“When war is declared, Truth is the first casualty.” – Arthur Ponsoby
Washington Nationals: 16-9 (5/4-5/6)
The Nats are the talk of the town, just not their own. The team has jumped out to the front of the NL East, but they still can’t get fans in the stands. Even with the much anticipated arrival of prospect Bryce Harper the team still couldn’t manage to sell out. Adding insult to injury has been Phillies fans ability to invade D.C., and make every game in the Nationals park feel like a home game . Despite the Nationals campaign to “take back the park” I fully expect Phillies fans to be in full force for the weekend series. If the Nats fan base can’t get behind the debut tour of the Bryce Harper show I don’t know what will get them to the stadium. Plenty of tickets still available Phillies fans.
Player to Watch: SP Stephen Strasburg
Unfortunately the Phillies won’t miss Strasburg’s turn in the rotation this weekend. The Nats young ace is finally healthy, and pitching like the college phenom the team drafted in 2009. If monthly awards are any indication of how good he’s been, Stransburg was just named NL pitcher of the month. Still don’t believe the hype? The young righty has a 1.13 ERA in five starts, averaging a strike out per inning. He’s finally learning that he doesn’t have to throw 99mph with every pitch. This is bad news for the Phillies and the rest of the NL, as he transitions from a thrower to a pitcher.
Most Hated National: OF Bryce Harper
Harper is finally here! Nationals fans and baseball pundits are rejoicing (I think) at the arrival of the most hyped prospect since Junior Griffey. Not even a week in, and Harper has shown just why fans and scouts alike drool over his game. He has a cannon for an arm, hits to all fields, and might just play harder than Pete Rose. Ok, he might not be Charlie Hustle, but he plays with a motor that just makes you want to root against him (unless your a Nats fan). I mean, who sprints down to first after a walk? If fans don’t already hate harper, he will give them plenty to loath after this 3-game series.
Fansided Perspective: Aaron Summers gave me answers to the most pressing issues from our nation’s capitol.
1) Now that the Eagle has landed, can Bryce Harper ever live up to his hype?
In short, yes he can live up to his hype but it’s going to take some time and it’s going to require some patience. We need to remember that Harper is just 19 years old, only has three weeks of Triple-A experience, and has been in the national spotlight ever since he was 16. People have been expecting for years that he’s going to make an immediate impact on the Nationals once he arrives and he’ll instantly be one of the best players in the Majors. That just isn’t realistic. He’s going to struggle along the way. He’s going to find bumps in the road. But ultimately I believe he’ll push through those challenges successfully.
2) Who are the real Nats, the team that got off to a 14-4 start or the abysmal team of the past week?
They are really somewhere in between. The 14-4 start to the season was not only phenomenal, but highly unexpected. We knew the pitching staff was going to be a strength this season but there was no way of predicting this level of performance from the group over the season’s first month. That group won’t be able to carry the team all season, however, unless the offense starts to put things together in order to provide them with enough run support to continue winning games. Offensively the team has been horrendous for the past week – failing to get on base, failing to hit with runners on, and there hasn’t been any power production all season. Some of the struggles are clearly due to the bats missing from the lineup with injury (namely Michael Morse and now Ryan Zimmerman) but the lack of production isn’t simply because those two bats are missing. There are multiple culprits in the lineup who’ll need to start producing sooner rather than later (Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, and Rick Ankiel – in particular).
3) Will fans embrace the take-back-the-park campaign and actually keep out Phillies fans?
Sadly, no. It’s a good effort, but there still are problems getting fans into the ballpark. Tuesday evening, for instance, was Bryce Harper’s home debut. There were only 22,000+ fans in attendance. There were countless empty seats around the stadium. If the team can’t sell out a highly touted prospect’s home debut, how can they expect fans to come out to the park in order to keep Phillie fans out? It just doesn’t seem likely. I applaud the effort the organization has taken in setting up this initiative, but it seems as though this one will fall short in the end.
