Posts Tagged ‘Washington Nationals’

Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the Washington Sports Fan

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

by Gus Griffin







Those of or around my generation remember Charlie Brown attempting to kick the football held by that female joker Lucy. What was fascinating is not that Lucy pulled the ball away to get Charlie Brown once. Anybody can be had once. However, ole Chuck kept falling for Lucy’s okie-doke over and over again. It was suckerism on steroids.

I hate to say it, well actually, I do not, but the Washington sports fan reminds me of Charlie Brown.

When you think about it, it is incredible. How can anyone run the same game on his/her victims repeatedly and have them fall for it repeatedly? It is not as if the game has been cleaned up or got a makeover. It is as if Bernie Madoff were released from prison tomorrow and a significant number of his victims would buy into yet another of his Ponzi schemes.

Every year across the four different major sports, the fans of this area are every bit as optimistic as Charlie Brown charging to kick that damn football. The fact that history does not dissuade them from accepting their inevitable fate is either delusional or optimistic on the level of spiritual faith……some will argue that their little difference between the two.

This isn’t just hyperbole. When the Cleveland Cavaliers won its first NBA title in 2016 and the first of any kind for the city since the 1964 Browns, that left Washington, DC and St. Paul/Minneapolis in the lead for title droughts among cities with at least three major sports teams. Not since 1991 has either city/metropolis won a title.

It is not just that they have not been able to win a title in nearly 30 years, but how they have lost. Each sports team has managed to tease its fans just enough to make them dare to believe, only to give up the ghost in the end. Personally, if my teams are not going to be good, put me out of my misery early. Giants let me know by May, Lakers let me know by December, etc., etc.

The biggest culprit among Washington sports teams is clearly the Capitals. They have blown five 3-1 post-season leads to lose game seven, twice to their nemesis, the Pittsburgh Penguins. I cannot think of any franchise in any of the four sports that has the number of another franchise the way the Pens own the Caps. Of their ten playoff encounters, Washington has only beaten Pittsburgh once.

The Penguins may as well be Lucy.

Then there is the Washington Nationals, who have yet to win a playoff series. They have been eliminated at home three times. I was at the 2012 collapse against the Cardinals and it was by far the most depressing sports atmosphere of which I had ever been a part. I was there in 2014 when my Giants rolled in for two games and rolled out with two wins. In 2016, it was the Dodgers, and last year it was the Cubs.

The Cardinals, Giants, Dodgers, and Cubs may as well be Lucy.

Then there is the Wizards who are good for winning road games against superior teams only to come back home and lose when they have a chance to get a strangle hold on a series. The last time the Washington Wizards franchise won at least 50 games was 1979, when they were the Bullets and defending NBA champions.

Finally, there is the football team. I contend that just maybe its racist name might be the curse over all of the city’s sports teams. Until they change it, I have no sympathy for them.

It is a shame because Washington has one of the truly great fanbases in America.

However, as the late native Washingtonian great Marvin Gaye would sing, there are “four” things in life for sure: taxes, death, trouble, and Washington sports fans believing that this year Lucy will not pull the damn football away.


Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Dusty Baker is a Hall of Fame Manager

Friday, September 29th, 2017

by Gus Griffin






Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker looks on from the dugout before a baseball game against the New York Mets at Nationals Park, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker looks on from the dugout before a baseball game against the New York Mets at Nationals Park, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

As the Washington Nationals prepare for the post season, it should be noted that this is old hat for manager Dusty Baker. In fact, it’s as good of a time as any to make the case that Dusty Baker should one day be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

That’s right, I said it, and the reasons people resist this idea are as interesting as the case that he is, so let’s start with those reasons.

Not only has Dusty Baker never managed a World Series winner, but he has presided over some of the most infamous pennant race and post season collapses in recent baseball history.

He has been the Marty Schotenheimer of major league baseball managers.

