WHY I HATE THE NATS (first in a continuing series, by Bledsoe) Game Thread

Ed. note: This was originally scheduled for tomorrow’s off day. But with last night’s rainout, I wanted to put up a new thread as quickly as possible, so I moved up the publication schedule. Even though we’re still facing the Phillies, I completely agree with Bledsoe’s take on the absolute best team to dislike right now.

Sure, it was fun to hate the Mets. Who doesn’t hate New York and all its inmates? What team would admit to living, appropriately enough, in “Flushing”? What else needs flushing? Indeed, my first tears as a Braves fan were shed in 1969, when the Miracle Mets swept us in the first ever National League Championship series, 3 games to none. (Yes, kiddies. One best of five series, then the World Series. A simpler time.) But now, they’re just sad. They kept both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, for rillies.

Still, we Israelites who lived through the Forty Years in the Wilderness remember that the Braves’ mortal enemies cannot be some team invented in 1962 as a sop to those fans of the two teams who abandoned Sewertown for California at the first opportunity. We’re the oldest sports franchise in America, for the love of Mike! No, the Hector to our Achilles, the Red Skull to our Captain America, the Boyd Crowder to our Raylan, all wore Dodger blue.

See, chilluns, when the divisions were created, we was assigned by Bowie Kuhn to the National League WEST. Not St. Louis (longitude 90 11” 52” W); not Chicago(longitude 87° 39′ 0” W): no, they got to stay in the NL East, to continue their storied rivalry with the Montreal Alouettes or something. No, it was us (84 22’ 23” W), along with Cincinnati, Houston, SF, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Houston and San Diego were chronic doormats. Cincy featured the Big Red Machine teams, then fell off until the late 80s.

But the team we couldn’t beat, year in, year out, was the bleeping Dodgers. They just had our number, winning the division in ‘81, ‘83, ‘85, ‘88. The inability to beat the Dodgers led pretty much directly to Joe Torre getting fired even after the 1982 division crown. In ‘83 we finished second in the division, three games out, at 88-74: we went 7-11 against the Dodgers. In ’84 we again finished second in the division at (gulp) 80-82; we went 6-12 against the Dodgers. Many of those games were lost in bizarre, Buckneresque and/or soul-killing ways. Still hate ‘em, but it’s hard to maintain this ancient feud when they’re in a different division and we play them but six games a year. No, we seem to have a new nemesis arising – The Washington Nationals.

I live in the DC area, and I can’t tell you how excited I was when the Natspos moved here. The Nation’s Capital, 30 years without a team! I had been snorting the methadone of the American League with an hour long drive to Baltimore, trading my birthright for a mess of pottage, selling my virtue, meekly and cheaply, to the abomination of the DH and AL coach-pitch baseball.

I immediately bought a partial season plan and vowed that I would always root for the Nationals except when they played against America’s Team. I was there on opening night at RFK and every opening day thereafter for years. Now, almost a decade later, I openly and unabashedly root against them, day in and day out.

How did this happen? How did this lovable bunch of French-Canadian AAA players vault into the white-hot furnace of my contempt? Why, ‘tis charity to show.

I intend to conduct this essay along three major headings, to wit:

  1. The owners are easy to hate.
  2. The announcers are simply abominable.
  3. The players are surprisingly hate-friendly.

Today, let us address the Lerners.

Washington already has the most despicable living sports owner in the person of Daniel Snyder. The Lerners seem to realize this, and have exploited the fact that Danny Boy’s numerous and varied offenses give them plenty of cover to be miserly, fan-abusive, and in general poor citizens, with little chance of anyone really paying attention: everyone is too busy watching Danny make an ass of himself.

The Lerners are local boys made good, who made a fortune in developing real estate in the Washington area. They are perhaps most known for development of Tysons Corner in the 1970s, a huge mall/office/retail complex in Fairfax County and the template for almost all malls since. They are reputed to be the richest owners in baseball: truly a rags to riches sort of story.

