Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Finally Ready To Talk About the Nationals NLDS Collapse

Okay, okay. After a week, I'm finally ready to talk about the Nationals epic collapse in the National League Division Series, in which they fell three-games-to-one to the San Francisco Giants.

I already wrote about attending Games 1 and 2, which were both Nationals losses thanks to terrible situational hitting and some questionable (at-best) managerial decisions by Matt Williams with respect to the bullpen.

Heading out to SF, everyone thought the sweep was in order. The Nats were after all facing the Giants' ace, Madison Bumgartner, who was last seen thoroughly dominating the Pirates in the Wild Card game. Washington, however, could take some confidence in that it was Doug Fister on the mound to save the season. Fister spent the first month or so on the DL. Since then, he was arguably the Nationals best starter (the ONLY argument to made otherwise is for Jordan Zimmermann, NOT Stephen Strasburg).

GAME 3

And, in this game, the Nationals FINALLY had a break go their way. Ian Desmond led off (the 4th I think) with a single up the middle. Harper walked. Ramos asked to bunt. Quickly draws two strikes. Matt Williams gambles and keeps the bunt on. Despite a great jump from second, Bumgartner looks to throw to get him at third and wildly misses the covering shortstop. Ball gets lost in the bullpen. Desmond and Harper both score, Ramos to second. I believe that Cabrera and Fister got out and Span walked, leading to a Rendon single to drive in Ramos from second. 3-0.

That led to this insurance run:


Harper also had two really nice plays in left field that led to crucial outs. And the Nats held on 4-1 to stave off elimination.

GAME 4

This was always going to be the nail-biter, regardless how the series was going, with Mr. Inconsistent, Gio Gonzalez starting for the Nationals. And, while he was okay, his own mistakes led to an early 2-0 hole.  When Gio is not on, command is always the problem. Here was no exception. After walking a few guys in a row, he walked in a run. In a playoff game. In an elimination playoff game. He also misplayed a grounder back to the mound and he and Rendon combined to misplay a bunt down the third baseline, leading to the second run. He came back from that rocky 2nd inning but didn't even pitch into the fifth inning.

In the fifth, Desmond led off with a single and Harper put together a really nice at-bat, that led to a Desmond-scoring RBI double. Then, both Ramos and Cabrera failed to advance Harper to third with no outs, and one out, respectively. Just absolutely inexcusable in the playoffs. And the type of mistake teams like the Giants and Cardinals simply don't make.

Harper, the team's MVP of the series, wasn't done though. Top seventh, this:


What. A. Bomb. And though some sportswriters didn't like it (ahem, ahem, asshole Mike Wise), I absolutely LOVED that Harper stared down the pitcher and how crazy he went in trying to fire up the team. In that moment, he was putting the team on his back and just needed a little bit of help.

Unfortunately, the bullpen, bats and manager gave him none.

Thus, after Harper's game-tying HR, bringing the Nationals back in the series, in the bottom of the seventh, Williams goes with...Matt Thornton. 

Groundout, single, single.

Williams goes with...Aaron Barrett?  WHAT?!?!?!  Remember, he had Strasburg, Craig Stammen, Soriano and Tyler Clippard all in the bullpen. None of them warmed up or threw a pitch in this game. Why? Because Thornton and Barrett were the seventh inning "plan" according to Matt Williams.  The knock on Barrett is also control (not to mention having never been in a pressure situation like this before). So he promptly walks Hunter Pence and throws a wild pitch to Sandoval. Giants up 3-2. Really game over at that point.

The Nationals went down in order in the eighth and, except for a two-out walk to Harper in the ninth (the Giants really wanted NO part of Harper in that at-bat), pretty much went down without much resistance. Giants advance. Best-in-NL Nationals go home.

