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Series 6-Pack: America's Team

The air never feels as fresh and last-place-ish as when the Nationals come to town.  Fresh off a delirious extra-inning shit-show loss to the Mets, however, I’m not sure if this weird-looking Phillies lineup is up for much more than a Nats series at the moment.  Besides, Jayson Werth is here!  Now we can get into arguments about whether to boo him or not on the internet!

I felt it only fair to give the advantage in numbers this time, so Scott from Teddy Never Wins and Andre from Nationals Inquirer both get equal shots.

1. Looks like Bryce Harper’s maturity is coming right along.  How many times can we expect to see him at the center of a meaningless bench-clearing brawl, and what grizzled elder statesman in the Nationals organization will reluctantly take Bryce under his wing, forging an unlikely bond between them that finally sets Bryce straight?

Scott:  Not to try and make any excuses for the kid but he is only 18 and to be honest there is athletes much older who have and will do worse than what he did. And to be honest the articles I read did not have any real details on what was said between Harper and the pitcher in the first place.

Overall though I’m really not worried about him at this point but as for who will show him the way when he does get called up my guess would be Zimmerman.

Andre:  Was what happened in West Virginia really considered a brawl? Maybe I am old and things have changed, but I’ve always thought to have a brawl you actually have to, you know, brawl.

No one in Washington is truly concerned about Harper. He is a kid, not a headcase. If I was 18-years old and someone gave me some jive, I’d turn around and say something about it too– except I’d probably get smacked in the lip because I was a skinny nerd when I was that young. Besides, D.C. loves intensity in their players, that unbridled passion.

No Nats player has shown that much passion since Brian Schneider flipped a chair in the locker room in 2006 after manager Frank Robinson questioned him on what pitches he was calling.  [EDITOR'S NOTE:  Ha ha fuck yeah B-Schneid]

2.  Is there a certain wave of hopelessness that washes over a fanbase when a star player is removed for injury?  I can answer that: Yes.  So how intense was it when the news of Ryan Zimmerman’s abdomen came out?

Scott:  The news of Ryan Zimmerman needing a surgery that would keep him out at least 6 more weeks definitely left fans feeling bad. Heck I’d actually go as far as saying the feeling for Nats fans is worse than it would be for a number of other teams because of the lack of star players in Washington.

With guys like Werth and LaRoche slumping the way they have been it takes away the one guy fans feel confident about every time he steps up to the plate. So it definitely does suck.

Andre:  When Ryan Zimmerman went down, Natstown prepared itself for the worst. We knew things were bad when they called up the legendary Brian Bixler. It is disheartening for sure. The team has done incredibly well without Zimmerman, but there is always that nagging twitch in the back of your mind saying, “Imagine how they would be doing WITH Zimmerman.” Baseball is a cold and and heartless mistress.

3.  How exactly is Livian Hernandez’s name being linked to that Puerto Rican drug trafficker?

Andre:  The basics of the Livan thing is he apparently he put his name to a bunch of cars and a luxury warehouse for a drug kingpin called “El Buster.” I can’t say if he is guilty or not; the facts are not totally known and the whole affair is sketchy as hell, but it isn’t looking good. Even if he didn’t do anything really wrong, why is he making such associations and relationships? It might explain his man-purse collection. It is also scary to write anything about him because I might end up sleeping with the fishes tomorrow.

4.  How effectively has Jayson Werth taken to the role as “veteran presence,” and has he made Phase 2 of the Nationals’ turnaround significantly successful in the first month of the season?  As always, please don’t tell him we were asking about him.

Scott:  With it being just a month in I think it is still too early to see what type of influence he is having or will have on the team.

I will say this though despite his struggles at the plate so far I never get the sense that he feels like he is a beaten man and I think that may have rubbed off on the Nats already. I say that because Saturday vs the Giants they left 13 runners stranded and lost a game they probably should have won easy.

In years past I think they more than likely would have responded by coming out and dropping another game the next day. This year though they come out and put 5 runs on the board and win the game 5 to 2.

Andre:  I think the jury is still out on the Bearded One’s veteran leadership. He has committed three errors out there in the outfield and he hasn’t been producing at a high rate with the bat. The Nationals have definitely not gotten $126 million worth of play out of him yet. However, he has brought in a huge influx of Beard related Twitter characters and supposedly center fielder Nyjer Morgan blames Werth for chasing him out of D.C. I guess he is making his money one way or another.

5.  With the addition of standout pitcher Brandon King to the Hagerstown Suns roster in May, is it possible there could be a secondplayer people actually pay attention to in Municipal Stadium?

Andre: Who the hell is Brandon King? *Looks him up* Is this a serious question? Then my answer would be: Panda Bears.

Scott:  I don’t know how much impact King will have this season but it is definitely nice to see him return from his offseason arthroscopic surgery done to his shoulder. Evidently, it was an injury that he has been dealing with since his college playing days and was causing him to have to be shut down even back then. So it will be nice to see how he does this season.

As for giving fans a second player worth paying to see… well, the Suns themselves as a team are worth paying to see. They are playing above .500 ball and overall have been playing some pretty good baseball.

If people are looking for guys to keep an eye on well Cameron Selik has fit that bill so far this season. He was a relief pitcher in 2010, but has been converted to a starting pitcher this season and has responded well to it. So far he has allowed just 1 run over over 29 innings of play and has struck out 30 while walking just 3 batters.

I’d expect him to get a promotion soon, though, so they might want to hurry up and see him while they can. Also a couple other guys to watch on the Suns are Blake Kelso, Jason Martinson and Randolph Oduber, just to name a few.