They were awarded the franchise by MLB over several other groups. (The price, low by any real reasonable standard, was fixed by MLB.) They were also awarded a state of the art facility, paid for entirely by the District of Columbia ( for which they pay rent to the District).

What did they do immediately upon getting this unbelievably sweetheart deal? Why, they refused to pay the stadium rent, of course. They claimed that the stadium wasn’t “finished,” citing such things as unpainted restrooms and 47,000 other punchlist items (the 47,000 number is real, according to the Lerners themselves). They threatened to sue the city for $100,000 a day for liquidated damages because of these issues.

Clearly, the stadium must have looked like the Roman Colosseum, or Chernobyl, right? Rubble and exposed asbestos, right? The stadium couldn’t possibly be opened up for fans, or used for baseball, right? Just kidding – you know the answer. At the exact same time, the Nationals had already played 50-60 games in the $611 million, taxpayer funded, gorgeous, state of the art stadium. Did the Lerners offer to refund a portion of the money to me, who had paid $55 a ticket and $9 for a beer, and had to live through the horror that is an unpainted bathroom? You know the answer. They pocketed every red cent. Me? I still wake up at night in a PTSD nightmare sweat, trying desperately to forget the trauma of the bare, gray concrete wall above the urinal.

Surely, given a new stadium for which they weren’t paying rent and a sweetheart price tag on the franchise, the Lerners must have opened their wallets wide to put a good product on the field? Hee-hee. You’re catching on. After getting the team in mid-2006, they slashed payroll – I mean slashed – from $63 million in 2006 to $37 million in 2007. That’s right – they authorized half of what MLB was paying in salary. Their rosters were replete with AA players, has-beens and never-wases, your Nook Logans, Delmon Youngs, and Odalis Perezes.

They are cheap, and they are cutthroat. They couldn’t sign their 2008 No. 1 pick, Aaron Crow, who went back in the draft rather than continue to negotiate with them. (The Crow family complained that the Lerners refused to negotiate with their agent, instead trying to bypass him and negotiate with Crow’s inexperienced dad.) After they fired Manny Acta as manager, they hired Jim Riggleman, paying him less than any manager in baseball and less than the minimum player salary. He quit in mid-season in disgust when they wouldn’t negotiate with him at all about an extension and raise. His replacement was Davey Johnson, and he was already under contract as a front-office consultant to the Nationals, i.e., free.

After hiring Stan Kasten away from the Braves in an effort to appear professional and committed to success, they so hamstrung and hampered his every effort to improve the team that he bolted the minute his contract was up to find better and less penurious owners (he’s now president and part owner of the Dodgers).

After several years of this nonsense, paying $50 a ticket to the Slumlords for the privilege of watching a barely AAA-level ballclub, I had had enough. I gave up my season plans, and now only go when the Braves come to town. Sure, now they’ve opened up their dusty and cobwebbed wallet to sign Werth, Strasburg, and Harper, and resign Zimmerman (2014 payroll is $114 million, tenth in MLB). In fact, they’ve significantly overpaid for these players: they had to, because nobody wanted to come here, their reputation as stewards of the franchise and the stench it put on the team was so bad.

In my view, the Lerners signed these contracts only at gunpoint, when they had already driven off Kasten, the one guy in their organization who had the respect of the league, and the franchise was on the verge of establishing a permanent reputation as one of the armpits of baseball, the Place You Pray You Don’t Get Traded To.

They’ll never really eclipse Angelos as the worst current owner in baseball; Steinbrenner and Marge Schott are dead. But their contempt for their paying customers and their employee-eating habits have made it awfully fun to root against them and their team, and cheer when Boras swindles them again and again. The fact that I am pulling for Scott Boras, Lucifer himself, in any situation should give you an idea of what I think of them.

