Sometimes, the writing business is hard. But when difficulty and despair creep in, I remember the fans, or more accurately, the fan who calls out for July’s edition of the MESPY (Matt’s Excellence in Self-Promotion Yada Yada) Awards. Sniff. That’s what makes it all worth while.
AL MVP: Mike Trout. Somewhere, Tim Salmon is crying, realizing the gig is up as the top fish to ever play for the Angels. Trout put up a monster July, hitting .392 with 10 home runs, 32 runs scored (32!), 23 RBIs, and 9 stolen bases, just because he can. His 2.8 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) was 33 percent better than the next highest in July, Ryan Zimmerman’s 2.1 WAR.
AL CY Young: David Price. WAR will tell you that Felix Hernandez had the edge, but that was due in large part to King Felix having one additional start. Take that away, and the Price was Right snitches!
AL Rookie of the Month: Trout. I knew fish was brain food but I didn’t realize it made thinking this easy.
NL MVP: Ryan Zimmerman. Andrew McCutchen must be starting to feel like the Susan Lucci of the MESPY awards at this point, but Zimm edged the Dread Pirate in home runs, runs, and RBIs. Also, McCutchen’s surprising total of zero stolen bases and Zimm’s edge in defensive metrics pushed Ryan over the top in WAR, 2.1 to 2.0.
NL CY Young: Jordan Zimmermann. After the July JZ had, I can’t help but wonder if the other Jaz-Z wrote A Star is Born about Zimm:
And I am one, of one
Can’t you see just how long my run?
NL Rookie of the Month: It would be a real dogfight between Michael Fiers of the Brewers and Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs (both 1.0 WAR), if it weren’t for Rizzo accumulating 153 at-bats last season with the Padres. According to those fun-busters at MLB, that’s 23 too many to be considered a rookie. Sigh.
Nationals’ MVP: Ryan Zimmerman. I guess I was talking about Zimm’s monster July around the office so much I shouldn’t have been surprised when I overheard management discussing whether cortisone shots would increase audit productivity.
Nationals’ CY Young: Jordan Zimmermann. Six starts. Six quality starts, with four wins banked. All he does is throw darts, though his xFIP (3.12) in July does leave some room for an upward ERA correction (.97 ERA in July).
Nationals’ Rookie of the Month: Steve Lombardozzi. No Nats rookie really shined in July, with Lombardozzi pacing all rookies with a 0.3 WAR. But with Ian Desmond going down, Lombard has swung a nice bat and picked it on a pretty consistent basis. I can think of far worse things. Like being the sap donning the Teddy Roosevelt costume everyday, running around in a thousand-degree heat, never winning the Presidents race. Yeah, that would make me hot and bitter. Hot and bitter.
And that’s all folks!
Collapse. Last night around 8:30, I thought that word would best describe my head hitting the pillow as I fell into a deep slumber, reaping the fruits of several consecutive nights of poor sleep. On the heels of a Ryan Zimmerman three-run home run that put the Nats up 6-0 against the Braves, it never crossed my mind that come the morning, that word would have a wholly different meaning.
Alas, before the sun peaked above the horizon, a check of the box scores revealed the word’s new meaning, a description of Washington throwing away a NINE! run lead to Atlanta in an eventual brutal 11-10 extra inning loss. For once, my lazy gene paid off, shielding me from what has to be one of the worst losses in National’s franchise history. And I’m drawing that conclusion from the Washington Post and a box score. I shudder to think what I would be feeling if the Sandman hadn’t called me.
Game ball(s): The Atlanta Braves hitters. Yep, each and every one of them. You don’t rally from nine runs down, even with the opposition bullpen imploding, without showing a tenacity for winning that is worthy of a game ball. Make that eight game balls.
Goat(s): Davey Johnson. While there were a lot of pigs making a mess in the pen, I will allow Davey’s own words to claim the award: ”Arguably the worst game I’ve ever managed in my life,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. ”I’ve never lost a nine-run lead when it was my part of the game to handle the pitching and it’ll be hard for me to sleep. I had a worse night than the guys did.”
