Oh, another frustrating day at Nationals Park. Except this time, I knew it was going to be frustrating before I even entered the gates. Thus, this was me waiting for the gates to open:
Rick Gold, who had been with me at the prior game, alerted me to the fact that Jayson Werth had already taken batting practice, which meant the Nationals as a whole had probably taken batting practice. With the impending thunderstorms, I could see from the gate that the cage wasn’t even up (one of the reasons Nationals Park is better than either of the New York Parks). I also didn’t know it at the time, but this was the 100th ball I had ever snagged at Nationals Park, which also marks the first time I’ve ever snagged 100 balls at any given stadium.
When the gates opened, Rick tried to go to right field to use his retriever on a home run ball that had landed behind the scoreboard. I, meanwhile took advantage of the information Rick had half-knowingly given to me. I went to the Red Seats and found a ball Jayson Werth had hit there earlier:
For the record, Rick couldn’t find the ball. It was a mystery to both of us where it had gone, though, since we thought if anyone picked it up, it would be a person cleaning behind the scoreboard, but it was still filthy.
After I got my ball, the Nationals kept everyone under cover, because of the lightning storm passing through. NO one was allowed into the seats that weren’t covered. See for yourself:
That last picture was the spot I was when Jon Rauch and his throwing partner warmed up. I had to watch in despair as they finished throwing, because I know I could have easily gotten him to toss me a ball had I been allowed to go down there.
Eventually, the Nationals did let everyone down into the seats. Pretty much everyone rushed to the Mets’ dugout:
The only difference is: I wasn’t a zombie about it. I figured I would have a better shot at getting a ball from the Mets, but when Jayson Werth came out to throw with a trainer, I ran over to the other side of the stadium, changed into my Nationals shirt as I went over there, and got this from him:
Weird way to get two balls from the same player in one day, huh? Also, this was a minor milestone in that it was my 350th ball ever. It’s a pretty obscure milestone, so I’ll leave my elaboration at that.
During the game, this was my view of the action:
There were two righties pitching, so I figured I would camp out there. I had a pretty good amount of room to work with, even with Rick in right field too, but I forgot to get a picture of it. Sadly, the only home run in those seats came when I had already gone over to the Mets’ dugout. Rick told me I might have gotten it had I stayed. Oh well, I got this instead from a Mets ball boy:
• 3 Balls at this game
•129 Balls in 28 Games= 4.61 Balls Per Game (12 Balls under 500)
• 3 Bals x 31,660 Fans= 94,980 Competition Factor
• 37 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
• 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
• 102 Balls in 22 Games at Nationals Park= 4.64 Balls Per Game
• 15 Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
• 15 Games with at least 2 Balls at Nationals Park
• Time Spent On Game 3:40- 11:22= 7 Hours 42 Minutes (exactly one minute more than I had the previous day)
Once again in the pitcher-friendly Citi Field, it was the Mets rotation that helped them stay afloat in 2011:
Why?: Let me put it to you this way, the Mets would have had a way worse team even if they had not lost Jose Reyes.
Now that I’ve said that, let’s compare the two columns side-by-side. Sure they got two good bullpen options in Fransisco and Rauch, but they don’t have either of their closers from last year (K-Rod and Isringhausen).
The other two additions the Mets made were to add an Outfielder and a shortstop via Torres and Cedeño. What they lost, however, were three Outfielders-two of which were starters- and quite possibly THE best (offensive) Shortstop in the game last year.
If all that weren’t enough, they also lost two starting pitchers and a decent bullpen option that happens to be the only player I’ve played catch with.
I think I might be a little too harsh with them due to them being my local over-shadowed team, but I’ll stick with it.
Predicted Record Range: 67-72 wins. I wouldn’t surprise me, though, if they surpassed this total. The Mets seem to be one of those teams that does the opposite of whatever is expected of them. When they are predicted to win the division, they falter at the end of the season. When they are predicted to stink, the go on a run in June where they are the best team in baseball.
I think the Blue Jays’ 2011 season is best summed up by the culture lead by the one and only, Joey Bats:
Francisco Cordero, Ben Francisco, Jason Frasor, and Darren Oliver.
