Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Final Final Nats Home Game

Wilson Ramos solo shot

Matt den Dekker adds to the score

Sunday was the official last game of the season. But there was another game on Monday which was a make up game with Cincinnati.

I was able to go to it. I was surprised by the number of people there. It was a Monday. It was a 3:05 start. And the game really didn’t matter because the Nationals had been eliminated from the playoffs on Saturday. But it turned out to be a really good no great game.

Max Scherzer was on the mound. He came within 5 outs of pitching his second no-hitter of the season. It was a masterful performance. There was some significant history associated with this potential no hitter:
It’s been 44 years and more than 7,000 games since the Cincinnati Reds were no-hit in the regular season, the longest active streak in the majors. Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer came within five outs of ending that distinction.

Scherzer did not allow a hit until Tucker Barnhart singled to left on a 1-2 count with one out in the eighth inning, and Washington went on to a 5-1 victory over Cincinnati on Monday.

“Luckily, I put a good swing on it,” Barnhart said. “Max was great all day. It was obvious by the way he made us look at the plate. But that’s him: He’s one of the best pitchers there is.”

That hit came on Scherzer’s 105th pitch, and fans saluted the right-hander with a standing ovation. To that point, the Reds only had three baserunners, on walks in the first, third and seventh.
The Nats had home runs from Wilson Ramos and Matt den Dekker. There was also some amazing defensive plays from Tyler Moore who laid out for a diving catch, and in the sixth, second baseman Dan Uggla who dropped to a knee to grab a liner. Trea Turner made a great stop. His throw was a little high to first so Clint Robinson had to jump off the base but still came down in time to get the out.

A very satisfying day. A much better memory for the final game of the season. As to the rest of the season, I’ll have some thoughts on that in the coming days.

Max on the mound.

Me at the final game for 2015.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Nationals’ Melt Down

Me and Teddy before the game
It was bad enough what was happening on the field in the last home game. I didn’t realize a boxing match was breaking out in the dugout. I guess calling it a boxing match would be an under statement. From our vantage point you couldn’t see what happened. I will say that I thought Harper did run to first base. Maybe not as fast as he could have but he was reacting to a frustrating day. And if the ball had been dropped he would have gotten to first base in plenty of time. This was not some passed up opportunity for a double.

Once again there was a bull pen melt down. This time in epic proportion. Most of the scoring the Phillies did in the top of the 9th was with two outs. In one case all was needed was one more strike and the inning would have been over. That certainly sounds familiar.

One nice thing was that Ian Desmond had a good day. He was 3 for 3 with a home run. It was a nice way to go out in what will was likely his last home game as a Nat. He even took the field in the top of the 9th and was then replaced and received a well deserved standing ovation.

As for the rest of the 9th. Train Wreck. 8 runs with two outs. Ouch.Ouch. Ouch.

Tom Boswell had a column in the Post and this sums up the year and the fight:
On Sunday, Papelbon yelled at Harper, accusing him of not running out a ball even though Harper had reached first base and was actually playing in a day-after-elimination game — when many 150-game-plus regulars rest — for the sake of the fans. Papelbon followed Harper, yelling, essentially giving him little choice, until Harper said (according to lip readers), “Let’s [expletive] go.” So they went.

This incident may ultimately serve a purpose. A baseball franchise that has brought joy and anticipation to the D.C. area for the last four years has, in recent weeks, had difficulty facing, much less digesting, the reality of their spectacular flop. Will it learn and rise in the aftermath of a collapse that it still barely acknowledges, much less fathoms?

So a deep sigh on a season with great possibilities that were lost. Winable games taken into the 7th inning or later and then lost over and over and over. You get the point.

Lost in all of this is the great year Danny Espinoza had. The strong contributions from Clint Walker. And amazing numbers from Stephen Strasburg in his last four starts 50 strike outs.