Various Thoughts:
  • Matt Williams refusing to deviate from his "plan" in games 2 and 4 were epic blunders. At the same time, the players ultimately claim responsibility for this choke job and here's why.
  • The first, third, fourth, fifth and seventh hitters -- Span, Werth, LaRoche, Desmond and Ramos, were a combined 9-88 in the series. Span, Werth and LaRoche were especially bad out of this group. This is the core of your offense. They simply didn't produce and needed to.
  • These two columns from ace writer Thom Loverro (number one and number two) pretty much explain it all
  • I don't expect LaRoche to be back next year. They need to play Ryan Zimmerman somewhere and 1B seems logical, especially considering LaRoche plays much, much better in contract years and in light of his failings in this series.
  • Span, on the other hand, I do expect to be back, despite his offensive woes in the series and in the first month of the season. He simply brings too much to the table is relatively inexpensive for a player with his tools.
  • I expect Asdrubal Cabrera to be too expensive in free agency to keep. The Nationals will need to find a second baseman somewhere.
  • Pretty good two young cornerstones to have, eh? Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon?
  • Drew Storen is not the answer at closer. Need to find one. Rafael Soriano is gone.
  • Lots of decisions for the club to make in the next few years, as contracts expire and people stand in line for big paydays: Zimmermann, Strasburg, Harper, Desmond, Clippard, Fister.
  • As a Cubs fan, nothing about this ultimately surprised me. In fact, this collapse felt eerily like the Cubs 2008 choke-job. Speaking of Cubs, yesterday was the 11th anniversary of this (good times):








Monday, October 6, 2014

Thoughts on the Nationals Monster 0-2 Hole

From about May 1, onward, and especially after the All Star Break, the Washington Nationals have played dominant baseball, easily winning the NL East, while also compiling the best run-differential and record in the entire National League. So, of course, the San Francisco Giants came into town and promptly beat them in both Games 1 and 2 of the NLDS, likely putting the Nats in a hole from which they cannot recover (Game 3 kicks off in a little more than an hour).

Having attended both games, here are a few of my thoughts.

GAME 1

Here is the view from my seat:



Stephen Strasburg got the Game 1 start though many people around time (myself included) think Jordan Zimmermann should have gotten the nod. Zimmermann has simply been better and more consistent that Stras.

Stras was only okay when a team needs their ace to be great. From the very first inning, he was hit hard. He was hitting high on the radar gun (upper 90s) but barely used his curve at all. In the end, sure, he only gave up one earned run but he gave up 8 hits (mostly singles up the middle, which the Giants admitted was their game plan) and only struck out 2. That's not what a team wants out of their Game 1 starter, their "ace", especially one who is averaging 9 Ks per 9 innings, or something like that. In my opinion, Strasburg will never be "The Guy" as he thinks he is.

For the Giants, Jake Peavy was better than Stras. He no-hit the Nats through five innings. Where did this offense go? Bryce Harper hit a mammoth HR, followed by one from Asdrubal Cabrera but, really, apart from that, not much. Being 0-fee with runners in scoring position leads to a very disappointing 3-2 loss, leading to a must win in...

GAME 2

View:


Jordan Zimmerman was simply brilliant. And considering he ended the regular season with the franchise's first no-hitter, he pitched arguably 17 2/3 of the greatest innings in history. And then, with two outs in the top of the ninth and clinging to a 1-0 lead, having retired 20 Giants in a row, the home plate umpire, Vic Carapazza, fucked him right in the ass by completely squeezing the strike zone that he had otherwise been calling all game, leading to a two-out walk. Frankly, the home plate umpiring was a downright embarrassment for Major League Baseball.

Then his manager, Matt Williams, fucked him right in the ass again, by taking him out for closer Drew Storen, who promptly gave up a single to Buster Posey and a game-tying double to Fat Ass Panda Pablo Sandoval. On three pitches. What. The. Fuck.

The Nationals hitting woes continued into the bottom of the ninth and then in the longest game in MLB playoff history (6.5 hours, 18 innings). They did nothing. Where is Denard Span? Jason Werth? Adam LaRoche? Bryce Harper? Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos look like complete FOOLS at the plate so far. Only season MVP Anthony Rendon is hitting. 

The Giants Brandon Belt finally put us all out of our misery (it was not only long but also COLD) with a no-doubt HR in the top of the 18th which, of course, the Nats hitters could not match in the bottom of the 18th. Down 0-2, heading back to San Francisco, #DAGGER.

However, based on my seat location, I was able to mercilessly heckle the Giants CF, Gregor Blanco, and also saw myself on TV while watching the game "highlights"

Who's that sketchy guy in the Bears hoodie?
One final note, TONS of people started leaving after the game did not end in the ninth. In a playoff game this is UNACCEPTABLE. By the end of the 18, fewer than half the fans were likely there. Look, I understand it was long and cold. If you were there with little kids or were elderly, I get it. Any other excuse is FUCKING BULLSHIT and AN EMBARRASSMENT. The Nationals are my SECOND team and I sat through the entirety of the misery.

