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

One of Our Beloved Founder’s first ventures onto the national stage was early in Braves Journal when he invented the Bad Announcer Tournament, or as he dubbed it, the “Road from Bristol.” It started with Mac’s annoyance with the ESPN zoomates in general but Stu Whatzhisname in particular. So he decided he would make a 64 man tournament bracket to select, by popular vote, head to head, the worst announcer on ESPN. It got picked up by someone on ESPN radio, who clearly did have a sense of humor, and Mac was interviewed on their show. Anyhoo, Stuart Scott won in a walk.

It was so successful and so popular that he started another one for non-ESPN announcers. The final came down to Tim McCarver vs. Hawk Harrelson. In an upset that caused accusations of cheating, bribery, and stupidity, Hawk Harrelson was declared the worst sports announcer in the world. (Ten years later, I am still upset about this: Ken Harrelson couldn’t carry Tim McCarver’s cliché bag. Seriously, it was fixed. Seriously.)

I wish Mac were still around and could run another one, because I’ve got the leadpipe cinch winner: F.P. Santangelo, the Nats’ color guy. And he is Reason Number Two why I learned to hate the Nats.

Where do I possibly begin to tell the story of How Bad? Shall I compare thee to a winter’s night?

  1. The owners are easy to hate.
  2. F.P. Santangelo is the biggest homer of all time.

Johnny Most called from the afterlife, F.P., and he said you might want to take it down a couple of notches.

The Nats are blessed with an abundance of homers. Not only F.P., but his play by play partner, Bob Carpenter, blow so much smoke up the Nats’ derrieres that the Surgeon General ought to warn somebody. Tom Boswell, the highly regarded Washington Post baseball writer, is one of the worst offenders. I like Boz, but his decades spent writing about baseball, in a town without baseball, only to one day have a real team to write about has, I fear, caused him to lose his mind.

For years, in spring training, as the Nats would run out the usual suspects, another sad group of Double-A players and cast-off dregs they had recruited from their recliners, Boswell would write the following column: “This year will be different. No longer do we have to rely on the shaky rotation with [dead-armed pitcher] and [minor league player washout]; now the skipper can call on [obese guy cut by Royals] and [different and older dead-armed pitcher].”

The next year, he’d write the exact same column, only explaining how the Nats had cagily replaced the guys he’d raved about just last year with new, equally pathetic horseflesh no-names that no other team wanted. His predictions of imminent glory became so routine and over the top that even the other Post sportswriters started poking fun at him.

But no one can touch F.P in the bootlicking department. To him, every Nats scrub is just this far away from becoming an All-Star, if he can just fix this one little issue. Every game F.P. sees a Nat make a play (usually, a routine play that every big leaguer should make, like making a throw from the hole or running down a liner in the gap) and declares it the most amazing play he’s ever seen. EVERY GAME. Heck, sometimes he sees the most amazing play he’s ever seen SEVERAL TIMES IN THE SAME GAME. It must be nice to be so full of childlike wonder at the world.

The tonguebath never ceases. All last year he described the Nats infield of Zimmerman, Desmond, Rendon/Espinosa and LaRoche as “the Gold Glove infield.” Must have said it 200 times — no exaggerating. All the while, the Nats were literally leading the National League in infield errors. Don’t try pointing this out to F.P. Like Bluto Blutarsky, he’s on a roll.

Any misplay that occurs in the game, any error, or any baserunner against the Nats is due to a single cause: the umpires are cheating. Which deserves its own night, and I will explore at length in the next chapter.

The promotion of routine plays, even routine outs, to epic levels of hysteria is a favorite of Bob Carpenter, the play by play guy, as well. A medium deep fly ball, 25 feet shy of the warning track, becomes, inevitably, “He JUST missed hitting that ball out of here.” Or “a home run in any other park.” I am waiting for one of them to blame global warming or the Coriolis effect for holding up a flyball that Harper hits.

