully expect MLB to discipline Hernandez in the coming days. He'll definitely be fined, and it's entirely possible he'll be suspended for some minimum length of time. The question then becomes when that suspension would take place. In theory, MLB could attempt to suspend Livo for the start of the season, preventing him from pitching on Opening Day. Of course, Hernandez would have the right to appeal the suspension, go ahead and face the Braves March 31 and then wait to have a hearing at some point before a potentially reduced suspension would take place. Definitely something to keep an eye on the next few days, though.

Lost amid the late-game brouhaha was a pretty solid pitching performance from Livo, who allowed two runs and six hits over five innings, most of the damage coming in his final two innings. He threw 83 pitches, and with one final exhibition start remaining before Opening Day, he's on pace to be stretched out nicely.

It also should be noted that the Nationals' lineup today put together a nice performance against Carpenter, one of the toughest pitchers in the game. Washington scored four runs on seven hits and three walks during Carpenter's 4 2/3 innings, sending 11 men to the plate in the top of the fourth. You never want to get too excited or too depressed about spring training performances, but the fact the Nats did this to a front-line starter like Carpenter was at the very least a nice development.

The new first baseman has looked really comfortable at the plate lately, and after going 2-for-3 with a double, two RBI and a walk today, he's now hitting .368 (14-for-38) with four doubles and 10 RBI in 13 games this spring. LaRoche also made a spectacular play in the field, diving way to his right to snag a hard grounder, then hopping up and firing a good throw to second for a force out.

First of all, let me just say that Nyjer did absolutely nothing today to warrant the escalation of emotions between the two teams. He simply tried to beat out a bunt and ran straight down the line, not in fair territory and certainly not intending to make contact with Albert Pujols. The throw was offline and drew Pujols toward Morgan, leading to the minor collision. Whether the beanball war started because of that or because of Nyjer's history with the Cardinals, he did nothing today to fan the flames. As for his overall performance, it's worth noting that since starting the spring in a 1-for-16 funk, Morgan is hitting .323 (10-for-31) with a .447 on-base percentage.

It's also worth noting that with today's 7-2 victory, the Nationals snapped a seven-game losing streak. That just happened to coincide with my return to camp. In fact, I've still yet to see the Nats lose in person this spring; they're 4-0 with me in attendance. (And no, I don't honestly believe my presence has any effect whatsoever on this team's performance, and anyone who does is seriously in need help.)

More photos from today's game...

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ian Desmond attempts to turn a double play.

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nyjer Morgan was 1-for-4 and was caught stealing second.

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Adam LaRoche went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI.


nats24 said...

Nice wrap, Mark, and nice photos, too.

Anonymous said...

Yes and it was a "manic Monday" on the ol' blogspot tonight! Already close to midseason form.

SofieT said...

And no, I don't honestly believe my presence has any effect whatsoever on this team's performance, and anyone who does is seriously in need help."

Oh sure. Whatever you say, Mark. :-)

I'll just say....keep attending!!!


JayB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JayB said...

Mark, Morgan was caught stealing yet again...and badly too....please report the whole performance....his OBP does not matter when he runs into outs with amazing predictability. His defense is bad and his Arm is the worst arm in baseball, not even close.

As far and the drama are correct that in the Micro sense Morgan did nothing wrong the bigger (like so many more coming) was all Morgan's doing. That never happens if Morgan not on the field. Morgan is all about Morgan and he loves the drama. He is a super star in his mind and does not understand baseball or team.

MY QUESTION to you he worth the drama he loves so much?

Andrew said...

Nyjer gets more press on here than even Bryce Harper. I am assuming Nyjer is the starting CF which looks like it will happen right now but a very good question was brought up yesterday about curtailing Nyjer's running and suggesting that Riggleman control the steal sign for Nyjer. Nyjer now has been caught stealing 3 times this Spring.

MY QUESTION to you Mark....can you ask Riggleman if he will control the steal sign in 2011 for Nyjer?

NatsJack in Florida said...

I don't always agree with JayB but on this one he is absolutely correct. Nyjer Morgan is a head case and a reminder of how losing baseball is played. The numbers this spring are totally misleading in that he has contributed nothing to any game he's played. His at bats stats have amounted to zero wins. His defense in CF has been atrocious having played several singles into doubles. And everyone knows his arm is the worst in baseball.

People who think his hockey mentality is a positve are so far off base, they too will be picked off. ANYBODY in the leadoff roll and a competent CF (Ankiel, Benadina, even Jerry Hairston, Jr.)is a marked improvement over Morgan.

JaneB said...

Wasn't saying the hockey mentality was a positive....just sharing an insight into his particular form of aggressiveness, that helped me understand him better.

Anyone know what LaRoche was referring to, in his "that's who they are" comments about the Cards?

Here's to a drama-less win today! Go Nats!

NatsJack in Florida said...

Hey JaneB... that wasn't directed at you... more like Sec_3_Sofa.

LaRoche was referring to LaRussa and his very long retaliatory memory.

Enjoy the game today. If my seats don't sell you are welcome to use them.

Anonymous said...

Mark's presence at the game, of course, has nothing to do with the Nats' success on the field. Everybody knows this. It is Mark's gametime interviews and photographs that cause the Nats to win, not his mere presence.