Again, people with little kids and the elderly, fine. Anyone else who left is a fucking cunt with absolutely no legitimate excuse. None whatsoever. Do the rest of us a favor and don't bother to go at all next time, PRICKS!!!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Idiot Box: Fall 2014

The final seasons of Boardwalk Empire (BOO!) and Sons of Anarchy (FINALLY!) have both been back for a few weeks. The rest of the Fall schedule started has also started ramping up.

Here's a list of what I am currently watching and/or will be watching. Brand new shows will be noted.

SUNDAYS

Sunday Night Football (NBC), The Simpsons (FOX), Bob's Burgers (FOX), American Dad (FOX but moving to TBS in a few weeks), Boardwalk Empire (HBO), Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX/NEW NIGHT), Mulaney (NEW/FOX), Ray Donovan (Showtime and I don't know why), Manhattan (WGN America), The Walking Dead (AMC), Parts Unknown (CNN).

So "big" death on The Simpsons was Krusty's dad. As he said to Krusty about whether he was funny or not "Eh".

Manhattan is actually extremely good. It's still in its premier season so if anyone is looking for a new show to start up, this would definitely be a pick.

I only have three episode left of The Walking Dead before I'm caught up in advance of Season 5. Can't wait! While this ratings juggernaut definitely has a few flaws (okay, let's be honest, more than a few), Darryl is a complete badass and Maggie is entered into the Yes and Please! TV wing. Plus, zombies and the killing of zombies!




MONDAYS

The Big Bang Theory (CBS/NEW NIGHT), The Blacklist (NBC), Gotham (NEW/FOX), Monday Night Football (ESPN), Castle (ABC).

TV's number one sitcom is moving to Monday nights to accommodate CBS's Thursday night slate of NFL games. All the actors just got huge raises and three-year contracts so this isn't going anywhere for awhile.


I'll watch long-time Yes and Please! member Kaley Cuoco on any night!

TUESDAYS

Person of Interest (CBS), Sons of Anarchy (F/X), Marry Me (NEW/NBC).

Oh man, was last season of Person of Interest fucking awesome. After watching this season's premier, I have no doubt that it will continue to kick ass.

SAMCRO has long overstayed its welcome on my slate of shows. Really (and sadly), it peaked with Season 2. And, now that we're in the final season (aka The Season of Jax Giving Zero Fucks), creator/showrunner Kurt Sutter apparently thinks he has free license to make every episode one of his patented (and unnecessary) SUPER-SIZED episodes. Not acceptable. Won't be sorry to see this one finally wrap up.

WEDNESDAYS

South Park (Comedy Central), The Bridge (F/X), The League (FXX), The Soup (E!).

The Bridge actually wrapped up last night but I'm a few behind. The second half of this, the second season, has been much improved over the first half. Probably has to do with the extra Fausto.

The premier of South Park took on the Redskins name controversy, the NFL generally, Kickstarter and the Silicon Valley start-up culture. It also provided us with this amazing image:



THURSDAYS

Thursday Night Football (CBS/NFL) and DVR catch-up.

FRIDAYS

Shark Tank (ABC), Last Man Standing (ABC), Master Chef Junior (FOX), Constantine (NEW/NBC)

Here's a pretty good piece on Shark Tank that was over on Grantland.

SATURDAYS

Saturday Night Live (NBC). Maybe.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Signature Win of the Trestman Era

I'm a superstitious sort when it comes to sports. If my team wins, I believe that whatever I was wearing for that win has somehow gained mystical power. I'll keep on wearing it until it fails me. Thus it was that after #DaBears surprising home loss to the Bills in the season opener that I did NOT again wear my brand-spanking new Brandon Marshall jersey for Sunday night's game at the 49ers as I had in Week 1.

No, for Week 2 Sunday Night Football it was back to the alternate orange Jay Cutler jersey (my home blue #54 having been retired indefinitely some time last year around Urlacher was spewing off about being treated "unfairly" by the Bears organization for them having the audacity to offer him an above-market value contract).

And so it was that sometime early in the second quarter, the Bears having gone down 17-0 and looking quite terrible doing it, that the the ol' #6 ended up off of my body and on the floor of my room. At that point, the game was, essentially and in my mind, O-V-E-R.

Except when it all of a sudden wasn't.