Hopefully this gets sorted out over the off-season. And come April 2016 a new and improved Nats team rises from the ashes of 2015.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Another Tough Loss Friday Night for the Nats — Zimmermann's Last Game?

Zimmermann on the mound last year for his no-hitter

In what I hoped would be a fitting send off to Jordan Zimmermann's (in all likelihood his last game as a Nat), turned out like the season the Nats have been having. The Phillies ended up wining by 8-2.

This sums up what happened in the game. From the Post:
The Phillies trailed 1-0 when Altherr hit a low liner to center with the bases loaded. Taylor attempted a diving catch but missed, and the ball rolled toward the center field fence.

“In that situation, you better catch the ball, and I wouldn’t have gone for it if I didn’t think I could,” Taylor said. “Still a bad play once I miss it.”

As left fielder Jayson Werth retrieved the ball, the bases cleared and Altherr raced all the way around, sliding home to complete the grand slam.
A sad way to end a great career as a Nat and one of my favorite pictures. I'd hoped we'd be able to give him one last ovation to send him on his way.

But I'm not going to dwell on that instead I'm going to remember his best game. The no-hitter from last year.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Jordan's Night

How appropriate that on the night they are giving out the Jordan Zimmermann bubblehead, he is pitching. And, sadly, it is probably the last home game he will pitch as a Nat. In all likelihood he will be gone next year. 

He's my favorite pitcher on the team. So I'm going to enjoy every moment tonight. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tough Loss for the Nats Last Night

The hope of the playoffs slipped even further away with the Nats loss to the Orioles 4-3. The Mets lost too but there magic number continues to count down because of what the Nats did or more to the point didn't do. The number is now 5.

With the Nats best picture on the mound, Max Scherzer, this looked like the Nats' night. Instead what happened was two bad pitches that yielded two home runs that scored two runs each. That was the total for Orioles that night. Scherzer had runners on base for most of the first half of the game. He didn't have a 1-2-3 inning until the 6th.

The home runs came in the 1st inning (the Nats have started a habit of letting teams score early) and in the 7th. By the time the 7th rolled around Scherzer was well over 100 pitches but still stayed in the game.

From the Post:
These Washington Nationals and their fans will look back on decisions that defined this season — some made by their manager, some made by hitters, some made by pitchers and catchers — and wonder. They will wonder what might have been if a different choice were made. They will wonder why choices that failed did not succeed. They will wonder who is to blame, and wonder what might have been. But they will likely struggle to find quick conclusions, because seasons like these do not fall apart like this without nuance.

The difficult choices that doomed the Nationals in their 4-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night were made by Nationals Manager Matt Williams and starter Max Scherzer in the seventh inning. The Nationals held a one-run lead at the time, and Williams needed to find a way to preserve it. He stuck with Scherzer through a leadoff double and two outs, then left him in to face all-star Manny Machado.

“I’m not bringing anybody in in that situation to face Machado other than Max,” Williams said.”

Then there was the 9th inning where closer Jonathan Papelbon hit batter Manny Machado and just about saw my first baseball brawl. But cooler heads prevailed and it didn't happen. I'm not sure it was done on purpose.

Another sad ending to a very winnable game. But that's what this season will be remembered for the winnable games that weren't won.

The almost brawl last night

The Baltimore bull pen poised to join the fight if there was a fight.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Final Three Games

I'm down to my final three games of the season. Tonight, Friday and Sunday. 

The Nats will need some really good luck to reach the playoffs. But I'm not going to worry about that now. I'm just going to enjoy my last few games of the season at Nats' Park. 

Getting Ready for Halloween

I was down at the Home Depot over the weekend and this is what I saw. I don't think I've ever seen so many decorations out for Halloween. Most of this is not something you put on a door or window but something you would put out in your yard.

I guess Halloween is trying to make a run on Christmas in the decorations department. Halloween has a ways to go yet but this is a good start.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The State of the Race — Republicans Again

I know at some point I should talk about the Democrats but all the fun seems to be with the Republicans so far.

