From your ancient baseball history, 1949 to be specific, a little story: In his third major league season, a still very young Yogi Berra has been the target of much veteran needling. Part of it has been due to his squat, homely appearance. But sometimes it has nothing to do with his appearance and everything to do with continuing the young man’s baseball education.
This was the kind of situation the Nats always want, Stephen Strasburg striking out thirteen Phillies, and Bryce Harper smashing a game-winning double in the bottom of the twelfth Saturday afternoon. And it didn’t mean a thing anymore when it ended in a 2-1 Nats win.
Because almost an hour before Harper tagged Phillies reliever Colton Murray with one out, Mets closer Jeurys Familia finished the Mets’ destruction of the Reds in Cincinnati to clinch the none-too-potent National League East. The division just about all the experts picked the Nats to run away with, all the way to a World Series crown, even.
Let’s not be too polite about it. The team every expert on earth picked in spring to win the National League East, with no few of them picking them to go all the way to a World Series ring, is doing its level best to make chumps out of every one of those experts. That’s because manager Matt Williams seems to be doing his level best to make sure they don’t even get to the wild card play-in game.
I didn’t cast my own All-Star vote until this past Thursday, but I’d like to think that I applied a little more intelligence and a lot less up yours to the exercise than seems to have been applied by those determined to stuff the American League’s starting lineup with Kansas City Royals whether or not said Royals (I’ll get to that shortly) actually deserve starting berths.
For those curious, and who aren’t always abreast of ancient history, this journal is named for an Original Met (sort of: he was acquired during an in-season deal), Marv Throneberry. God rest his soul in peace, his earnest personality and comic opera play in 1962 earned him the nickname Marvelous Marv.
Adam Jones got a few Camden Yards fans a little pie-eyed—cream pied, that is. Bryce Harper plopped a personalised Washington, D.C. Fire Department helmet on his head and took selfies with teammates. Neither man had to be told otherwise that a possible Beltway World Series loomed ahead, depending upon how the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals handle themselves when the postseason launches.
The line between hard nosed and bull headed can be a very fine one. The question before the house, as Bryce Harper begins his recuperation from surgery to repair a torn collateral ligament in his thumb, incurred during a head-first slide on a bases-clearing triple, is whom on the Washington Nationals has crossed it further, Harper or his rookie manager Matt Williams.
Dig a little further into just what transpired between Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez and practically the entire Atlanta Braves team Wednesday night. The deeper you dig, the more you begin to get the impression that the Braves’ idea of enforcing proper field decorum is to look even more stupid than the enemy offender does.
And you may also have fallen upon a big key to beating the Braves out of the postseason in the early going, too. Get them rattled enough over actual or alleged infractions against the unwritten rules, actual or alleged, and they’re yours. Just make sure you don’t get any of your players hurt.
I said it last October, when the Washington Nationals imploded in a division series Game Five they had practically in the bank. And I’ll say it again, John Feinstein be damned. (Only kidding, sir.) The Strasburg Plan had nothing to do with the Nats going no further than the division series last year. And it had nothing to do with them going nowhere but home when the regular season ends this weekend.
Maybe the one thing absolutely guaranteed about 2012 was that Mike Trout would nail the American League’s Rookie of the Year honours, which was made official with Monday night’s announcement. It wasn’t even close.
Trout landed every last first place vote possible as the unanimous pick. Nobody else in the running—not Yoenis Cespedes, not Yu Darvish, not Wei-Yin Chen, not Jarrod Parker—got any higher than 45 percent of a share of the voting. Bryce Harper landed the National League’s Rookie of the Year honours in a slightly tighter competition, with five more votes than runner-up Wade Miley and 70 percent of a share to Miley’s 66. The remaining National League contenders—Todd Frazier, Wilin Rosario, Norichika Aoki, Yonder Alonso (now, that’d be a name, if he had more than a little long ball power), Matt Carpenter, Jordan Pacheco—fell well behind Harper and Miley.