In a stunning 28-20 come-from-behind win, the Bears ruined the opening of San Francisco's sparkling new Levi Stadium and finally attained the signature win of the Marc Trestman era. They won in the Bay Area for the first time since 1985. They won with Jay Cutler emerging as a leader and demonstrating the physical and mental toughness that his critics have turned a blind eye to all these years. They won with their biggest weapons -- Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey -- being at the MOST 65% due to injuries. They won despite losing their heart and soul -- Charles Tillman -- to a reinjured tricep (likely ending his career). The won by being dominant on both lines in the second half. They won, simply, because they did not give. The season looked a lot brighter on Monday morning than it did on Monday, September 8.

#BearDown. Bring on the Jets.



Friday, August 1, 2014

PHISH @ Merriweather

A mere five days after seeing three nights in Chicago, PHISH showed up at my home venue, Merriweather Post Pavilion for two more nights. That's a lot of PHISH for the Genius!

Let me tell you, they are playing GREAT right now. It's hard for me to imagine that they've ever been any better than they are right now. I know everyone says the late 90s up to an including Big Cyprus was the band's heyday but, again, I can't imagine them not being at least as good now as they were then. They're simply crushing it, every night.

For this trip, we stayed at the lovely Red Roof Inn in Jessup, MD and what a scene it was! Tons of hippies doing hippie things. For example, our next door neighbor, EB, was a complete show, vaping hash oil and hopped up on acid (btw, from this weekend it seems as though acid has made a *major* comeback with the hippie set), getting his mind blown by my friend's #DinosaurTruther spiel. The dude told us a story of his house getting robbed and getting shot (for his drugs) and then not even caring if the shooter was ever caught because "The cops gave me a break on the drugs I had in the house." Absurd! Anyway, on to the shows...



SATURDAY (7/26)

SET ONE: Sample in a Jar, The Moma Dance, Wombat, Backwards Down the Number Line, Roggae, The Wedge, Wolfman's Brother, Nellie Kane, Lawn Boy, The Line, Stash, Suzy Greenberg

SET TWO: Carini, Ghost, Steam, The Mango Song, Sing Monica, Light, 2001, Harry Hood

ENCORE: Julius

We really lucked out this night. Two of us had pavilion seats and stubbed the other three of us down. Amazingly, the three seats that were not ours were never occupied the entire show! Like I said, lucky.

I'm usually not a fan of either Steam or Light but they killed every song, including these two. One of my buddies -- who we call a "Phish Snob" -- complained about them fucking up The Mango Song in Chicago (which, of course, I did not notice) but, to the extent they did, this one was perfect. The Hood was probably the highlight though.

SUNDAY (7/27)

SET ONE: Fee, The Curtain With, 46 Days, 555, My Sweet One, Sand, Bouncing Around the Room, Saw it Again, Fuego, You Enjoy Myself

SET TWO: Wilson, Tweezer, Back on the Train, Tweezer, Back on the Train, Tweezer, Waiting All Night, Free, Tweezer, Simple, Tweezer, Free, Catapult, Slave to the Traffic Light, Down with Disease, NICU, Hold Your Head Up, Jennifer Dances, Hold Your Head Up, I Been Around

ENCORE: Boogie on Reggae Woman, Tweezer Reprise

In the lawn tonight...Storms held off all night until I was driving back to DC...Another stroke of luck!

Trey initially forgot the words to the last verse of Fee (performed with megaphone) but then did it out of order. When the song finished he said, laughingly, "The words might not have all been in the right order but they were all there!" Ha! Oh, that Trey.

Again, they were completely on their game. They love playing Saw it Again at MPP and who am I to complain about it?

The second set, with all the in-and-out of Tweezer was, quite simply, unreal. For Jennifer Dances, Trey and Fishman switched spots...


Trey requested Jennifer Dances, then Fishman didn't know the words but did the best he could. Then he ran around the stage like a crazy person. 

Then they handed things over to Paige for Been Around Awhile, which ended with the band doing a conga line around the stage, backstage, then back on the stage again. Another really cool moment:


Then, after the concert, oh man, NITROUS ISLAND! MPP has been notorious for its tough police presence but I guess they're lightening up. I saw just as many cops but they weren't doing anything. Right at the entrance to the back parking lot, down the hill from the venue, THREE tanks going at once. The "supply car" was parked right by me and they kept running the fresh tanks and bags of balloons from there. This went on for at least the hour we were waiting for traffic to clear and God knows how much longer after we escaped. Insanity!