The adrenaline rush that these guys pump out on a routine can of corn to left sounds like they are auditioning for a Mountain Dew commercial voiceover. The major flaw in this approach is that this ain’t radio: the viewers of course see the play being described, and notice that the “near home run” required Justin Upton to walk in six steps for the catch. But that’s doesn’t stop these toadies. It’s like they did their training at Pravda.

It ain’t over yet. More vitriol to come.

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

  1. I wasn’t around then, but I’d have voted for Hawk over McCarver too. I kind of want to make fun of McCarver. I need to mute Hawk almost immediately.

  2. Waiting for the next part. I know that you grew up with the “Natspos”/Senators (or whatever you call them-I have a few names for them, if you need them), but I have never needed a reason to hate them. It’s simple really: I hate them because they are.

  3. I agree with Adam R, bledsoe. This is a great series of articles, but you’re letting the side issue of the occasionally annoying McCarver vs. the clearly horrible Harrelson get in the way of your reporting. Just tell me one thing McCarver has done that is worse than “He gone,” which you have to hear 10 times or so every game. (I’m completely with you on JP, by the way.)

  4. @2 “Put it on the board, YES!!!!” sucks as well and is unbearable in a game the Sox could be losing 10-1 in the 9th.

    Living in Michigan, I am required to purchase the MLB Extra Innings package in order to watch my beloved Braves. Only a couple of years ago did they start to offer us both the home and away broadcast options, so I was stuck with Carpenter and Santangelo more than a few times. As bad as Chip can be, at least he is saying stupidly positive things about the team I love, not the team I despise.

  5. I try to watch the games in the Braves’ Broadcast (superstition), but I will sometimes not notice a Mets or Phils of Phins game.

    It takes two sentences for me to switch off the Washington broadcast.

  6. “horseflesh no-names”. That’s up there with “AL coach-pitch.” Brilliant, inspired writing.

  7. referring back to Sam’s scary story in the last thread, has anyone seen the new “protective” caps for pitchers? I don’t think anyone is using them at the pro level at least, in the minors? college? Hopefully it doesn’t take a tragedy for that change to be adopted.

  8. I thought I saw something where some pitchers voiced displeasure about the timeline of the rollout of the new caps. They didn’t feel like they could risk getting used to pitching with them in the midst of the season.

  9. Heyward’s got the day off against Niese.

    1. Simmons, 2. Bupton, 3. Freeman, 4. Jupton, 5. Gattis, 6. Uggla, 7. Johnson, 8. Doumit, 9. Harang

  10. Non Hitler related thoughts:

    1. I’ve never listened to him as a broadcaster, so I trust your reading of his skills in this regard, but in his Expos days F.P. Santangelo was sort of the primordial form from which Martin Prado would later evolve. He was one of my favorites at the time. (Not unduly related to the fact that he played 16 positions and was a serious boost to my first pennant winning fantasy team as a result.)

    2. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I wouldn’t go heavy on the Stuart Scott bashing these days.

  11. Skip Bayless should have won anyway, but I don’t think he had the Q-rating back then. He hates sports.

  12. I’m not sure. Collins came out to argue after Eric Young’s bunt, but he wasn’t out there for long.. I don’t recall any delay but that.

    EDIT: I looked at Gameday. Yeah, it’s referring to Eric Young’s bunt. He bunted, Gattis fielded and threw down the line, and Uggla caught the ball as it was about to nail Young in the head. His glove actually knocked Young’s helmet off. Young, and subsequently Collins, argued that he must have been safe, as he was at the bag when Uggla caught it.

    But he didn’t challenge and didn’t argue long. Whatever Eric Cooper said, satisfied him.

  13. 1. Another home run, bledsoe. Eagerly awaiting the next installment. I feel like you’ve been setting us up for a memorable main course. (No pressure!)

    2. Hawk Harrelson has no peer in broadcast booth awfulness. No peer.

    3. Sam took the words out of my mouth at #14 about FP the player. In my latter days of playing Strat-O-Matic, I loved having him on my team. Played a variety of positions, played them well, good arm, switch hitter, not a great hitter but he walked a lot. It’s too bad his second career in baseball makes him sound foolish. I haven’t heard a Nationals broadcast yet but it sounds entertaining enough.

