Love & Baseball

Major sporting events tend to be a catalyst for every cliche, cheesy or emotional quote in the English language. To name a few:

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.” — Robert Frost

“Don’t give up; don’t ever give up.” — Jimmy V

“There’s no crying in baseball!!” — Tom Hanks

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” — Kelly Clarkson?

All of these were applicable to this year’s historic play-off run by the Washington Nationals, except as many fans learned, there is definitely crying in baseball. That is why I give you perhaps the corniest quote ever:

“‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” — Alfred Lord Tennyson

This quote better describes a heart-wrenching break-up, which is the only experience in my life that I can compare with Friday night’s game 5 loss. It hurt. Much like the early stages of love, Nationals fans spent the season somewhat mystified at the team’s sudden good fortune, and weren’t really sure if it would last. I remember going to Take Back the Park against the Phillies May 5, and someone said, “way to go, you won April.” Obviously this was from a bitter Philly fan, but when your team has yet to have a winning season, you had to wonder if he would be proven right.

But April turned into May, and May to June, and quickly it became clear that the 2012 season was more than just a couple of good dates; it was something quite special.

I won’t bore you with the details; if you follow the Nationals, you know there were too many good times to list. The victims of last season, pre-season and early season injuries became heroes in the field, on the mound and at the plate. The pitcher with the most wins last season was sent to the minors, only to win big when called up. And a rookie– the likes of which had never been seen before– let a veteran pitcher know– you hit him, he’ll steal home.  As for the media– you ask him a ridiculous question after a game, he’ll make you a clown.

This season seemed to have been made in baseball heaven.

What made it so great is what made Friday’s sudden loss so hard to swallow. Like a bad break-up, you’re left re-playing all of the good moments in your head, and wondering what went wrong.

I think I speak for all the real fans when I say: it was worth it.

Also like relationships that come to a devastating end, the good memories can never be erased, and the bad ones teach you for the next time around.

So I leave you, Washington Nationals fans, with another very cheesy quote about love:

“Love is everything it’s cracked up to be…It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for.” –Erica Jong

Substitute “love” with “winning.” It really is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why losing game 5 of our first play-off berth hurt considerably more than losing 100 games just a few seasons ago.

It’s also why they play the game, and we love to watch it.

It’s why we follow every moment of a 162 game season.

It’s why we’re already counting down til pitchers and catchers report next year. (125 days, btw.)

And it’s why we’ll be back at Nats Park next season. Only now, we’ll expect to win.

Thank you, Washington Nationals, for a season that gave this growing fan base the spark it’s so desperately been wanting. Or, as we like to say around here, igniting our Natitude.

((pics to come.))

 

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Losing’s Never Felt so Good

Victory via defeat. Sounds impossible, but it describes my Monday night.

We’ll start with the obvious: the Washington Nationals. After losing 2 out of 3 in St Louis (by huge margins and horrible performances by our starting pitching), the silver lining was the opportunity to clinch the division at home. What could be better than beating the Phillies, at home, to end the season and solidify our play-off status?

Things didn’t really transpire that way. Kyle Kendrick pitched one hell of a game, and the Phillies shut out the Nats. But somehow, the free-falling Pittsburgh Pirates managed to beat the Braves just as the Nats finished up the top of the 9th. History was made, and three quick outs later, I don’t think anyone cared about the game that just ended. As the Nationals proceeded to pour champagne and Miller Lite over themselves, each other, FP Santangelo and the fans, I realized achieving that sweet victory after losing to the Phils was all the more satisfying. They can come in droves to our stadium, hit our rookie, boo old people, boo Santa Claus, boo Jayson Werth when he gets hurt, basically be the terrible people that they are, but this season, they’re irrelevant. In the words of Michael Morse, “this division is going to be our division.” Profound, Beast. Profound and right now, completely accurate.

So that was victory number 1. Number 2 was a little less dignified.

I finally won another week of fantasy football. (Yes, I lost the last two weeks, which is why I didn’t write about it. Too painful.) That win came at the hands of my childhood football team, the Dallas Cowboys. My opponent had Murray on his team and while I hoped his numbers weren’t good, I didn’t mean for Romo to throw 5 interceptions. Whoops.

Horned Frogs? Well, they flat-out won. No simultaneous defeat necessary. Just call them the 4-0 Frogs. 

