Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals

The Nats beat the Phillies … with Natitude

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I spent a lot of time in the past few days mildly mocking the idea of “Natitude” and the Washington Nationals’ take-back-the-park initiative. Earlier today Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post spoke with Davey Johnson about it all and he didn’t sound like a fan himself:

“What’s going to sell tickets is if we win ballgames,” Johnson said. “That’s the way we’re going to take this stadium back … I can hardly pronounce the dang word,” Johnson said.

Well, they did something about that tonight. They beat the Phillies in dramatic fashion in front of nearly 35,000 mostly Nats partisans who did, after all, take back the park.

The Phillies did pretty well against Stephen Strasburg, hitting a couple of homers and scoring three runs.  But the Nats’ bullpen was on point, throwing five shutout innings.  And yes, the Nats got a little help from a shorthanded umpiring crew, but whaddaya gonna do? In the end it was Wilson Ramos who did the most damage, however, knocking a bases loaded walkoff single to win it in the bottom of the 11th.

Query: why wasn’t Jonathan Paelbon in this game? The Nats’ 11th inning rally came against the dregs of the Philly pen. Doesn’t one think that, in a jam in a tie game in extra innings, the Phillies’ best relief pitcher would have made it way more likely that the Philly hitters would get another shot if he were in the game?

We’ll never know, I guess, because it would seem that Charlie Manuel and his post-ejection designees are under strict orders to only use Papelbon in save situations. The dude now qualifies for two positions in most fantasy leagues: closer and spectator.

But that’s the Phillies’ problem.  For the Nats, they took one small step on their way to prominence: they took back their park and won a game the likes of which, in the past, they so often lost.  And I don’t think it’s hyperbole or premature to say that if they take this series, they have taken a big step forward in their history.

Heady times for the Nats. Filled with … Natitude.

Report: Extension talks between Mets, Neil Walker are “probably dead”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: Neil Walker #20 of the New York Mets sits in the dugout before the game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.

Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.

The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.

Rick Ankiel drank vodka before a start to deal with the yips

9 Apr 2000: Rick Ankiel #66 of the St. Louis Cardinals winds back to pitch the ball during the game against the Milwaukee Brweers at the Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals defeated the Brewers 11-2. Mandatory Credit: Elsa Hasch  /Allsport
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The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.

It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:

On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:

“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”

Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrating. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.