The problem we have in this country is Muslims and Obama is one of them and the secret training camps for terrorists in this country. This was a comment to Trump at one of his campaign rallies. Instead of calling the guy out or disputing the training camps, Trump essentially agreed with him. Then the campaign said it wasn’t Trumps responsibility to correct what the guy said.

Then there’s this gem from Ben Carson:
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson says Islam is antithetical to the Constitution, and he doesn’t believe that a Muslim should be elected president.

Carson, a devout Christian, says a president’s faith should matter to voters if it runs counter to the values and principles of America.

Responding to a question during an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he described the Islamic faith as inconsistent with the Constitution.

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” Carson said. “I absolutely would not agree with that.”

He did not specify in what way Islam ran counter to constitutional principles.
At least not all of the Republican candidates agreed with Carson:

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who taped Sunday an episode of Iowa Press, an Iowa Public Television program, was asked if he agreed with Carson’s statements on Muslims being president. “The Constitution specifies that there shall be no religious test for public office, and I am a constitutionalist,” Cruz said.
Seems to me that instead of running around and talking about the Constitution they might actually want to sit down and read the document. They’d be surprised just how wrong they’ve been on what it says and means. Wrong about it for years. Case in point their support for the clerk in Kentucky who wouldn’t issue marriage licenses. You swear to uphold the law and part of that law is you don’t get to decide what duties you won’t perform in a position because you religion is against it. You have to wonder if oh say a Muslim did the same thing. These same idiots would be screaming about Sharia law being implemented in America.

The other news is that Scott Walker dropped out of the race. I have to say to me this not much news. He seemed well to be nice like a complete dolt. He seemed unable to articulate a position which he didn’t change his mind on ten minutes later. He was revealed to be an empty suit. The Koch brothers anointed candidate just didn’t have what it takes to reach the primaries let alone the general election.

Stephen Stromberg had a column in the Post that summed up this ill fated run:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dropped out of the Republican presidential race on Monday, showing that simplicity and shamelessness aren’t always rewarded in politics. Walker was supposed to be a GOP juggernaut, uniting anti-union business types, evangelicals and tea partyers with his combative, ideologically charged record in Madison. Emphasizing his Midwestern identity and conservative credentials — playing a sort of everyday ideologue — he seemed to have Iowa locked up, until Donald Trump exploded.=

Walker didn’t need Trump to fail. He didn’t just have bad luck. He couldn’t be any more than he is: walking proof that a combative style, a hard ideological edge and identity-based pandering can’t always make up for cluelessness. The conservatives who championed Walker should have expected more. The Republican Party needs more.
 What the Republican Party needs are some candidates that actually have a brain (yes I know a tall order with this group), that actually know what the Constitution says and won't pander to the far right monster the party helped create. And that will be one tall order.

Two Nats Game over the Weekend — Two Wins

The Last Home Stand of the Season

Last Thursday opened the last home stand for the Nationals. In all likelihood, these will be the last home games for the season as well. It is still possible that the Nats can reach the playoffs but everything has to break their way.

From the Post:
As the Washington Nationals stomped the lowly Miami Marlins, 13-3, on Sunday, it became hard for optimistic fans not to peek at the calendar and imagine the scenarios. Despite the season’s many missed opportunities, the Nationals’ recent stretch of play has added a sprinkle of intrigue to the season’s final two weeks.

The odds of catching the first-place New York Mets remain slim. The Nationals trail their division rivals by six games with 13 remaining after the Mets’ 11-2 loss to the Yankees on Sunday night. But by taking three of four from Miami, the must-win Nationals have kept viable this potential scenario: Washington has to make up three games over the next 10 to remain alive entering its season-ending series against the Mets in New York.
The problem for the Nats is the Mets are playing teams that are well below .500. The Nats have to continue to win. But in order for it to matter the Mets need to lose some games.