Bryce Harper is still only 19: The only consolation I see right now is that in less than five hours, the Nats face off again against the Braves, in the first game of a day-night doubleheader. That’s the magic of baseball. Tomorrow usually offers the chance at quick redemption.
Current Record: 53-38
Okay. Maybe it was just four days. But the tried and true formula for the National’s first-half success emerged from its respite in all its glory in last night’s 5-1 victory over the Miami Marlins. Outstanding starting pitching. Check. Great bullpen work.* Check. An increasingly productive and deepening offense. Check. After six shutout innings, Jordan Zimmermann notched another win last night, leveling his record at 6-6 and the Nats are now 16 games (16!) over .500. After Jordan amazingly carried around a losing record for the first three months of the season, things have gotten so copacetic in the clubhouse that even Ryan Zimmerman is going nuts in support of Jordan. I told you Ryan that the missing n wasn’t worth it.
Game ball(s): The Zimmerman(n)s. Jordan has surrendered just three runs in his last four starts, and Ryan’s 3-4 night, with a home run and two RBIs, is just the start he needed to get off to after the All-Star break.
Goat(s): Henry Rodriguez. This was the * above. I was Henry’s Craig Buchanan in the early part of the season. But after a strong April, things have veered quite a ways off course for H-Rod. Stop me if you have heard this lament about a pitcher with an electric arm before, but if only he could learn to throw just a few more strikes.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Lucas Giolito. Whew. It came down to the wire, but the Nats signed their first-round pick. Now back to the candle lighting for his elbow…
Current Record: 50-34
At first, I thought it was a bit strange that I was enjoying my two for one Egg McMuffins at the start of a Nationals game. Now that I’ve woken up from a post-game nap and it is still not even 5 o’clock, all I have to say is God bless 11am starts and God bless America!
Twenty minutes into today’s game against the San Francisco Giants, while I was still flying high on the cheesy goodness of the Egg McMuffins, I wasn’t feeling as high on the Nats chances as they quickly fell behind 3-0 in the top of the first. But then the bombs started flying out of Nationals Park and Edwin Jackson settled down, and the Nats roared to a 9-4 victory. Now, the only thing left to settle on this glorious day is whether I can double-down on the nap. Dare I?
Game ball(s): Ryan Zimmerman. Leaving everyone to wonder why he didn’t take the cortisone shot on Opening Day, Ryan went 2 for 5 with a homer and 3 RBIs and his third inning double missed being a home run by this much (imagine really tiny font).
Goat(s): Madison Bumgarner and I. After Bumgarner’s dominant one-hit shutout last time out, I have to confess that for a moment I thought he was in line for an easy win for my fantasy team. The shower cannot be hot enough!
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Bryce Harper. Now that baseball has taken care of Chipper Jones, it is time to re-double the efforts to send Bryce to Kansas City. You can help send the kid to the All-Star game by voting here.
Current Record: 47-32
Playing in Colorado is always wacky. For all the wonderful things it can do for a struggling offense, it can do just as much harm to a team’s pitching staff. So, after 4 games, 33 runs scored, 25 runs allowed, 15 pitchers used, and a series split, I’m sure the Nationals were looking forward to getting to Atlanta to resume the battle for the NL East crown. Thankfully, the team’s equipment managers did take one memento from the Mile High City to play the Braves, the hot bats which churned out another 15 hits in route to a 5-4 victory.
Game ball(s): Michael Morse. Dot, dot, win. While I’ve been singing the praises of the warming bat of Ryan Zimmerman, just as importantly, Morse’s bat has been coming around, his game-winning solo home run in the eighth inning being his second in as many days. We all saw what a healthy Morse can do last year, and that’s just what Washington needs to sustain the offensive gains made in Colorado, because, alas, MLB simply won’t take to the idea of turning the Rockies pitching staff into the Nats’ Washington Generals.