New York Mets: 13-12 (5/7-5/9)
The state of the Phillies can be summed up by the fact that they are looking up at the Mets in the standings. They have battled injuries like the Phillies have, but the difference is that their best players have been their best players. David Wright continues to mash, and fuel trade speculation, hitting .392. This would be tops in the league if not for the unconscious play of Matt Kemp out in LA. On the diamond, the story continues to be the return of Johan Santana to elite status. 10.9 strikeouts per 9 isn’t to shabby for someone who missed all of last season recovering form elbow surgery. The good news for the Phillies is they will miss his turn in the rotation, along with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Despite leading the NL in home runs allowed, the Phils still can’t figure out his disappearing pitch. Can’t they outlaw the knuckler already?!
When Last We Met:
The Phillies dropped 2 out of 3 to the Mets back in mid April. Everyone knew the team was in for a long month when they got shut out by Jonathan Niese. Aside from being left handed, Niese doesn’t bring anything particularly nasty to the table. If the slugfest in Atlanta is any indication, the Phillies bats should be much better in the next go round. They did manage to score 8 runs in their lone victory, provided by the clutch hitting of Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton. Say what you will about the offseason moves made by Ruben, but these two guys are starting to finally hit their stride. Their not all-stars, but at least someone around here is starting to swing a hot bat!
1) David Wright will continue to stay hot, hitting two home runs against Kyle Kendrick before fouling a ball off his toe, causing him to miss a month.
2) Hunter Pence takes his “lets go eat!” campaign to Queens and discovers that Shake Shack makes a mean burger…but it’s no cheesesteak.
3) The Phillie Phanatic confronts Mr Met for not showing up to his birthday party against the Cubs last Sunday. After Mr Met confesses he couldn’t afford the train ride down the Phanatic, out of pity, gives him a free bobble head doll.
Fansided Perspective: Matt Musico continues to enlighten me about the team in my backyard. *Editors Note: Yard is figurative, as no one in New York has one.
1) Who is Kirk Niewenhuis? besides a guy i just picked up in fantasy with a very difficult name to pronounce.
Captain Kirk is the future center fielder for the Mets. To be honest, I hadn’t heard much about him before Spring Training this past year. Even though he did perform well before he got hurt during camp, I didn’t get the chance to watch him play until he was called up once Torres went on the DL. His strikeout numbers are a little high (27 Ks in 23 games), but he’s shown some patience at the plate, a flare for the dramatic, and outside of one big blunder against the Giants, he’s been solid in the field. If he keeps performing well, Terry Collins will be forced to keep him on the roster, finding a space for him. A lot of fans want Torres to sit once the team gets back to full strength, but it will most likely depend on how the team is performing. Either way, if all goes well, Nieuwenhuis will be in center field for the years to come, whereas Torres will not be.
2) I noticed many of the Mets have been sporting a diverse array of facial hair. Is this in defiance the clean shaven Yankees, or in support for the Rangers playoff push?
Being a younger team with a lot of homegrown players, I think they’re just excited that they can grow some, so they feel the need to show it off. I mean, Ruben Tejada still looks like he’s a couple years away from getting rid of his peach fuzz.
Seriously though, I haven’t heard of any group activities when it comes to facial hair, but I always thought it was fun when I grew facial hair with my teammates back in my playing days, so I think it’s just a little bonding experience for some of them. Except for Justin Turner; that guy blows up Twitter every time the Rangers win.
3) The Mets finally got bit by the injury bug, which player will be missed more; Mike Pelfrey or Jason Bay?
Without a doubt, Mike Pelfrey. After such a horrible spring, no one was expecting much from him, and then he surprised everyone in his first three starts of the season. Just when he put together his most dominant performance, he’s gets hurt. Jason Bay is not missed as much because we have viable players to fill in that spot, i.e. Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Scott Hairston. In place of Pelfrey, there aren’t that many; Chris Schwinden has showed in his two starts that he’s not ready for the Bigs, and Matt Harvey is close, by not quite ready either. That spot in the rotation is the most crucial roster spot right now. Maybe we can entice Roy Oswalt? Who knows.