129 thoughts on “WHY I HATE THE NATS (first in a continuing series, by Bledsoe) Game Thread”

  1. As bad as the Lerners and Angelos are, there’s the matter of ownership in Miami to deal with before awarding the title “worst owners ever.”

  2. That is amazing. I think a good rule of thumb is, if you find 47,000 problems, the problem is you. Also, that is eerily reminiscent of the “$150 million” in repairs purportedly needed to keep Turner Field from collapsing around us.

  3. Ditto on the announcers.

    F.P. Santangelo and Bob Carpenter are like “fans in the booth”–they’re insufferable.

  4. This is awesome. I actually had no idea the Nats’ owners were so terrible. Say what you will about Liberty and the move to Cobb – and I’ve said plenty myself – but at least they seem to be demonstrating a commitment to not doing the old get-the-new-park-and-slash-the-team as demonstrated by our division rivals in Washington and Miami. @5 is right that the Marlins are the unquestioned kings of this process.

  5. I used to be a fan of the Washington NFL franchise as I grew up in North Carolina. (The local CBS affiliate showed the Washingtons instead of the Falcons on Sundays.) And when Charlotte got the Panthers, I still pulled for DC. Until Snyder. Once he started suing widows who couldn’t afford their deceased husband’s season tickets, I swore that I would never again pull for them. And the rigamarole surrounding their slur of a name only serves to highlight what an absolute douche-nozzle Snyder is.

    So, no one will eclipse Danny Boy as worst owner in sports.

  6. The off day is next Thursday, 4/24. I suspect this means Mike Minor will get his first start of the year at home, on Friday, 4/25, against Cincy. That would allow Fredi to set up a true R/L/R/L/R rotation of Teheran/Wood/Harang/Minor/Santana going forward.

  7. Delta does fly to Toronto, and Air Canada does not live by the USA’s “no Cuba for youba” rules.

  8. Bob Carpenter has a standard home run call, and every announcer who has a standard home run call sucks by virtue of it. Full stop, I will hear no counter-arguments.

  9. Carpenter also used to be the hometown announcer for the Cardinals, which classiest speaks classiest for classiest itself classiest in terms of classiest how annoying classiest that classiest makes him.

  10. @18- Except for Hawk, who has moved his dial from “evil and terrible” to “amusing and pitiable.” It’s like listening to a 19th century prospector call the game, dagnabbit.

  11. @17 – complete agreement. The level of presumptious self-absorption to required to have a “standard” call is… Punch them in the face if you see them.

  12. I feel the need to admit publicly that, all of the apparent hype about him being called up notwithstanding, I had never heard of “George Springer” until today.

  13. Springer hit 37 HR and had 45 SB last year between AA and AAA. Strikes out a lot but intriguing talent.

  14. Springer is a former first-round pick out of UConn who had a lot of skeptics when he was drafted, but who looks like he might be a pretty good player. The Astros controversially sent him down to start the year, even though he’s good and their outfield (and every other unit) is terrible, and most folks thought it was because they were waiting on the Super-2 deadline to pass, since he apparently rejected one of those team-friendly-deal offers in Spring Training.

    I am an avid college baseball fan, and I am in a very deep NL-only dynasty league — the Astros were in the NL when he was drafted — so I know way too much about players like George Springer.

  15. @26
    That was my favorite part too. Speaking as some one who will spend the summer dealing with withdrawal from an NL market with back alley Pioneer League krokodil.

  16. Did the new CBA set a Super Two deadline? I thought it was all a guess, based on percentile of service time among potential qualifiers.

  17. The worry with Springer is that he’s a K-machine. Still, he signifies the start of a wave of much-anticipated call-ups and/or the rebirth of the Astros franchise, depending on how much stock one puts in such things.

    I’m so happy we’re not rebuilding.

  18. Springer CAN and probably will, be a “Super Two” but Astros have two full years of league minimum, plus this part year, plus 4 arb years.

    THEN, later (around late June) if you come up it is 3 at league minimum, plus this part year, plus 3 arb years.