Frank Francisco, Shawn Camp, Nelson Figueroa, Chad Gaudin, Brad Mills, Jose Molina, Jon Rauch, Omar Vizquel, and Dewayne Wise.
Why?: First of all, let me say that this team definitely leads the league in “Francisco” related transactions. Maybe it’s just me, but they added both Fancisco Cordero and Ben Francisco. Then I think they made sure not to re-sign Frank Francisco just to add him to the list.
Really the grade from this came in that the average talent level of the players they added was far greater than that of the players lost, but there were just too many players lost to give the Blue Jays a grade that suggested they got better this offseason (for those who don’t know, a “C” means the team added just as much talent as they lost in an offseason. Anything above means they improved in terms of talent, anything below means they got worse in terms of talent. The degree to which they were better or worse than a “C” dictates how much talent they gained or lost. Also, by talent, I mean to suggest how much better they made the team itself for the next season. So although a minor league may be talented beyond belief, if he isn’t expected to play in MLB that next season they didn’t add any talent as far as I am concerned. I do give brownie point in the grades for good moves in terms of the long term, but the grade is based on how well the team set itself up for the immediately subsequent season. So that would be 2012 for this offseason.)
I really don’t feel like getting into the specifics, but I feel as though this is really the same team, talent-wise, as last season, so I gave them a “C”.
Predicted Record Range: 80-85 wins I don’t know why, but I just think this team could get a few games better this season, even though they really added a net-value of nothing.
The Blue Jays lose possibly the best pitcher in the league and what do they do:
Oh, nothing much. Just hit the most home runs of any team in the major leagues.
Frank Fancisco, Rajai Davis, Carlos Villanueva, Sean Henn, Corey Patterson, Octavio Dotel, Chad Cordero, Jon Rauch, and Juan Rivera.
Vernon Wells, Jeremy Accardo, Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs, John Buck, Shawn Marcum, and Lyle Overbay.
Why?: I know that they lost three really good bullpen guys, but look. They also gained four former closers. I know that they lost two middle of the line-up hitters but got a bonafide lead off hitter and whatever you consider Juan Rivera and Corey Patterson to be.
The only thing that suffered in the offseason was the rotation. Not only because of what you might think in Marucm leaving for Milwaukee but also John Buck leaving. With Buck leaving the pretty consistent Blue Jay rotation has had three catchers in three years (or more?) and it is tough. I would make the analogy to Quarter Backs in football playing in different systems every year. It is tough to have to keep adjusting. Just when you get comfortable pitching to a certain catcher he leaves town.
Will the Blue Jays continue to hit home runs? I have no idea. All I know is that even though there were more homeruns, there was also a way lower team AVG. Takee Aaron HIll for example, normally he hits around 15 HRs and bats .280 but last year he hit 24 HRs (or something like that) and had an AVG of around the Mendoza line.
One thing I would tell people is to watch out for Blue Jay prospects in the future. With the new GM, Alex Anthopoulos, the Blue Jays invested a whole lot into scouting, which may pay dividends down the road.
Predicted Record Range: 77-82 wins I see them declining a bit even though they have people like Kyle Drabek coming up because I don’t think they can keep the home run production up in 2011.
As a Yankee fan they are a gift (up to this point) because of their record both in and after the season, which is somewhere between .200 and .300 in the 21st century. As an appreciator of cost efficiency, there playoff results absolutely kill me:
Now by talking with other baseball fans I realize that many just wondered “What? How are the Twins going to even come close to last year’s success when they lost that much talent?” First, Joe Nathan was the second best closer in baseball since he became a closer after his trade from San Francisco (still one of the worst trades in MLB history even after the hype died down). Do you not think that would make up for at least two of the reliever’s departures (Pat Neshek making up for one other)? Second, had Justin Morneau finished the season like he started, .345 AVG 36 HR 120 RBI. Now I realize this would have been pretty unlikely but that would have at least put him in the MVP discussion if not won it for him and he is typically a second half guy. Thirdly, the Twins always outplay their expectations. For example, SI predicted them to finish in last place in 2008 after they lost Johan, and Torii. What did they do? Only tied for the lead in the division and eventually lose their playoff spot to the White Sox in a one game playoff: