Take a look at any Ryan Zimmerman homerun swing. Head still, eyes on the ball, the bat cocks back and then he unleashes a smooth easy stroke to great the ball. The ball leaves the bat with a thunderous crack and exits the ballpark at the speed of lightning. Then Zimmerman casually jogs to first, second, and home like he knows this isn’t the last time he’ll be doing this. Everything Ryan Zimmerman does on a baseball diamond is effortless.
After a game one afternoon a caller called into the post-game show and said Werth wouldn’t be booed as much if he looked like he was trying. That isn’t true. Werth wouldn’t be booed if he had better numbers, and since the all-star break he does have better numbers. The point isn’t about Jayson Werth it is about effort. Some fans enjoy seeing a guy get his uniform dirty, dive for ground balls, or whatever other clichés one prefers.
The true great ones make it look easy. They make the game of baseball look effortless, and when they struggle they don’t add phony dives on balls already past them, or slide to first base to get their uniform dirty. They continue to go about their business the way they always do with the knowledge that their struggles will end. Great players don’t have to look like they are trying hard, because in many ways they aren’t.
The game is the payoff. All the hard work and effort has come before the game. When Ryan Zimmerman stands in the batters box for his first at bat he has already been practicing the craft of baseball for six hours. He has studied the pitcher on video, gone over all the notes he has on him, hit in the cage, and taken batting practice with his teammates. When Zimmerman steps into the batters box it is the culmination of the effort not the effort itself.
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It is strange sitting at home at this time. It isn’t something that happens often on a weekday. Perhaps when this week is over I just go back to my old job and take the steady paycheck and ride it out until the end, but more than likely I won’t. Next week I will begin a job search.
I struggle with many things in a job search because for some reason people really care about what you did in college, or at least what you majored in. The number of jobs that want someone with a degree in English are as follows; High School English teacher. That is it. The vast majority of the people I graduated with went off to become English teachers. My frustration level would be too low to deal with a room full of kids. Assuming at least one of them is anything like I was at that age.
I explained my job search plan to my friend. I told him that once this week was over I would spend my time pounding the pavement and going from office building to office building and asking for an application. Of course that brings up another one of my problems. My only reference is my father, and what company would take that word seriously. I then told him that if that didn’t work and after two weeks of looking I would go and get a Christmas time job at the mall. After all I do need money in order to live and something is better than nothing.
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When I made the decision to see a baseball game every weekend for the season there was one thing I didn’t count on, the power of Mother Nature. Hurricane Irene assaulted the East Coast and canceled games in New York, Philly, and Baltimore as well as the Frederick Keys and Potomac Nationals game I was scheduled to attend on Saturday. Instead of seeing just one game I ended up watching two as they made up Saturday’s game as part of a double header on Sunday.
While I watched 14 innings of minor league ball, drove home, and ordered dinner the Nats played their own 14 innings against the Cincinnati Reds. The game ended on a Joey Votto walk-off homerun off Collin Balester, but not before the Nats put up a good fight. To me it seems that every long losing streak the Nats have had has been the same, but we will get back to them in a minute.
First I would like to point out some standout performances from the minor league games I attended. It was good to finally see Sammy Solis pitch in person. His fastball reached as high as 93 on the Harry Grove Stadium gun, but sat mostly around 90. He had a nice sharp breaking ball and a 78 mph change that worked well off the fastball. The other stand-out performer of the day was Jeff Kobernus, who homered in both ends of the double header, and despite having a season line of .272/.305/.365 could add more middle infield depth to the Nationals. Depth at up the middle positions can be important when it comes to making trades as there will be a team that is strong in one area but weak in another.
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1. I saw someone yesterday ask an expert if the Tigers would still be in first if Valverde wasn’t perfect in save opportunities and they said yes. In some strange way the role of a closer has become both overrated and underrated. The people that believe it is overrated go so far out of their way to prove this that they end up underrating it. If the Tigers had Jordan Walden, Matt Capps, or Carlos Marmol as their closer they would not be 6.5 games up on the Indians.
2. The Redskins have played well in pre-season but still are unlikely to contend in the NFC East. If this were baseball the idea of having Grossman starting over Beck would be absurd. Everyone knows what Grossman can do in the NFL and it isn’t pretty. No one knows what Beck can do and using a non-contending year to find out is a no-brainer, or it would be if football was approached with a baseball mentality. Of course then everyone would point out that Beck is 30 and will never get any younger and if he is good he is nothing more than a stop-gap. Perhaps it is good different sports are approached with different mentalities.
3. Coming up with a series of random thoughts is difficult.
4. In the second half of the season Ian Desmond is hitting .274/.331/.411, Jayson Werth .276/.366/.457, and Ryan Zimmerman .352/.395/.531 and overall the Nationals in the second half are hitting .256/.317/.404 up from .235/.305/.369 in the first half.
5. Davey Johnson might also deserve some slight credit for the offensive improvement. His philosophy is a much more keep it simple stupid one than Jim Riggleman’s. How much credit though is hard to figure. I also find it funny when people that are anti-Davey point out the win/loss record while at the same time saying the Nationals were due to regress no matter who the manager was.
6. It feels good to be back at LA Boxing. I am starting to feel like myself again. I enjoy hitting things. It helps to relieve tension, and if I imagine the bag is a Phillies fan I get a huge second wind.
7. I am out of random thoughts.
For most of the night last night I sat and stewed in my anger. Nearing the end of the game it became difficult to try and remember the last time the Nats scored a run. It might have only been two days before, but that is how baseball is. All the good will built up from sending the Phillies home with a series loss in Washington had been washed away, by an inability to score against the Diamondbacks. The fact that Ian Kennedy is a dark horse Cy Young contender and according to stats like WAR and FIP Daniel Hudson has been even better didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was that my team, the Washington Nationals, was being made to look pathetic.
When I am at a baseball game I am in the moment. I zone into the action on the field and forget everything else. Last night’s game had a near perfect rhythm of a well played pitchers’ duel, and for all intents and purposes was a game I wouldn’t mind watching between two unknown teams.
In my dream scenario of baseball I will be whisked away to some alien world where it is endless summer nights of nothing but baseball. A night not unlike last with low humidity and perfectly comfortable. I will watch these two unnamed teams full of nameless players square off in what will be a smoothly paced and well pitched game. When it is over one team will have won because they are the better team and it will not be able to be said that a team beat themselves. This is only a dream though. A dream that can never be reality.
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There are times when baseball makes itself easy to write about, and then there are others when it is difficult for many reasons. This is the time of the year where the playoffs are drawing near and there is a deep desire for us to get ahead of ourselves. It is only human nature to want to start looking at playoff matches and figuring out who could win, who should win, and what team no one expects to win but might.
It is almost safe to start talking about playoff matches. The only divisions left to be decided are the AL Central, Al West, and the NL West, and soon enough the Tigers might have a commanding enough lead to start counting that division decided. For now though a 5.5 game lead with other a month left to play isn’t enough, and in reality bigger leads than the Red Sox 7.5 Wild Card and Braves 8.5 Wild Card leads have been blown this time of year. As of right now it has to be assumed that the Phillies, Brewers, Braves, Yankees, and Red Sox will all make the playoffs and the Tigers are a near lock with how poorly the White Sox have played all season.
It is still too early though for the discussion of what will happen once the playoffs start. That is over a month away and a lot can happen. Baseball isn’t a sport that always lends itself to predictability. Injuries can happen at any point in time, and that is something than no one can plan for. While it is interesting to talk about what might happen in October I have lately found it more enjoyable to talk about my local team.
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It is a different experience traveling to watch baseball than it is watching baseball in your home park. When I travel the goal is to see the city I travel to as much or more than the baseball game. At times baseball is the excuse to travel more than the reason. In my home city of DC there is no reason to see the city. I can get off work and travel to the ballpark or on weekend wait until just about an hour before game time to leave my condo. There is no rush, and no reason to explore.
I haven’t seen much of the city of DC. I don’t often play tourist in my own city and when I do it is normally due to an art museum having an interesting exhibit. When I have played tourist I stick to the tourist sights of the Smithsonian and the Mall, and rarely travel to some of the more interesting spots in the city. When I go into DC it is with a pre-planned destination. When I travel to other cities I wander. I travel around the city with certain things I want to see and all day to see them, but the between time is filled with exploration. With my wife and I both having Saturday completely free we decided to play tourist in our own city, and were rewarded with a couple nice discoveries.
My wife like many other females likes small furry animals. She finds them cute and wants to watch them hide in the shade or sit in a corner while drugged up. So, we went to the zoo. The more and more I have gone to zoos the more and more I have started to feel bad for the animals. Except for the reptiles at the St. Louis. The salads they had looked better than any I have had in a long time. The DC zoo is home to some animals that can’t be seen many other places and renovations.
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