Washington D.C. Sports Teams Have Lots of Reasons for Optimism

Even though only one major sports team in Washington is still playing right now, things are already looking up for the rest of them. The Washington Nationals are sucking less than usual this year and are currently at .500 with a 22-22 record. (Maybe Obama throwing out the first pitch had something to do with it). The Nats are expected to call up their new ace, number one pick Stephen Strasburg which will only improve their pitching. But their good news doesn’t end there. The Nationals also have the number one pick for this year’s draft, and most people anticipate the team will select Sports Illustrated stud Bryce Harper. The Nats aren’t the only team with a bright future in D.C. — there’s plenty of reasons for optimism with all the teams in our nation’s capital.

First off, the Wizards won the 2010 NBA Lottery despite only having a 10.3% chance of doing so.  Now the Wizards just have to use their number one pick wisely. This will most likely mean drafting John Wall and hopefully getting rid of gun baring Gilbert Arenas. Doing so will potentially free up a large amount of money on the payroll and bring a true point guard to the team.

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Nyjer Morgan Throws Legendary Fit

I’ve seen a lot of crazy things in Major League Baseball but I’ve never seen a play like the one Nyjer Morgan made. The Nats center fielder went back on a ball hit to the wall by Orioles outfielder Adam Jones. As Morgan leaped up to make the catch, the ball hit off his glove. Thinking the ball went over the wall for a home run, Morgan spiked his glove into the ground in disgust and began to stomp around. Little did Morgan know the ball actually stayed inside the park and was sitting on the warning track while he was throwing his fit. Left fielder Josh Willingham came racing over to grab the ball and throw it in, but Jones beat the relay home for an inside the park home run making the score 4-2 Orioles.

Morgan explained after the game that he thought he knocked the ball over the wall and that’s why he lost his head. Anyone who sees the play can understand the explanation because there’s no other reason why he would get so pissed off. It was obviously a stupid play by Nyjer — one he regrets — but as manager Jim Riggleman says, it wasn’t done with malicious intent. I doubt Morgan ever does something like that again but I’m certainly thankful he did it the one time. It gave us this incredible video that we probably won’t see at the major league level ever again:

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Carlos Gomez Pimps HR Down 15-0

I supposed I could be irritated and angered by what I saw but that would not accurately reflect my feelings. Rather, I find it quite humorous that Carlos Gomez’s reaction to blasting a three-run home run with his team down 15-0 was to celebrate. Excessively. Before I get into the story of what happened, some background is needed. Carlos Gomez was a top outfield prospect in the Mets organization and was traded to the Twins as part of the now one-sided Johan Santana deal. Dissatisfied after two seasons of poor production by Gomez, the Twins dealt him to the Brewers for shortstop J.J. Hardy. Friday night was Gomez’s first game against his former team and also his first game since being activated from the disabled list.

The Twins jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first inning before David Bush could get two outs. Minnesota scored an additional five runs in the 4th off long reliever Jeff Suppan to make it 12-0. With one run in the 5th and two more runs in the 7th, the Twins were up 15-0 by the time Gomez came to the plate for Milwaukee in the 8th. With two men on, Gomez blasted a Nick Blackburn offering into the upper deck. Gomez slowly let his bat go upon completing the swing and the bat actually hit catcher Joe Mauer on the hands. Gomez proceeded to walk the next five or so steps while admiring his bomb before breaking into a slow trot around the bases. Gomez totally milked his home run and took his time strolling around the bases. When he finally got to homeplate, Gomez seemed to have a confident “It’s all me” look on his face as he accepted high fives from teammates.

Gomez’s antics were no different from a football player who celebrates after scoring a touchdown with his team down 55-0 — the two plays are equally selfish and embarrassing. The thing is, if Gomez is misguided enough to think he’s won by hitting an upper deck home run against his former team while they’re down 15-0, then you really have to feel badly for him. Clearly Gomez doesn’t get it.

Apparently Gomez does get it. He was extremely apologetic after the game and acknowledged how wrong he was.

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Ubaldo Jimenez Continues to Dominate

We covered the no-hitter Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez threw against the Braves a month ago and the guy hasn’t stopped dominating since. Jimenez handled the Astros’ weak lineup with ease, giving up just one hit over seven innings while walking two and striking out four. Although Ubaldo’s stud performance comes with the caveat that it was achieved against the Astros, Jimenez has dominated all opponents equally. Despite facing teams with an OPS of 742, Ubaldo leads MLB with an 8-1 record and 0.99 ERA — not too bad numbers for having completed around 30% of the season. As if the 0.99 ERA doesn’t already tell you how good Ubaldo has been, this might make you understand: Jimenez has allowed only four runs in the six starts since his no-hitter.