6.  Nolan Ryan recently said something dumb and curmudgeonly about players getting to go on paternity leave, hinting that he didn’t much care for it: “In those days they never allowed you to go home for a child to be born.”  How greatly did Ian Desmond’s recent absence due to the birth of his first child affect the Nationals?  And are Nolan Ryan’s opinions  better suited for a cowboy-nursing home than 2011 America?

Scott:  While I can’t scientifically prove it I think Desmond’s absence was actually a good thing for him. It’s his first child and a lot goes on in a persons mind during that time as to how both the baby and the mother are doing. So hopefully having been given the chance to go see them will have taken some weight off him mentally speaking.

I know he responded well on his return well at least for his first two games back he did.

As for Nolan Ryan well just to give you an idea of how long ago it was that Ryan’s first child was born well Nixon was still President and gas prices were under 40 cents a gallon. So things have definitely changed a lot in the almost 40 years since the day Ryan’s first kid was born. Heck I may be wrong but I don’t think fathers were even allowed in the room when their kids were being born back then.

So yea I do think his opinion is a little outdated for 2011….

Andre: The tribe is very proud of Desmond. Being a first time father is a big thing and I can understand that before the birth Desmond might have been a bit distracted which is why he might be leading the team in errors again this year. I mean, when I became a first time father I know I must have missed the urinal three or four times the days leading up to the birth. Sadly, I don’t think the errors will go away now that he is back and chewing on blue bubble gum cigars. But he has shown a little improvement since returning. A little more focused. Pssh, I have no idea what Nolan Ryan is talking about. They must have run out of pudding at the Home for him to make such ridiculous comments.

1.  Going in to the start of the season the Phillies were in most peoples opinion the clear cut favorite in the NL East but with almost 30 games in to the season and the Marlins hanging close are you at all worried?

I think you’d be hard pressed to find any Phillies fan who was going to go through the season without being gripped by the cold fingers of anxiety and terror for at least
most of the time.  We’re not foreigners to suffering just because the past few years have gone great.  Besides, our roster is a list of casualties at the moment.  The fact that we’re still in first place with one of the best records in the NL is a testament not only to our talent, but how much the teams we’ve played have sucked (sorry).  So no, I’m starting to worry.  I’ve been worried.  The Marlins are good.  The Braves will bounce back.  Chase was injured during the preseason.  I’ve been pretty much frozen with fear since then.

2.  Being that you asked me about an injured Nationals player its time to ask you about an injured Phillies player… What have you heard lately on Chase Utley and do they feel he is anywhere close to starting to play in actual minor or major  league games again?

Jayson Stark just said he’s all but guaranteeing that Chase will be back before like the end of May or something, which was the most we’d heard about the process in awhile.  All they tell us is that he’s making progress and its taking a long time.  That’s all.  And remember, Stark is a journalist and in no way affiliated with the franchise, so that’s just pure speculation, or as I refer to it, “fucking bullshit.”

They showed footage of Chase running the bases the other day though, and I gasped with delight.  He’s coming.  Someday.  As far as rehab starts go, you’ll know when he gets one because angelic choirs will ring out.

3.  Being that the Philadelphia fans are the worst fans in the entire US (according to GQ Magazine) should Jayson Werth be worried about hisfirst series returning to Philly?

I mean if you Nationals fans actually existed I guess it would be a bit more intimidating to hear that GQ “stat” referenced again.  People have trimmed down that whole situation to “He left us for money,” and is now in last place.  So there will be signs and boos, but there will also be cheers from people who know better.  Honestly, I’d probably just sit there.  I’m over it.  I mean, I miss him, but I’m over it.  If I had few beers in me I’d probably take some shots at him.  But who at that game will have been drinking for the past few hours?  Probably not that many.

4.  Everyone knows all about the Phillies big 4 of Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Oswalt but who they might not know about young right hander Vance Worley who they should be facing this series. So what can you tell us about Worley and what is your opinion of him as a pitcher right now?

Ha ha, Vance is a good guy.  He’s not the greatest pitcher in the world, he doesn’t throw very hard, his movement lacks movement sometimes, but his biggest asset right now is that he isn’t afraid of anybody.  I’ve heard that over and over again.  Apparently he’s got that Cliff Lee “I will not be intimidated” thing going on.  Also he has glasses.

5.  With Zimmerman out is there any Nationals players that you are actually worried about having to go against?

Jayson Werth, from a revenge standpoint.  Isn’t your catcher being a pain right now?  Wilson?  Yeah, him.  I hope somebody shuts him up.

6.  With Raul Ibanez about to turn 39 in June struggling the way he has been do you think they should or will put somebody in his place if he continues to struggle much longer? and if you do think they should bring in a replacement do you have any candidates in mind that you would like to see take the job?

They just covered this ground on Phillies Nation in a really comprehensive way that boils down to this: Managers can develop loyalty to older players who have performed well in the past.  Charlie may look at Raul and see a guy who doesn’t have many good year(s) left in the game and is trying to give him every chance he can to right the ship.  Raul had two at-bats last night that would have been perfect hero moments for him to turn it around.  In one he struck out pathetically and the other he grounded out, I think.  He’s been hitting the ball hard, too, but each time he does somebody’s standing there to catch it.

But if he’s really at the point in his career where we’re saying “Raul would be so much better if the other team didn’t take the field,” that might be your answer right there.  John Mayberry is a great fourth outfielder on a team that needs a third outfielder, so he’s no long term solution.  Dom Brown just got promoted again, though.  He’s coming.  Just a matter of time.

Tags: Brian Schneider Nationals Phillies Series 6-pack Washington

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