    4. kruger, my heart goes out to your son and your family and the struggles you’re all going through.

  14. Hard to get upset about two runs in 24 innings when thinking about you and your son, Kruger. You’re in my thoughts. My toddler got extra hugs today in the backyard when she was tentatively throwing a baseball two and a half feet and she’ll never know why.

  15. Since it wasn’t commented on above, I’ll say, for those who aren’t watching or listening, and so aren’t getting a live running commentary, that if Harang were to somehow, we’ll say, complete this game in the fashion he has so far pitched it, there would be a pretty interesting note.

    In the second, Duda walked with two outs, ahead of d’Arnaud’s extremely soft groundout to Uggla, which ended the inning. However, Duda ran hard around second, intending to be on third if Uggla was unable to make the play.

    Freddie, even though the third out was called, wheeled and fired to third, where Duda was tagged out easily for the 4th out, kind of as a backup.

    Collins came out and argued the call at 1st, saying d’Arnaud beat the throw. The umps met up, talked it over, and then explained to Collins that, they may have missed the call at first, and he was free to challenge it, but if they call d’Arnaud safe at first, they’ll have to call Duda out at 3rd, as the ball isn’t dead on a groundout.

    And the replays showed that d’Arnaud WAS safe with a single to Uggla. If Collins had been a red-ass and challenged it, he’d have won, so he wouldn’t have lost his challenge. The inning would be over just the same, but d’Arnaud would have a hit.

  16. Aaron Harang is just chugging along right in line with, I’m sure, every single pre-season prediction.

    And the Nats squander a bases loaded no-out bottom of the 7th.

  17. He’s at 98 pitches, and that wasn’t the most confidence-inspiring half-inning of pitching, there. Fredi’s probably ready to crap his pants.

  18. I swear I hear Bobby yell “take ball four kid,” everytime our guy works a 3-ball count.

  19. I know that the bullpen is a SuperFund site right now, but to not pinch-hit for Harang … yikes.

  20. c’mon harang shouldn’t be in there with runner on 3rd and one out…guy is at 100 pitches, forget the no hitter.

    Now watch Harang give up the lead next inning.

  21. Yeah, he’s not going 9, you’re not really doing him a favor here. Let someone drive in the run and help insure he at least gets a w.

  22. 28 — I’d say that he was probably safe, but the replay also showed that he came down in front of the plate and not on it, so it’s possible there wouldn’t be enough to overturn the call either.

    Edit: Oh, so the Nats actually scored two on a wild pitch? That should teach me not to put any faith in gameday.

  23. Yeah there’s no doubt that that was stupid, right?

    EDIT: I’ll also predict Harang doesn’t complete this next half-inning.

  24. That is on Fredi. Should have pinch hit and and gone to the pen. I would not be surprised if Harang gives up the lead here since he is starting to labor just a little bit

  25. @43

    It was a bit lower in the zone, but Niese got that call for strike three on Justin Upton earlier.

  26. Geez, Harang deserves to be the number one starter for us this entire year; trade away mike minor for a proven bat.

  27. Re 41 – The problem with my prediction, was that I didn’t think Fredi would double-down. Somewhere in my mind I found it possible Harang would allow two baserunners there. Nowhere did I think he’d be left in to finish the inning after that.

  28. I dunno – how many times is a guy like Harang going to get this chance? I would love to see him have a go, myself. Game strategy completely aside of course.

  29. I’m thinking about Kent Mercker, for some strange reason . . .

    Edited to clarify: 1991 Mercker, not 1994 Mercker.

  30. I thought it was ok to let Harang hit; with the infield in, I felt like he would put the bat on the ball. Obviously, I was wrong.

  31. If there’s a man on God’s green Earth who can get himself picked off in a spot like this, it’ll be BJ Upton.

  32. Every once in awhle, David Wright will get a hit. I’d say that was a REALLY encouraging return to the beam for Avilan.

  33. What a shame. I was looking forward to the “Send Kimbrel out for the 9th with a 5-run lead?” debate.

  34. BJ has been alarmingly productive of late.

    I’m ecstatic that Uggla is batting .232 so far this year, but what happened to his walks?

  35. @87 – At this point, we’re going to run in to “He needs work,” territory, and he’s going to go out there in a loss.

  36. The WTF nature of Aaron Harang’s April notwithstanding, the real hidden gems of tonights game are the dual 2 for 4 lines out of BJ and the Owl. Melvin also has a walk tonight as well.

  37. That’s our third shutout of the season, and we’ve been shut out thrice. That’s over a third of our games in which only one team scores.

  38. Walden looked good, IWOTM of course, but it was still nice to see after a couple of outings with some control issues.

  39. Whatever Aaron Harang does from here on out doesn’t matter as he’s more than earned his money. How does this happen?

  40. I’m baffled by Harang. Was there some mechanical flaw that one of our scouts saw? Was there something about WHY he was struggling previously that told our guys “Roger has what this guy needs.” Did Roger teach him a new way to throw the changeup?

    I guess I pretty much wonder this about all the scrap-heap guys who we bring in and who succeed. Is McDowell a mechanics guru? Is he Obi Wan Kenobi? Does he just wave his fingers and say “These are not the results you’re looking for. You can go about generating groundballs?”

  41. Went to the game. A little chilly, but a helluva result.

    Sat next to Chip Caray’s twins–really, really nice boys. (And yes, I told them about knocking their father out in a college softball game. Sorry, boys, but it’s true…)

    Went with my gal tonight, and the last time we attended a game together Chien Ming-Wang came within 5 outs of a perfect game vs. Seattle. Hmmmm….

  42. The NL East is terrible. No shame in winning it, and I think we will…but my sights are set a little higher.

  43. @15 I said it on here 10 years ago, and I’ll say it again.
    THERE IS NO ANNOUNCER WORSE THAN SKIP BAYLESS. 10 years after the fact, I still can’t believe he wasn’t voted the worst.

  44. And have we noticed Santana has been pitching way better than his career line? We may not have much clue on how to find good hitting coaches, but we sure know where to find great pitching coaches.

  45. Perhaps one of our bigger offseason moves was giving McDowell more money to keep him here, and out of Philadelphia.

  46. Can someone explain something to me about FanGraphs projections?

    I understand, in a general way, why their projections trend toward .500, and that they aren’t intended as “predictions.”

    But looking at the standings… Preseason, they projected the Braves to go 87-75, a .537 winning percentage. But the team started 10-5, a .667 winning percentage.

    So Fangraphs projections for the “Rest of Season,” project the Braves not to “regress” to the .537 they originally projected, but to play WORSE than that, a .524 clip, because that’s the number they’d have to play to in order for the pre-season projection to work out.

    Why would that be? What is the value in even bothering to update those projections?

    It seems to me that an updated projection should account for 15 games at .667 and expect them to start playing tomorrow at the originally projected .537 rate for the next 147 games. Their original projection of a .537 winning percentage puts us at 79-68 for the remainder of the year, coming out with 89 wins when you factor in beating the projection for the first 15 games. But instead, their updated projections have us going 77-70, simply because that’s how bad we’d have to play to fall back to their projection. That’s not my understand of how “regression to the mean” works. And besides that, it doesn’t seem particular useful. It’s just a new way to count to the number they already offered.

    They project Evan Gattis to hit 19 homeruns. If he hits his 20th HR on July 2nd, will his “Rest of Season” project that he’ll un-homer twice? I just don’t see the purpose of even offering the column it’s not updating anything.

  47. Santana is really leaning on his change-up this season. Obviously, he’s motivated to get the long-term deal he thinks he deserves, but maybe some of it is McDowell.

  48. I have to think that the major reason for Harang’s success so far is the Braves’ scouts were watching him and saw his velocity and movement picking up without expected results – those results have definitely come recently. McDowell may have had some effect, but I don’t think a pitching coach can do a lot to help a 36 year old pitcher with a 4 + era and a career losing record. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts, but it’s hard to imagine that he won’t come back down to earth soon.