The list is as follows:

  • 1993 Giants had an 8 game lead over the Braves in August. Though the team would win a franchise record 103 games, they would lose the Western Division on the last day of the season (losing to those damn Dodgers). That team would not make it to the post season. Many consider that season’s outcome to be the primary basis for the development of the wild card in baseball, giving the best second place team a place in the post season;
  • 2002 Giants have a 3 games to 2 lead over the Angels in game 6 of the World Series and are 5 outs from winning their first world series since 1954. Then it all fell apart and the Angels go on to win in 7 games;
  • 2003 Chicago Cubs and the infamous Bartman game and series. The Marlins win that game 6 and eventually game 7 in Chicago, and beat the Yankees in the World Series.
  • 2012 Reds win the first two games in San Francisco of a best of 5 series, only to lose 3 straight to my Giants in Cincinnati. The Giants go on to win their second World Series of 3 in a 5 year span.

As sports fans, we tend to remember individual failure more than cumulative success.  Ask any fan what they remember most about Billy Buckner and they are likely to cite the 1986 World Series error rather than the 2700+ career hits and 1980 NL batting title.  The same is true of Ernest Byner in football.

It is fair to cite Baker as the only common denominator in all of the above noted collapses.  My primary response is that only an exceptional manager would continually be in these situations.

The case for Baker is as follows:

  • His 1800+ wins are more than Earl Weaver, Tommy Lasorda, or Dick Williams, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame;
  • He is one of only 4 managers to take 4 different teams to the post season, along with Williams, Billy Martin, and Davey Johnson. Martin and Johnson each have their own Hall of Fame cases;
  • He has ten 90 win seasons. All managers with this number or more are in the Hall of fame;
  • He managed Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent over multiple 162 game seasons, which is every bit as difficult as coaching Shaq and Kobe.

So exactly what factors most impact a manager’s success? I say 4, which are communication skills, baseball tactics, instincts, and situation. The manager actually only has control of the first three.  By all accounts, Baker is a great communicator. The problem is that this skill is the least observable to fans and even the sports writers who vote for the Hall of Fame.  So Baker’s greatest skill is the least measurable. His baseball tactics and instincts would have to be above average to win nearly 2000 games. Sure, anyone can find a decision on bullpen or bench management here or there, to dispute over the course of 23 years and 162 game seasons. But surely not enough to question his deserving of Hall of Fame status. The last factor would be the situation, and the manager has little to no control over that factor.  Situation includes the owner, timing, talent, etc. Let’s be clear about this, Joe Torre managed 3 different teams before he took the reins of the Yankees.  In the years before he got there, notoriously meddling owner George Steinbrenner was suspended from the day to day operations of the team.  His history was to win now, future be damned.  What this resulted in was young talent being traded away for veterans.  Due to his suspension, this did not happen in the mid-90s, and thus, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Petite, Mariano Rivera, and Derek Jeter remained in their system and awaited Torre’s tutelage.  The rest is history.  From 1996-2000, the Yankees would win the World Series four times.

Joe Torre did not suddenly learn how to manage in New York with the Yankees.  But the fact is, if you take away his Yankees tenure, his career managerial record is sub-500.  Situation matters.

Dick Williams found working under A’s owner Charlie O Finely so difficult, he resigned from a 2-time defending champion team after the 1973 season, in a similar way that Jimmy Johnson left the Cowboys. Situation matters.

Regardless of the situation, Dusty Baker has won and he has won a lot. This should earn him a bust in Cooperstown someday.


Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Bryce Harper was Right And the Myth of Code Loyalty

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

by Gus Griffin







I so appreciate the sports of the San Francisco Bay Area.  Be it Colin Kaepernick or the Golden State Warriors, they give me material.  And now Bryce Harper and my San Francisco Giants.

Yes, my San Francisco Giants.  Full disclosure for those who have been under an FB rock, baseball is and has always been my favorite sport, and the Giants are my favorite team.  I got it from my pops.  I modeled my pitching motion after high-leg kicking Giants pitchers Juan Marichal and Vida Blue.  I lived long enough to see them win 3 world series rings in 5 years to lap the hated Dodgers in titles.  Simply put, over the past 8 years, it’s been good to be a Giants fan.

And with all that being said, I am 100% in support of Bryce Harper for going after Hunter Strickland for intentionally hitting him with a pitch upwards of 97 miles per hour.

This all played out with the larger backdrop of baseball trying to reign in “bean ball” wars.

Good luck with that.

Since its inception, baseball has long had an unwritten code that says if you throw at one of ours, we will throw at one of yours.  Of course, the likes of Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan, and Roger Clemens took this internal vigilantism to an entirely different level, both for retribution and intimidation.  It was all understood that this was how things were done.

