The Best and Worst Uniforms of All Time: The Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos

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I think it’s fair to include the Expos in this one, don’t you? They’re not otherwise represented, and there is franchise continuity here.  To be fair, I’ll include the Browns with the Orioles, Senators v.1 and v.2 with the Twins and Rangers, the Pilots with the Brewers and so on. Cool?
Best: With apologies to Jonah Keri, I can’t in good conscious say that any Expos uniform would make a “best” list. They have their charms, sure, but so much of it is retro-charm and a fondness for things that are no longer with us rather than beauty on the merits.  No one who wasn’t an Expos fan really thought that stuff looked stunning at the time, even when it looked good.  For what it’s worth, the Expos rarely changed anything anyway. They sprung from the head of Zeus (or was it Bowie Kuhn?) fully formed, with powder blue roadies and the cool stylized M on the cap in 1969 and only made the slightest of alterations between then and 1992. The pre-1992 uniforms were good, but if we’re being honest here, we can’t say that they look better than the Nationals’ current road uniforms.  Which are probably the only uniforms that look better than the team’s home uniforms now that I think about it. That may change tomorrow when the Nats unveil new duds.
Worst: The last generation Montreal uniforms were bad, not because they looked so terrible, but because the team lacked the cajones to put the sylized “M” on the jerseys themselves where God, Nature and Rusty Staub intended it to be. And if any team was born to wear powder blue roadies, it was Les Expos, so they looked not quite themselves in gray. I hate the Nats current home uniforms because of that block lettering. Which, as I recently noted, was apparently a historical accident that left them looking like the Diamondbacks-East.  That will presumably be remedied tomorrow, with a script “Nationals” on the front a la the roadies.

Assessment: The Nats are probably limited to threads that are more or less like those they currently wear. They basically have to stick with red, white, and blue.  Marketing probably dictates that they keep the curly W on the cap.  It would be cool if they could experiment a bit, but it’s not gonna happen.  They’ll always look pretty good, but a bit boring. Which describes most teams nowadays, come to think of it.

Oh well, that’s it for the NL East.  Tomorrow we’ll start in with the NL Central.  There’s a bit more history there — the East has only two teams that predate the Kennedy administration — so it will a bit more fun.

The Mets are a mess

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The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

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If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.