Goat(s): Davey Johnson. Sounds strange saying this about Davey, but he kept Ross Detwiler in too long, which nearly cost the Nats the win. I’m sure Davey was thinking that Ross had been outstanding for six innings, and after burning through the bullpen in Colorado, he was hoping to squeeze another inning out of him. Unfortunately, when Hotlanta caught up to Detwiler, Davey was too slow to summon the bullpen to the rescue.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Stephen Strasburg. I know I’m looking forward to later today, but with a 4pm start and temperatures expected to rise above triple-digits, I will be watching to see how Strasburg manages his tempo, pitch count, and overall stamina on what will certainly be a very tough day to pitch.
Current Record: 44-31
12 runs on 21 hits. It took the thin air at Coors Field and baseball’s worse pitching staff (as measured by team ERA), but my gosh at last the Nats offense went nuts and posted double-digits on the scoreboard. After Washington struggled yet again at the plate Monday night, and then Stephen Strasburg melted down after plunking Marco Scutaro, I told myself to take a deep breath, refrain from penning something in frustration, and wait and see if Tuesday would bring better things. Oh, how I love when procrastination and rage make for a merry outcome!
Game ball(s): Edward Calvin Kendall. Could have handed out a half-dozen game balls to actual Nats, but Nancy Reagan started this nation’s conversation on drugs and I’m not about to go quiet now! I know in 1950 Kendall won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research related to the discovery of cortisone, but they’ve been handing out those Nobels like candy since 1901. Homer Simpson probably has one. But he doesn’t have a game ball, which Kendall now can now proudly claim in heaven for contributing to the resurgence of Ryan Zimmerman. I’m thinking maybe now the whole team should line up for cortisone shots and see where that gets us.
Goat(s): Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper. In the midst of the offensive breakout, Espinosa and Harper continued their struggles, going a collective 2 for 11 with just one run scored. This comes on the heels of Monday’s collective 0-7 performance. I understand the Nationals don’t have a lot of great options at the top of the order, but unless they generate more on-base productivity from their top two hitters in the lineup, I can’t foresee many more games like last night.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Tyler Moore. All the kid does is hit when he is in the lineup. If he is going to play more (pun!), which it seems like he will (and should), may I humbly suggest that Davey consider moving Moore behind Adam LaRoche and sliding Ian Desmond up to the #2 spot against lefties (keeping Espinosa leading off since he has swung the bat well against southpaws)? And against righties, perhaps Desmond could lead-off while Harper could still hold down the #2 spot?
Current Record: 42-30
Well, I guess you can scratch Nats’ team psychologist from my possible future careers list. Back to the beans counting man! Despite my early morning wishful thinking, the Nationals didn’t muster an offensive breakout in their 2-1 loss to the Orioles earlier today. Now the question becomes what happens the next two games in the thin air of Colorado when an immovable object (Washington’s offense) meets an unstoppable force (Coors Field, which has yielded the most runs in baseball).
Game ball(s): Matt Wieters. Color me surprised to learn Wieters was born in Goose Creek, South Carolina. His name just sounds so German, so hardworking. Was auch immer! Unfortunately, Wieters was quite industrious today, hitting the game-winning two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth and then gunning down Ian Desmond attempting to steal second in the top of the ninth to end the game.
Goat(s): The truth. As noted by weezie in the comments section, it really isn’t shocking that the truth is quite slippery in DC. Now suddenly, after receiving a cortisone shot, Ryan Zimmerman is back to feeling great, a day after he was going to have to shut it down for two weeks. Tomorrow is certain to bring news that Zimm’s shoulder has fallen off and the team’s strategy to move Wang to the bullpen to preserve his shoulder for a transplant has paid off.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Ross Detwiler. It is just so nice to know that the team is back to not giving away every fifth game. Happy emoticon!
Current Record: 41-29