  19. There were 13 other people in our league that wasn’t quick enough to grab Springer. Eat that, Edward!

  20. the Lerners signed these contracts only at gunpoint, when they had already driven off Kasten,

    Being anti-labor enough to drive off Kasten was previously only considered to be theoretically possible.

  21. DOB tweets that Kimbrel threw a 15 pitch session today and felt ‘ready’. Fredi non-comittal about using him in the cold tonight.

    On behalf of the bravesjournal, can we scratch together enough to put the Kracken on a plane to NY tonight?

  22. This was a thoroughly enjoyable post. Might a suggest a fourth reason to hate the Nats: their “fans”.

  23. I hope this series includes a chapter on how the Nats wound up with the Walgreens logo on their hats. I’ve always wondered.

  24. I have gotten the feeling before that Chip grates on Joe’s nerves just like the rest of us.

  25. @47 – That’s what I’m saying. Even if it’s just imagined, I find it easier to tolerate Chip if I sense tension between the two of them. I guess I just want to think Joe’s on my side. I mean, he has to be, right?

  26. Yeah Sciambi brought out the best in Joe. Joe was still be curmudgeonly old guy, but Sciambi handled him so well that he had no choice but to remain good natured. Chip just agrees with whatever stupid old-school thing Joe says and encourages him to just dig his heels in deeper.

  27. 4 K’s for Utley in two games, 2 for the rest of the season prior to this series, weird stuff.

    (I still watch that movie at least once a year.)

  28. Simpson is your classic ex-player analyst. He’s going to talk up the “player” side of the game and ignore the “analyst” side of the game. If paired with someone who can draw him out of cliches and bromides he’s perfectly useful. With Chip he falls too easily into those cliches and bromides, and Chip is too slow to draw him out of them.

    For the record, I’m pretty sure Don Sutton hates Chip, which is why he’s radio only these days.

  29. Nice work, Bledsoe.

    Evan Gattis: Phillies Destructor.

    #17
    John Sterling’s act on Yankees radio is almost always tough to take, but I found a small moment of usefulness this past weekend.

    During the top of the 9th in a game where the Yankees were ahead of the Red Sox by 3 runs, I left my pals in their seats & hit the restroom for the last couple outs of the game. (Because, honestly, I’m the only person in the stadium who genuinely does not care who wins that game. And hey, if things get interesting, I’ll make it back to the seats.)

    Like many parks, at Yankee Stadium the radio broadcast is piped into the loo. Was doing my business when the last out was recorded & Sterling’s “Thu-u-u-u-uh Yankees win!” came full-froth, and I got to see a pair of Red Sox fans just… lose… their… minds.

    Stomping, cussing, steaming, eyes-blazing, just beet-red both of them. John Sterling’s final-out call made them roid-rage crazy. It was hysterical. I mean, how could something so stupid ever wind anybody up like that?

    I’m washing my hands, thinking, “I don’t think I’ve ever been that mad in my life—-look at these people!”

    So… thanks, John Sterling.

  30. Lee looked pretty impressive in the 7th. But so far Julio has been the story of the night.

  31. Even more impressive how Julio has pitched when his strikezone’s about 8 inches smaller than Lee’s.

  32. Is Madonna behind the plate tonight?

    Cause that pitch was borderline.

    Edit: hope no one saw what was up before the edit.

  33. Well, we just might have extended that half-inning long enough that Lee may not be coming back for the 9th.

  34. Just turned it on, has the strike zone been microscopic all night?

    And just noticed the 4-for-4 … yeah I’ll take the 1100 OPS from our catcher…

  35. @76 – It’s been tight, but worse when Julio’s out there. It’s been more generous for Lee. But still a little tight.

  36. @80 – DOB said he’d played catch before the game, declared himself ready. No idea what Fredi’s thinking will be, though.