  49. @111
    Although I didn’t believe in the numbers or the radar gun (Spring Training radar guns are notoriously faulty to add a few MPH), Harang’s results were there with Cleveland this Spring: Topping out at 93MPH, 9 IP 2R 6K 2BB

    Just looking at the stats thus far, Harang is throwing his 2 fastballs about 70% of the time, an increase between 7-10% compared to the last 4 years. He’s really cut back throwing his curveball (3.5%) and changeup (4.4%), 2 pitches that he threw almost 20% of the time last year. Essentially, he’s a 3 pitch pitcher; 2-seamer, 4-seamer, slider. To keep batters off balance, he throws one of two other pitches, on an average, once per inning. I don’t know who gets the credit for changing his arsenal, but make no mistake, it’s significantly different than what it was before.

    Interestingly enough, the data shows that his fastball, on an average, is no faster than what it was before. Watching the gun, he’s still getting it up there to 93 which makes one wonder if changing the velocity of his fastball 3-4 MPH is aiding him, or is it the fact that his 2-seamer and 4-seamer look so identical that hitters can’t differentiate the 2.

    Whatever it may be, it’s sure as hell working.

  50. I say, enough of that charade! Please pull off that hideous Halloween-mask and show your real face, Mr. Clemens. We all know how you desperately wanted to be back in baseball. (And “Harang” is really a silly fake name).

  51. @109 – We have enough real statisticians around to give you the real answer, but until they show up, my guess is that they expect that at some point during the season that a .537 team will win 10 games out of 15.

    Since there is no assignable cause (major injuries or acquisitions) to think we are any different a team than we were opening day, and there is too small of a sample size to change their projections for individual players, they are leaving it alone.

  52. @109, I don’t know a lot about how the Fangraphs projections work, unfortunately, so I don’t know whether the “rest of season” standings automatically update.

    But Jonah Keri often makes the point that if a team starts out hot then you need to incorporate that hot start into your projections:

    Here’s a quick refresher on why you should avoid falling into that trap by overreacting to early starts: If you thought the Brewers looked like an 81-win team entering the season, their 10-2 start shouldn’t automatically cause you to reconsider their worth. Instead, that fast start means you should now view the Brewers as an 85-win team, since that’s where a .500 record from this point on would put them at season’s end.

    In other words: those wins are still on the board, and whatever happens from here on out, they’re not coming off.

  53. @112 – Incredible data – thanks! If Atlanta had him change his arsenal and it’s successful in the long run, McDowell definitely deserves some of the credit. However, I still think this is an organizational effort beginning with advanced scouts. Didn’t someone say that Harang has been on our radar for several years?

  54. @116 – That Jonah Keri quote is basically what I’m getting at. I’m not saying that the projected winning percentage going forward should be revised up because the team looks better than you expected, just that, regardless of results in the book, future expectations should stay the same.

    @115- That’s what’s called “the gambler’s fallacy.” Ball games, just like coinflips or hands in poker or lottery drawings, are discrete events. If you set out to flip a coin 50 times, before you start, you can reasonably expect 25 heads, and 25 tails. But it isn’t actually a single 50-50 proposition; its 50 discrete 50-50 propositions, with past and future results irrelevant to the singular present.

    If I start a set of 50 coinflips with 10 straight heads, I can no longer reasonably expect a 25-25 result. I can’t predict the next 40 to go 15-25 in favor of tails, though it very well may. Nor should I conclude the coin unfair and predict a preponderance of heads going forward. My only logical prediction before the 11th flip is that starting now, I’ll go 20-20. The fact that it’s a fair coin doesn’t mean it will come out even in every sample size, just that its discrete odds are 50-50 for each future flip.

    Similarly, say a lottery has odds of 1 in 1,000,000, and I play 10 entries every week. On week 50, I’m buying my 500th ticket. But that doesn’t give me odds of 1 in 2,000, because the previous tickets can’t win it for me, just like the previous flips can’t influence the present, and previous ball games can’t effect the next one.

    The only conclusion I can draw is that their “rest of season” column is automatically updating in the wrong manner, rendering it useless.

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