Of course, the other complication is that there is a legitimate tactical justification for pitching inside.  The gentlemen’s agreement has long been that the outside part of the plate belongs to pitchers and the inside belongs to hitters.  If a hitter gets greedy trying to crowd the plate to take aggressive hacks at pitches on the outside corner, things must be put back into order and the inside fastball is the mechanism for doing so.  While this will surely result in some batters being hit, to ban the tactic in of itself would tilt the balance of competition so far in the direction of hitters to the point of the game ceasing to be what we have known it to be.

Baseball’s challenge is against whom and when does it intervene; against the first violator or the second?  On the first shot, a pitcher could have legitimately simply lost control of a pitch.  Should he be thrown out of the game?  If second offender (or retaliator) is ejected, that will essentially give the initiators a free shot.  The bottom line is that as MLB moves to eliminate this internal policing of the game, hitters can no longer count on their pitcher to keep things in order.

So, when a guy throws a 97 mph baseball at a hitter, what the hell do we expect him to do?  If Harper does not make a stand, then the message to the rest of the league is clear; you can throw at him with impunity!

None of that contextual backdrop applies to what Strickland did Monday in San Francisco.   He was simply pissed off because 3 years ago in the playoffs, Bryce Harper hit not one, but two moonshot home runs off him.  The espoused offense was that Harper ran around the bases too slow.  I was at the game in Washington.  The ball cleared the Jackie Robinson number in the upper deck.  While I did not think it was funny at the time, you could not help but be impressed.  The one in San Francisco cleared the stadium and landed in McCovey Cove.  Simply put, if Harper decided to walk around the bases, I would have had no problem with it at all, and if Strickland did, he should have learned to throw a damn change up!

The other aspect of the incident that has garnered a lot of attention was the Giants’, especially all-star catcher Buster Posey, lackluster attempt to “protect their guy”.  Admittedly, it is unusual for the catcher not to grab the hitter or at least attempt to do so in that situation.  Some have speculated if this will affect how Posey is perceived in the locker room.  That is an assessment that cannot be made without knowing how Strickland is perceived in the locker room.  If he is viewed as some out of control lone wolf who takes matters into his own hands, Posey’s place in the locker room will not be affected one iota.

The truth is that these “ride or die” loyalty codes we men swear to adhere by unconditionally are anything but unconditional.  We espouse to believe in them because they are often a rites of passage for peer group, cultural and societal acceptance.  But the graveyard has its share of dudes who actually took that nonsense literally at a party or on the streets.  Such blind loyalty is romanticized in the media.  Buster Posey is neither Cookie from Empire nor Marines from A Few Good Men.  No matter how sincerely committed, there will come a time when one must use your capacity to think for yourself, to dismiss the group code in favor of your own individual best interests.  Doing so doesn’t make one cowardly or disloyal.  It makes one intelligent.  In the real world, when the rubber meets the road, the sheer practicality of self-preservation will rule the day, be it among the Bloods and Crips or the Mafia.   We should expect no less from baseball players.

Simply put, if a loose cannon like Strickland fires off a 97 mph fastball at a hitter for no legitimate tactical reason, and without any pre-approval or reassurance from the leadership or team collective that they have his back, HE IS ON HIS OWN!


Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Philadelphia Phillies 2012 Season Preview

Friday, April 6th, 2012

By Brandon Pemberton

Follow me on twitter @BrandonOnSports and @SportsTrapRadio

Listen to Sports Trap Radio Saturdays from 10am-2pm on, hosted by Brandon Pemberton and Chris Marshall (@215_Sports_Guy)

Hunter Pence and Jimmy Rollins need to carry the Phillies offensively while Ryan Howard is out of the lineup.


Ever since the Phillies won the 2008 World Series, expectations have been high here in Philly.  This has clearly been one of the best eras of baseball in town since the late 70’s-early 80’s Schmidt and Bowa led squads, and fans now have a “championship or bust” mentality.  How this team plays offensively without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley for a good part of the season will be huge.  Barring injury, the pitching staff should be fine and I’m looking forward to the addition of Jonathan Papelbon as the new closer as well.

