The Black Hole Left by Baseball

The baseball off-season has reach full swing, which means it is now the time where nothing is happening and we are desperately wishing for the return of baseball. Without baseball I have turned desperate. For the first time since game five of the NLDS I went to a live sporting event. It was the Wizards. They did many a Wizards thing in their ninth loss in nine games, but I did notice that Bradley Beal is a great pure shooter. If left open he can make shots. The problem is there is no one on the Wizards that can help him get open. If they had John Wall healthy he could draw defenders while crashing the lane and that would help Beal to be open. How much that helps the Wizards, who right now have D league talent at most positions, is yet to be determined, but at least it will be fun to watch.

Also during this down time of baseball I have been watching RGIII, and if you haven’t yet you should. This kid has given me a new appreciation for football. There is nothing he doesn’t do well, and like his teammate Santana Moss said, put him on the field and he will do something amazing. He has thrown for twelve touchdowns and just three interceptions with a completion percentage of 67.1% which is in the top ten in the NFL and directly behind Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, and his three interception are tied for the lowest of any QB with Tom Brady. RGIII is a rookie, but he is already compiling stats that rank among the best QBs in football.

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The Best Game I’ve Ever Seen

I have hesitated to write this because of when the idea came to me. It was on the way to game five of the NLDS that I had a realization. For years the best baseball game I had ever been to wasn’t one played by my favorite team. It was a lat season game in 2009 between the Twins and Royals. Zack Greinke in route to the AL Cy Young and a dominant season took the mound against Nick Blackburn and the Twins. The Twins were making what had become their customary late season push as the HHH Metrodome was set to hold its last baseball games. It looked like when the tickets were purchased that this would be the last series ever held in the building and we were lucky enough to see Zack Greinke pitch.

The Twins started shooting up the standings and ended up in a position where they needed to win the next two against the Royals while the Tigers lost in order to make it to the post-season. All of these things happened and I was there to witness it. The Metrodome that day was an insane environment, and the game was a back and forth affair seeing both teams blow saves and former National John Rauch ended up with a Blown Save, Win. It was an amazing afternoon of baseball, and it wasn’t until I was sitting in a car driving to game five that I realized that I watched the 2012 Nationals play many afternoons and evenings of exciting baseball.

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Untitled

There are some moments you wait for that you don’t even know you are waiting for. I wasn’t much of a baseball fan when I was growing up. I tried to watch the playoffs and at times I would watch a Braves, Cubs, or Orioles game on cable, but mostly I didn’t watch much baseball. I knew who the big name players were like Cal Ripken Jr., Barry Bonds, and Derek Jeter, but I didn’t pay much attention to anything else. I guess I was what you would call a casual fan, but then I spent the summer of 2004 in Virginia Beach. The Tidewater area of Virginia happened to be one of the areas in the running for the Montreal Expos.

During that summer I got caught up in this movement, but not so much for Virginia Beach to end up with the team. I wanted the team to end up in my hometown of Washington DC, and when the announcement became final and logos were introduced I happened to be home on Thanksgiving break. The first thing I did when I got home that Tuesday evening was to rush to the local Modell’s and buy a curly W cap. I still have that cap, shrunken and so full of dried sweat it can’t be worn.

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It Couldn’t Have Happened a Better Way

It didn’t happen for the Washington Nationals until game 158, but it happened, and it can’t have happened in a better game. The way the Nationals game against the Cardinals on September 29 started set it up to be a night of the bizarre. With one out and the bases full Michael Morse hit a deep drive that at first was ruled a single with Morse getting thrown out trying to retreat to first. Nationals fans had seen this before when the ground rules of Citizens Bank Park cost Adam LaRoche a homer. Busch Stadium is not Citizens Bank Park and the wall beyond the fence is a homerun in that stadium, and so once the umpires reviewed the call they awarded Morse a grand slam.

The umpires also made the Nationals players all return to the base they originally occupied and round the bases after Morse took a fake swing. It was a night destined to be weird. It would continue later in the game after the Nats allowed the Cardinals to hang around and chip away at their four run lead. The Cardinals would catch the Nats in the ninth inning when Storen allowed a sac fly to score the tying run, and this is where the greatness of this game is culminated.

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The Difference in Cultures

There is a perception among some that Baltimore and Washington exist in the same area. Sure they are close in distance, but the two places couldn’t be more different. DC is a city with no true cultural identity and that is no fault of the city itself. DC draws its cultural identity from the fact that it has none. It is a city of transplants and people that grew up somewhere else. They come to DC and mix with the current residents and new trends are born. DC is also the capital of the country and as such it has the feeling of everywhere and nowhere. There is a place here, a city, but there is no thread that ties everyone together except that the residents of DC are all different and celebrate those differences together. Baltimore is different. It is a city full of people that grew up in and around Baltimore and have experienced Baltimore their entire lives. It is a city of people of shared experience.

There is nothing wrong with how either city is and it is great that they are different. There are things I like about both. In all honesty I prefer the surrounding countryside of Baltimore to the vast suburban sprawl of DC. In order to get to a small town from Baltimore all one has to do is drive 15 minutes outside the city limits. To get to a small town from DC takes at the very least 45 minutes depending on which direction one is driving.

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There is no Debate

Mike Trout is a centerfielder. Mike Trout has a .957 OPS. Mike Trout also has made a ton of amazing defensive plays. Miguel Cabrera is a “third baseman.” Miguel Cabrera has a .993 OPS. Miguel Cabrera let’s you breath if he makes a play on defense. A centerfielder putting up similar offensive numbers to a corner position and playing some of the best defense ever seen should run away with the MVP award. Baseball fans have to remove the idea from their heads that valuable means something other than best. Mike Trout is the best player in the AL. Mike Trout might be the best player baseball has seen in a decade. Mike Trout is your AL MVP and it isn’t even close.

Failure

Today is not a day for logic and reason. It isn’t a day to point out the distinct fact that despite being swept in Atlanta the Nats still have to be very very bad to not win the NL East. Today is not the day for that. It is a day for anger and rage and the raw outpouring of emotion. The plain and simple fact is the Nats failed. Just like they did in April when they were battling the Dodgers for the best record in the NL, and just like they did against the Yankees in June when trying to prove they could play with the big boys. Face facts today. The Nats failed. The reason that it happened doesn’t matter as much as it did happen.

The Braves would have to play out of their minds while the Nats completely fell apart in order for the Braves to win the East. As of right now there is about a 3% chance that it happens, but it isn’t impossible. The possibility might exist on the outer realms of reality, but this is Washington DC where only heartbreak is none among sports fans.

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