The Nats certainly took care of business in the two games I went to over the weekend. Friday was a little dicey. The Nats had the lead but allowed the Marlins to tie the game in the 9th. With the bases loaded in the 10th, Jose Lobaton hit a sacrifice fly and the Nats won the game.

There was some fireworks earlier in the game when Matt Williams went to the mound to talk to Max Scherzer:

With the score tied at 2 against the Marlins in the seventh inning, Scherzer had a runner on second base and two outs and Dee Gordon at the plate. Scherzer’s pitch count sat at 102 and Gordon, who has hit well against him throughout his career, was 1 for 3 against him Friday. Williams emerged from the dugout but didn’t signal to the bullpen, where left-hander Felipe Rivero was warming.
He asked Scherzer one question: “You want him?” Williams said he “wanted to make sure I looked him in the eye.” Scherzer’s classic response was profane and fervent.

“I want it,” Scherzer shouted, according to replays of the incident, looking down and almost frothing at the mouth for the next batter. “I [expletive] want it. I [expletive] want it.”
It was amazing to watch to watch the exchange from the stands. After Williams left, Scherzer stepped off the mound and walked toward second base pumping his fist. He then went back on the mound. Scherzer got Gordon to ground out. With that Scherzer pumped his fist again as he headed to the dugout. An incredible inning.

Below are a few pictures from the two nights.

Friday, September 18

Clint Robinson's solo shot in the second.

Ian Desmond at the plate in the 7th. His sacrifice fly ties the game.

Jose Lobaton hits sacrifice fly. Werth scores to win the game

The Nats celebrate the win

Saturday, September 19

Jordan Zimmermann on the mound

Bryce Harper rounds third on home run number 41

Harper and Escobar celebrate at home plate.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lis, Ian and I Go to a Nats Game

Liz and me after the game.

I met up with my friend Lis and her son, Ian, on Saturday and we went to a Nats game. This is a big thing for Lis because she is very much a soccer person and finds baseball long and dull. While I am very much a baseball person and find soccer long and dull (the score can end up being 0-0. Really!)

But we had a really nice time. The weather was great. We went to Shake Shack. And the Nats won the game who could ask for anything more!

In all a really great time.

Lis being all motherly to Ian

Me posing with one of great vendors at the park.

Lis could barely keep a wake

Next to Jordan Zimmermann who got the win.

Ian and me next to a picture of Doug Fister.

In the park before the game started.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Mamma Mia There I Go Again One Last Time on Broadway

On stage to take their bows.

I am so glad I did this. It was a tremendous performance. More on that a little later.

I started thinking about the show and what it meant to me on the bus ride home. I’ve been thinking about it on and off these past couple of days as I’ve tried to come up with a post about that incredible performance on Saturday.

I’ve been a fan of ABBA since Dancing Queen came out. I knew some of their songs before but that cemented it for me. The opening riff is unmistakable. I think it is a song that will be played years and years and years from now. From time to time I’ve taken some grief for being a fan of ABBA and the show.

So this is what I came up with not every play is Shakespeare, not every novel is Hemingway, not every TV show is MASH, not every album is the Beatles, not every musical is Sondheim. There is a reason it is called popular music. Because it is popular. And ABBA and certainly Mamma Mia was popular (you aren’t on Broadway for 14 years unless you are popular).

But the connection to the music goes beyond that. ABBA toured the US only once and that was in 1979. I was a Junior at George Washington University. ABBA was going to be in Chicago September 30. I decided with my parents and a couple of friends that we would go to the concert. I think I took close to a week off of school for it. I happened to find my journal for that time period and it says I only missed two classes. The concert was on a Sunday. I came home the previous Thursday and stayed until Tuesday. It was a nice break. I had an early Thanksgiving dinner with my family since I wouldn’t be home for it. But the main reason was to go to the concert. Sunday night off we went. We went down to the Auditorium Theater. As I recall we were in the balcony but very close to the front. I know we were all excited to see the show. And we all had a blast. (It was a good thing that I saw them in Chicago. They were going to play Washington right down the street from GW but one of them was sick and they had to cancel the performance.)