The crazy part about Jimenez’s dominant performance against Houston is that he didn’t even have his best stuff “At the beginning of the game I didn’t feel good because I was throwing everything high, but as the game went on, I started getting better. In the fifth and sixth inning I started pounding the strike zone and throwing my breaking ball for strikes.” Watching the game it was easy to notice Ubaldo’s elevated velocity. What I didn’t realize was that when he was throwing 98mph regularly, that was his sinker, not his fastball. Combining that ridiculous speed with his stuff, it’s easy to see why he’s been so successful. As long as his arm holds up over the course of the season, he should continue to have plenty of success and contend for the Cy Young Award.

Rockies shut out Astros 4-0 [AP Recap/Yahoo! Sports]
Photo Credit: Scott Boehm/Getty Images

Josh Beckett the Latest of Many Pitchers to Hurt Themselves While Swinging

In MLB, there is one main difference between the American League and the National League. In the AL, designated hitters are allowed but in the NL they’re not. That means pitchers don’t have to bat in the AL so their only job is to pitch. In the NL, more is asked of the pitchers because they have to bat too. Does the AL have it right? Should pitchers only be concerned about throwing the ball and not hitting it?

This idea has been debated for years and has been sparked by the injury to Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett who was placed on the DL because of a back injury. Beckett of course hurt his back while swinging in preparation for interleague play where he’d be forced to hit. Now if this isn’t downright pathetic, I’m not quite sure what is. When you play baseball at a professional level, you should have a certain level of athleticism. Unfortunately Beckett isn’t the only pitcher who’s been hurt swinging a bat (or trying to) over the last few years. Let’s take a look at some of the pitchers who need to stay on the mound and out of the batter’s box:

American League

1. Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox – Beckett injured himself before the start of May 10th’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays by taking practice swings. Let’s examine this a little more closely shall we? Beckett was swinging the bat before a game against who? The Blue Jays? Ah, another American League team that he doesn’t have to hit against anyways. This makes my head hurt. The Red Sox said this was because the pitchers are getting ready for interleague play. The Red Sox’s first interleague game is on Sunday at Philadelphia. So, Beckett was practice swinging for a game that was 13 days away at that point? And now he’s on the DL. That is just plain dumb.

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Hanley Ramirez Needs a Big Glass of Shut the Heck Up

We here at LBS have already told you about Hanley Ramirez’s lack of effort to retrieve a ball and save two runs from scoring in Monday’s game. I understand that Ramirez fouled a ball off his shin earlier in the game and it slowed him down, but I wish he would have taken it to the mouth because he needs to stop running it.

Ramirez is obviously upset that he was yanked from Monday’s game. If I were managing the team, I would have done the same thing Fredi Gonzalez did. No matter what level you are playing in — the majors or stick ball — you go after that ball and do whatever it takes to help out your teammates. Hanley’s lack of effort was an example of complete laziness. But Ramirez doesn’t think so, and here’s what he had to say about his skipper’s move to take him out:

“It’s his team. He does whatever he (expletive) wants. There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s brutal.”

It gets better. Here he justifies not going after the ball because of shin and says manager Fredi Gonzalez can’t relate:

“That’s OK. He doesn’t understand that. He never played in the big leagues.”

You give me a headache Mr. Ramirez. Take a slice of humble pie and then maybe you’ll realize that the world does not revolve around you. You are getting paid pretty well by an organization that expects you to perform and help your team win ball games. You are not the manager — Gonzalez is. If I were him, I’d bench you until you realize that. Regardless of how you feel about the decision your manager made, there’s no need to come out and make those disrespectful remarks. Maybe he should be sent back to the little leagues where team work is taught.

Hanley Ramirez won’t apologize to Florida Marlins teammates, lost “little bit” of respect for manager [Palm Beach Post]

Albert Pujols Moved to Cleanup Spot, Did Tony LaRussa Follow Writer’s Advice?

With baseball players changing teams and falling in and out of slumps, there have been very few constants regarding a player’s spot in the batting order the last several years. Matter of fact, only two come to mind: Ichiro leading off for the Mariners and Albert Pujols batting third for the Cardinals. The order to the St. Louis Cardinals universe as we know it was shifted on Monday night when Pujols slid to the cleanup spot for the first time since 2003 — a span of 1,043 straight games. The move was made to help jump start Matt Holliday who was batting .170 with runners on. When you hit behind Albert Pujols in the lineup, most of the time you’ll be batting with men on, so it makes sense to see what Holliday can do in the three spot. The crazy part of this story — aside from Pujols being moved for the first time in a bazillion games — is that Post-Dispatch writer Bernie Miklasz suggested the move on Monday, as I found out through Hardball Talk:

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