 

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1-0

NFL week 1 is over, and this girl is 1-0 in her fantasy league.

That may seem like no big feat, but in many offices around the country (including my own), fantasy football is a male dominated activity. So I’m pretty proud that I’m in, but moreso that I seemingly know what I’m doing. Go me.

I also managed to squeak by in my survivor league, with Philadelphia pulling out a nail biter over the Browns. Next week’s pick: Houston.

The most disappointing part of the football week was former horned frog Andy Dalton’s performance in Baltimore last night. When you watch a qb lead your university to the most success it has seen in modern history, it’s hard to watch them struggle at the next level (and even harder to read the idiotic tweets about him from people who probably didn’t graduate from high school.) I, however, have faith in TCU’s favorite ginger. So much, that I’m starting him next week against Cleveland. Betting against the Browns has worked for me so far, why stop now?

Speaking of the Frogs, their 2012 debut wasn’t too shabby. I realize Grambling State isn’t the toughest of opponents, but 100% passing completion? Come on. Ready to take that show on the road next week in Kansas.

Overall, week 1 was great, can’t wait for week 2!

(Oh, and in case anyone forgot, the Nationals are still winning their division by 6.5. Bring it.)

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Fantasy Week 1

It’s that time of year again, when my attention is split between baseball and college football. This year provides a couple of twists: a) my baseball team could quite possible win their division and b) I’m in a fantasy football league, so I’ll actually have to pay close  attention to the NFL. So now I’m being torn in THREE directions! (yes, I know, 1st world problem.)

While I’ve done bowl pools and March Madness brackets for years (reigning champion of the March Madness Pool of Doom, thank you very much), this is my first time to jump into the time consuming, production dwindling world that is fantasy football. I figured that would be the only way to get a word in the next few months at work.

This also means that if I do horribly, I’ll be ridiculed weekly by my colleagues. At least the Nats are good.

So here’s the team. My drafting theory is a combination of 1. former TCU players 2. former UT players 3. Dallas players 4. Chicago players 5. whoever was ranked highest.

My starters this week:

QB– Jay Cutler

WR– Jordy Nelson, Dez Bryant

RB– Jamaal Charles, Ray Rice, & Cedric Benson

TE–Antonio Gates

K- Dan Bailey

Def- Houston

I’m also in a Survivor league for the 2nd year. Went out on a limb for week 1 and picked Philly over Cleveland. Not the most obvious choice, but there are lots of good teams I want to save for later in the season. Here’s hoping I get that chance!

Happy football season, y’all.

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Will Davey ever get Ejected?

In the last few weeks, I recall commenting to my fiance that Davey Johnson never gets ejected.

I’m not one who watches baseball for the fights, (I enjoy baseball, not hockey) and I’m typically not a fan of players who mouth off to umps. Yes, he rung you up on a pitch that was just a ball. No, he’s not changing his mind. And no, you’re not special–it happens all the time. And yes, sometimes I think managers go overboard with the flailing arms, finger pointing and vein popping.

But would it hurt for Davey to get fired up enough to get ejected just ONCE?

He had the perfect opportunity Saturday afternoon when the Yankees were in town. In the bottom of the 8th, Ian Desmond hit a solo home run to tie the game. That was followed by a double by rookie Tyler Moore, and another double by Adam LaRoche. Moore ran for home (and the lead), and was called out at home–a play that much of the sports media have aired a hundred times and deemed a blown call.

As luck would have it, that run could have won the game. But it didn’t, and instead the Yankees won 5-3 in the 14th inning.

Now, I know there’s nothing that can really be done about a blown call at the plate. So long as there’s no instant replay (and I’ll save my thoughts on that for a future post), we’re stuck with 1 man’s gut call.

But I don’t think Davey’s little “talk” with the ump was enough. That run made the difference between getting swept by the Bronx Bombers, and scoring a late inning run for the win. It may not be Davey’s “thing,” but in this instance, I really would’ve liked to have seen him make a big enough stink to get thrown out. When you’ve got a packed house, a winning record, the most famous franchise in history in town, and a damn good rookie who should have just scored the winning run, it’s time to show a little emotion.

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Werthless Phans

The Nationals certainly have much to celebrate; their first month of play has been highly successful, and the future looks bright. It’s too bad I didn’t write about that in the last month, before the events of last night.

I also wish I could get through one, just one Phillies series without thinking their fans are the most vile specimens of human beings on the planet.