Fast forward almost 30 years and Mamma Mia is going to be in Chicago. I say to my parents if I get tickets will you go. They say yes. So once again I fly home and we go and see the show. Just before the show starts I said to them we are probably the only people in this theater that saw ABBA live. And of course we all loved the show. This has a special place for me because it is that last visit I had with my mom and the last event we all went to together. She died a few months later.

On to the show. I had an early lunch. I was finished just about the time the matinee was ending. They’d moved it to 1pm that day. I thought it might be a good idea to go over to the theater and take some pictures of the cast coming out. I wanted to do this because it was daylight and it’s much easier to get pictures with a digital camera in daylight as opposed to at night. (With all the extra light sources at night the camera has a problem of figuring out what to focus on.) There was also the possibility of it raining that night. I got some pretty good pictures here  are a few.

I walked around for a while went back to the hotel for a little while and came back to the theater. I got this great picture of start Judy McLane with members of her family taking a group photo in front of her poster. It ended up that some of them sat just a row away from me. One was her sister. They had a large group because some were sitting in the balcony of the theater. One kid was sent down to the orchestra seats because he couldn’t see where he was sitting.

Judy McLane and family pose outside the Broadhurst Theater

As the crowd began to fill the theater it became obvious that many family members and former cast members were here for the last show. Playbill had run a retrospective on the show and had pictures of past members of the cast. I recognized at least five people from that photo spread. Later I saw pictures of who attended the last performance and I recognized other people I’d seen. There were many loud greetings and hugs.

The atmosphere was electric to say the least. They started at least ten minutes late because people would not take their seats. Finally the lights dimmed. The orchestra started the overture and then everyone was on their feet clapping along. This was just a taste of what was to come.

With each major character or characters taking the stage, there was a huge round of applause. When Judy McLane who plays Donna made her entrance, the applause stopped the show. It was tremendous with shouts and whistles. Woman who plays Tanya just pointed to the audience and then at Judy as if to say take this all in.

The audience helped out on the choruses of Mamma Mia and Dancing Queen. But the best audience participation occurred with Knowing Me and Knowing You. That line is sung and then there’s an ahh in the background. The former members of the cast in the audience decided to help out on that one. But by the end of the song the entire audience was helping out.

But the highlight, if you could pick out just one, had to be the Winner Takes It All. It is my favorite song in the entire show and Judy just nailed it. People were applauding before she finished and on their feet as she exited the stage. Just an amazing performance.

Then of course the audience clapped along to Take a Chance on Me. And I could go on but just a wonderful, exciting and very special night.

After the encores Judy Craymer came on stage to say her thank yous for 14 wonderful years.And they certainly were wonderful.

I have to say I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want this amazing and incredible experience to end. I thought I would be sad that it was over but I wasn’t. Just so happy I decided to go and see this last show.

After I waited outside of the cast to appear. Everyone was all dressed up because they were going to the after-party. I got some pictures. But I got many signatures. I bought a large program. I had a sticker on it that should the date Mamma Mia ran (the Playbill had a sticker that said official closing night program). I got the major actors to sign. My plan is to have it framed along with the Playbill and my ticket.

It certainly was a once in a lifetime experience and one I will always treasure.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Some Pictures of the Mamma Mia Cast

Waiting for the cast to come out.

Jon Jorgenson who played Sky

Alison Ewing on the left who played Tanya. On the right Thomasina Gross who was Lisa.

In the upper left hand corner is Mary Callanan who was Rosie

Paul DeBoy who was Harry Bright

Victor Wallace played Sam Carmichael

Neil Starkenberg as Pepper

The cast comes out after the last performance all dressed up to go to the after party

This Elena Ricardo who played Sophie
Here's a link to Playbill's coverage of the last performance.