The Miami Marlins have added some pieces to go along with their young talent and should be better this season.  The Nationals are a year older and will have a starting rotation of Strasburg, Gonzalez, and Zimmerman at the top and could be potentially a threat.  The Braves fizzled out and lost a 9.5 game wild card lead in September, but also remember, they lost quality starting pitching late in the season as well and the bullpen was overworked something vicious.

So I will breakdown this year’s team by the infield, outfield, and pitching staff, and then give my prediction on regular season wins and how far they get in the playoffs.

Pitching Staff

Starters: This staff is headlined by three aces and Cy Young award candidates: Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee.  All three had great regular seasons in 2011 and I expect the same this season.  Vance Worley was a pleasant surprise in his rookie year, with an 11-3 record, 3.01 ERA, and 119 K’s in 131.2 innings, and hitters only had a .232 average against him.  Right now, Joe Blanton is penciled in as the fifth starter and the Phillies just need him to be solid, nothing spectacular, make thirty starts give them six plus innings per outing, and don’t give up too many big innings.

Bullpen: Jonathan Papelbon was signed during the offseason to replace Ryan Madson as the Phillies’ closer and the move really looks great now after the news came out that Madson will miss the entire 2012 season with Tommy John’s surgery.  Last season, Antonio Bastardo was great as the only lefty in the bullpen and the Phils will need the same from him this year.  Michael Stutes, a rookie last season, pitched well in the 7th and 8th innings of games and will be the setup man for Papelbon.  This year, lefty Joe Savery will be the 2nd southpaw and that should give Bastardo the needed rest as he wore down at the end of the season.  Kyle Kendrick was given a 2-year contract and will be the Phillies’ long reliever and emergency start if one of the regulars happen to get hurt.

Infield: The Phillies will start the season without their starting right side of the infield as Ryan Howard is still recovering from his ruptured Achilles tendon and Chase Utley is on the shelf to start the season to rehab his bad knees.  Ty Wiggington, John Mayberry Jr., and Jim Thome will all see time at first base and rookie shortstop prospect Freddie Galvis has been moved to second base with the injury to utility infielder Michael Martinez, out until possibly June with a fractured foot.  Pete Orr could also see some time at 2nd base if Gavlis struggles a bit at the plate.

Jimmy Rollins was re-signed during the offseason and his glove and arm are still elite, but the Phillies need him to have a big year at the plate, regardless of his spot in the lineup.  Placido Polanco got off to a hot start last season, but hit well below .200 over the last two months of the season and dealt with back and elbow injuries during the season.

Carlos Ruiz had a hot spring and has been a rock behind the plate for the Phils pitching staff.  He has been a clutch hitter in big spots over the past few years and is a fan favorite here in Philadelphia.  Brian Schneider provides veteran leadership and steady play off of the bench when “Chooch” needs a rest.

Outfield: Shane Victorino is a potential All-Star player for the Phillies and will be the lead-off hitter and catalyst offensively.  He’s also one of the best defensive center fielders in all of baseball.  I would like a better approach at the plate, less strikeouts, and a higher on-base percentage as well.  Hunter Pence is in his first full season as a Phillie and the team needs big-time run production out of him with Howard out of the lineup for a while.  John Mayberry will get his chance to see quality time in the lineup after producing well in spot duty last season.  Juan Pierre adds speed, late game pinch hitting, and running to the Phils and Laynce Nix provides a left-handed bat off of the bench with some pop.

Prediction: The Phillies have an elite pitching staff who will win or keep them close in most games this season.  I’m not worried about pitching with this team as long as they stay healthy.  The question is the Phillies offense and how will they make up for the run production that Ryan Howard has  produced on a yearly basis.  Howard is unfairly scrutinized in Philly, but the numbers don’t lie, he’s been one of the best run producers in baseball over the last five years.  The Phillies will need to play more “small-ball”, cut down on the strikeouts in the lineup, and get timely hits in big spots.  Even with Howard and Utley out for a long period of time and the Marlins and Nationals making moves and having young talent, I still believe the Phils have enough to win the division.  They won’t run away with it like last season.  It will be a closer race than most think.

I really believe this is the year Philadelphia makes it back to the World Series.  I’m not saying they win it, but I predict they play the Detroit Tigers in the fall classic.

94-68, win the N.L. East, and represent the National League in the World Series.

Brandon Pemberton of Brandon on Sports & Sports Trap Radio, for War Room Sports