Saturday, I thought that might be the case. True to form, Philly showed up in massive numbers. Thanks to the (I think) successful marketing/PR move by the Nationals to “take back the Park,” the place was packed, and much of the red belonged to Washington. After a nail-biter Friday night in which the Nats prevailed, they pulled off a big win Saturday, in which former Philly star Jayson Werth hit a home run to take the initial lead. As suspected, the Phillies fans booed his success, one even shouted profanities at my fiance (because clearly, the best way to get back at someone for supporting a winning team is to tell them to F themselves.), in front of children. Classy. I’ve come to expect that. By the end of the game, though, we’d made friends with the phans in front of us, and it was an overall great experience. Had I managed to publish a blog that night, my summary of Take Back the Park would’ve been much different.

Last night wasn’t as successful, for the Nationals or for the overall public perception of the people of Philadelphia.

The Nationals got creamed, that’s the only way to describe a 9-3 loss. After losing 2 in a row, the Phillies fans no doubt had something to cheer about. The top of the 9th was a complete pitching debacle on our part.

Earlier in the game, Phillies fans got about as creative as they can, and started chanting to Jayson Werth that he was a sell-out. Okay.

But the fact that Werth’s former fans suddenly hate him now that he’s playing well and the Nats are winning (last year they cheered for him the first time the Nats came to town), is not so surprising.

Here’s what is:

In the top of the 6th, Werth attempted to dive for a fly ball. It would’ve been a great catch, and he nearly had it, until he fell on his left wrist, breaking it. It’s too soon to tell how long he’ll be out, but it’s certainly devastating for the Nationals.

What’s more devastating is the lack of humanity that comes to town every time these 2 teams play. Phillies fans actually cheered when it was apparent that Werth was seriously injured. I heard someone behind me yell “yeah! get him out of here!”

You can heckle, taunt, annoyingly whistle, overrun our parking lots and flick us off in the name of baseball hyper-fandom. But cheering for another human being’s injury–a BASEBALL PLAYER at that–we’re not talking about a criminal here, but a baseball player that once brought your town immense success, is simply unacceptable.

Jayson’s wrist will heal. This team will keep winning. I just hope that decency befalls the seats of Citizens Bank Park in the meantime.

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Countdown til Opening Day: #4–Ramos’ Return

In a previous post I mentioned that one of the biggest advantages to working in tv is having 2 tv’s at your desk. Another is getting updates from the wire services continuously throughout the day. This is helpful when the Nationals are playing a day game and I don’t have time to watch…at least I promptly see the final score.

Quite possibly the worst wire that’s ever come across my computer was the news that Nationals young catcher Wilson Ramos had been kidnapped in his native Venezuela. At first it seemed like some sort of awful joke, but as the details emerged it was clear that the situation was very serious. When 2 days passed without any updates on his condition, I and many others feared the worst. 

It’s often said that it’s too bad it takes a tragedy to bring a group of people together, whether that be a family, a town or even a nation. That’s exactly what happened with the kidnapping of Wilson Ramos. I went from feeling like I was 1 of about a dozen Nats fans, to seeing tweets, news stories and vigils in honor of the catcher. One vigil was held outside of Nats park on a Friday evening. I couldn’t attend because I was at work, but I watched from my desk and remember feeling sad, obviously, but proud at the same time. Though small and sometimes the butt of jokes by other teams, the Nationals’ fan base came together for a player who, prior to this incident, was relatively unknown nationally.

Unlike many other “come-together” tragedies, though, this one luckily had a happy ending.

Later that night, I was at my favorite Friday spot, Tortoise and Hare, when my brother said “they found Ramos.” I immediately pulled out my blackberry, and found emails from our Miami producer that Ramos had indeed been found, alive, and looked up to see corresponding stories on tv. I will admit that I teared up right there at the bar (as I’m doing now, writing this), and before long our entire table was toasting to Wilson Ramos.

The details of his rescue were terrifying and unimaginable. Those responsible for getting him out are to be commended for their bravery and ability to execute such a difficult mission.

But I can’t help but believe that the support being lifted from Natstown was a little responsible, too. 

When Wilson Ramos takes the field in Washington for the first time since this incident, it’s going to be an emotional moment for the stadium. I’ll be there, probably crying, and I can’t wait for that standing ovation to welcome home our catcher.

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