  37. Fredi will probably give the ball to Avilan to build confidence. Hopefully we can tack on a little insurance…but Teheran batting for himself tells me that this is his game.

  38. Julio’s not going to get a shot at the ninth.

    Teheran hitting, no one warming up in the Braves’ bullpen.

  39. I’m pretty surprised that Julio’s hitting for himself here. I wouldn’t be as surprised if Julio had shown an ability to actually get a bunt down.

    EDIT: Well that might OFFICIALLY make it the game of his life.

  40. Heyward swinging through a 2-0 pitch down the middle…he’s all messed up. Needs to chat with Chipper or something.

  41. @91- Well, there’s also the lefthanded thing.

    And also that there weren’t two outs until AFTER he got Heyward.

  42. @92 and @94 Yep…both good points. Jason is still inept right now though and BJ is actually swinging much better

  43. Great game, Julio. It would have been nice if he had gotten Lee’s strike zone, but maybe in a few years.

  44. Gotta say, I’d probably have brought in Ian Thomas. Or at least thought real hard about it. I still think the best move to win THIS game is to bring in Thomas. The best move to build up Teheran’s confidence and move him towards “true ace” status is to leave him in and let him get out of it. But man, that Utley AB was scary!

  45. Teheran @110, I agree — I loved that Julio was dealing, but he was having trouble throwing strikes in the 8th and 9th and there was no burning reason to keep him in there except for the clear fact that we don’t trust David Carpenter or Luis Avilan right now and Kimbrel wasn’t available. I’d prefer not to see him throw 115 pitches. He’s too young and too important.

    But, I mean, amazing game.

  46. @117 Gotta give him a chance to get his first complete game shutout eventually. I am sure they would have taken him out if it was last year and we had debated that many many times last year on the same topic. I think the team is looking for Julio to take the next step this year.

  47. Espn news right now.

    Update in big letters.

    Cliff lee w/ 13 ks in 1-0 loss

    Small letters right below

    Julio Teheran 9IP 3H 4k

  48. Don’t think the 115 pitches was a big deal on a cool night. He wasn’t fatigued like he would be on a 100 degree day. Glad he finished it.

    Btw, Gattis is the first player since 1929 to go 4-4 or better with a HR in a 1-0 win. So there’s that.

  49. He threw 111 a start ago. In between he ran out of gas after 84 pitches in Washington, in the game where he gave up the 3 run Zimmerman homer after Uggla’s error.

    So I think he’ll be fine after 115 tonight. I’d keep an eye on him in his next start, though.

  50. 10-4, 1.5 games up, and 40% of the projected starting rotation, incl. the presumptive ace, hasn’t pitched an inning yet.

    I’ll take it.

  51. We will have a rotation of Santana, Minor, Teheran, Wood, and Floyd with Harang and Hale backing up in a month of time. I must say we have weathered the storm successfully.

    @123 I think last year’s games have shown that pitchers like pitching to Gattis.

  52. Yes these guys are picking up the slack very nicely. I think Harang stays in the rotation and Wood goes to the pen when everyone gets healthy. A lot will depend on Venters status and how Avilan/Thomas are pitching at that time also.

  53. @125 If Harang keeps pitching like he has then I’m fine with that. I’m not sure how long the fairy dust will last, though.

  54. I don’t expect Harang’s fairy dust to last all season, and I certainly don’t expect him to do anything close to what he’s currently doing for much longer.. But I’d be simply elated if he got us into the month of July and kept his ERA under 4.00.

    Say Floyd comes back around May 10 and bumped Wood; if Harang got us to July 10, that’d be about 10 starts Wood wouldn’t have to make. And that’d get Wood’s innings to where I’d be pretty comfortable sending him in to October with no limitations.

  55. Yep. Harang stays in the rotation until the wheels fall off and they try to keep Wood to about 170 innings.

    Realistically they’re going to need all of these guys, all season. You always wind up seeing the #8 guy at some point. This team just happened to have that moment right out of the gate.

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