Soul Possession, PFB Sofa said...

WADR, Natsjack, go re-read my post.

natsfan1a said...

I would think that LaRoche faced the Cards a lot as a Pirate.

Anon@8:36: duh, yeaahhh... We're all much more clever than to think that Mark's mere presence is a factor. ;-)

NatsJack in Florida said...

Sec 3... I don't like his hockey mentality to baseball just like I wouldn't like a baseball mentality to hockey. Two entirely different mindsets and neither is conducive to winning in their respective sports.

You state that you like his hockey mentality.

HHover said...

Some thoughts re: Morgan:

1. I'm not sure why folks think Riggs & Co. can or will control Nyjer's stealing this year, when they couldn't or wouldn't last year.

2. Morgan does seem to be hot at the plate for the last 10 days or so. It's interesting to me that, during the same time, management seems to have sent more and more signs that he might *not* be the starting CF, even tho they seemed to stand by him during his cold start.

3. I agree with those who find Nyjer's mentality a negative, not a positive. I don't see it as a hockey mentality; I see it as a five-year-old mentality, prone to tantrums and hotheadedness. He wasn't responsible for yesterday's brouhaha, but given his history, he should have had more sense and self-control than to come charging out of the dugout after the 3d plunking.

natsfan1a said...

We interrupt this thread for a brief programming note. I missed seeing sec3's comments of late, so it's nice to see him back. Great avatar, too (I assume it's of a novelist). :-)

Sofie, do you post over on the Nats MLB site board? I don't tend to post there but do read the occasional thread. Have enjoyed your posts on that board (if you're the same poster), and it's good to see you over here!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled discussion.

Steve M. said...

HHover - I brought up Nyjer deciding when to steal on his own yesterday, and a few times before. His speed and/or his instincts are clearly on the decline as shown in the stats however I still hold out hope that Riggleman who has the title of Manager will actually manage his players. Nobody needs more management than Nyjer.

I think maybe things have changed and finally 2 big issues were resolved.

1) JMaxwell traded
2) Mock already was sent to the Minors so he won't be in the Opening Day rotation

Those are 2 major differences from previous seasons so still hoping that this is an evolving process.

Anonymous said...

It's a rare day that I agree with JayB, but I do today. Morgan needs to be released--he may not have been directly responsible for yesterday's antics, but I think we can pinpoint him as the source from whom Desmond learned that it was okay to go after LaRussa, as seen in another photo on this blog. I'd be very happy to spend the rest of ST watching Ankiel and Bernadina battle it out for the job of starting CF. Bernie could certainly be a solid bench guy who can fill all the OF roles if needed.

Unknown said...

1a, thanks.
Anon 10:34 and JayB, re: Nyjer "causing" yesterday's rhubarb--convince yourselves of whatever you like, but you know nothing of the sort.
NatsJack, again, con todo respeto, now you're just being disingenuous. I said I like the guy, not his baseball game. Clearly.
To be fair, I don't know him personally, so maybe that's irrelevant. I do know his teammates have gone out of their way more than once to speak up for him, and that tells me a lot. They *do* know him personally.

I happen to think you're wrong about hockey and baseball personalities not mixing, but maybe that's a matter of taste. Both of us could cite knowledgeable baseball people to support our point.

A DC Wonk said...

"he may not have been directly responsible for yesterday's antics" -- but let's blame him anyway. Sheesh. I suppose we should blame him for the Middle East stuff, too, right? (Has anybody noticed comments from various ballplayers that the Cards are "that kind of team". Hello, maybe the blame should be with them).

(And criticizing him for coming out of the dugout first after Desmond got hit? C'mon)

As for too many steal attempts, Riggs made it clear that during Spring Training, base runners would be given extra leeway in running because he wanted them to stretch their aggressiveness.

And, Mark, as for Livo admitting that he threw at Rasmus -- I'm guessing that Livo gets a free pass from MLB for that, on the grounds that Livo throws so slowly, he couldn't possibly hurt anybody ;-)

Anonymous said...

I am amazed at the number of people who can climb inside Nyjer Morgan's mind and read his evil intentions. Nonsense. And why are so many posters so hell bent on leaving this team with no leadoff hitter? They would prefer punishing Morgan for his bad intentions of which they know nothing. Fabrications of the mind. Innuendo of the worst sort. Hockey mentality. What do they know about hockey mentality?

Anonymous said...

Hockey mentality --- I dont know, I'd pay to watch Ovechkin break up a double play or run out a slow roller.

Soul Possession, PFB Sofa said...

1a says she likes the avatar, so *of course* the browser gets the wrong account. Either that, or I got picked off...

greg said...

i'm not sure having morgan on the roster necessarily *gives* this team a leadoff hitter.

Jim said...

Morgan reminds me of a poor man's Omar Moreno. And btw, Moreno was the most overrated, worthless center fielder of his era. One other thing they have in common-both came out of the Pirates organization.

Cut him loose now, or trade him for roster filler for the low A ball team

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 12:16, maybe because we've been punished for almost two full seasons by having Morgan as a leadoff hitter. It's not like we'd be missing much.

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