Author: Craig Calcaterra

Washington Nationals' manager Matt Williams looks on from the dugout during a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Friday, May 2, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)

The Washington Nationals’ biggest problem: arrogance


Mark Zuckerman, Washington Nationals Insider for CSN Mid-Atlantic, watched the Bryce HarperJonathan Papelbon thing and, for that matter, the Nationals’ entire season-long breakdown. And he diagnoses the problem.

It’s not Jonathan Papelbon or Bryce Harper. It’s not Matt Williams. It’s not Mike Rizzo. It’s not the owners. It’s everyone, as a group. A total systemic failure. And at the root root of that failure is one quality: arrogance. Arrogance on behalf of ownership and management, mostly, in the manner in which they approach the game and the manner in which they built the team. And an arrogance they have to drop if they want to move forward as an organization.

Whether that’s the sole problem or even the biggest problem is certainly a matter for debate. After all, it is a talented team that has underperformed. If they had performed better or the Mets not as well, we’d likely not be having this conversation right now. But it’s impossible to read this paragraph from Zuckerman and not say “well, yep,” even if one disagrees with whether it’s the root cause of anything:

Yet this organization, from top to bottom, too often acts like it has accomplished far more than it really has. The Nationals fly the largest division championship banner in baseball, high above the scoreboard in right-center field . . . They boast no fewer than three highly visible reminders to the world that they’ll be hosting the 2018 All-Star Game, an event that won’t take place for another 34 months. They spent the entire first half of this season playing intentionally annoying slow-jams over the PA system when the opposing team took batting practice, for no reason other than to thumb their noses at the rest of the league. They continue to show replay after replay after replay of Jayson Werth’s walk-off homer in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS — an admittedly wonderful baseball moment — while completely ignoring what happened only 24 hours later to render that moment a mere footnote.

After establishing that the Nats haven’t done as much as they think they have and need to do more, Zuckerman talks about what they need to do. And wonders whether or not they have the fortitude to do it.

It’s a good read and gives Nats fans a lot to think about as they watch the club enter the offseason.

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

Josh Donaldson

Blue Jays 5, Rays 4: Josh Donaldson and big homers have been the Blue Jays’ calling card this year and both came calling in the Jay’s home finale. Donaldson hit a walkoff — his 41st homer of the year — to win the game. Justin Smoak had three hits, including a two-run homer himself. The next time the Jays play at home will be for the opener of the ALDS. You figure the joint will be as crazy then as it was after Donadlson connected yesterday.

Astros 4, Rangers 2: Dallas Keuchel was huge here, making his penultimate statement in support of his Cy Young Award, allowing one run on two hits in seven innings and striking out ten. The Astros close to two and a half of the Rangers for the division but, perhaps more importantly, they maintain their razor-thin lead in the wild card over the Angels. They’re tied in the loss column, though, so this last week is gonna be a blast.

Phillies 12, Nationals 5: In case you missed all of the ugliness here. Trading for Papelbon is gonna be remembered as successfully by Nats fans as hiring the Joker to kill the Batman was remembered by the mob bosses in “The Dark Knight.” [Michael Caine accent] The Mets hammered the Nationals to the point of desperation. And in their desperation, they turned to a man they didn’t fully understand. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Mets 8, Reds 1: The lineup the day after a team clinches is often called the “hangover lineup,” as in everyone is generally hungover from the previous day’s celebration and the manager thus rests most of his starters and it’s accepted that the team ain’t really gonna try too hard. Terry Collins did his part, starting mostly randos, but they still scored eight runs. One guy who wasn’t a rando was Jacob deGrom, who allowed one run over six innings and struck out nine.

Red Sox 2, Orioles 0: The Red Sox complete a three-game shutout sweep of the Orioles in which they outscored Baltimore 17-0. Did the Orioles just give up or did the Red Sox finally, in the season’s last ten days, finally figure out how to pitch? I’m gonna go with “yes.”

Brewers 8, Cardinals 4: Jason Rogers hit a grand slam in the ninth, which helps put lie to the notion that homers kill rallies, as Milwaukee scored three more times that inning. All three of those runs came on a homer too, Khris Davis, putting even more lie to the idea. Of course, if you actually believed that idea beforehand you’re basically a moron, but it’s worth pointing these things out on occasion.

Royals 3, Indians 0: The Royals win their 90th behind Chris Young, who was pitching with a heavy heart yet still managed to toss five no-hit innings. He had to leave to catch a flight to be with his family following the death of his father and the bullpen picked up the no-hit bid in the sixth. Francisco Lindor broke it up with a bunt single in the seventh. It’s something you’d probably hear more grumbling about if it was a single pitcher’s no-no instead of a potential combined no hitter. Or if the score wasn’t only 2-0, making the bunt single more valuable in that situation.

Yankees 6, White Sox 1Luis Severino tossed six innings of five-hit ball and Dustin Ackley of all people hit a homer. Ackley has had a nice September, actually, which I doubt a ton of people really expected. The Yankees’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot is three.

Twins 7, Tigers 1: Byron Buxton hit an RBI double and hit his first big league homer in this rout. The Twins kept pace with Houston and the Angels and remain one and a half back.

Marlins 9, Braves 5: Martin Prado and Justin Bour each drove in three and the Marlins sweep the Braves. Bour homered twice. Bour abused the Braves in this series, going 7-for-12 with four homers and eight RBI. He has 23 homers on the year and is slugging close to .500. And I bet 90% of baseball fans couldn’t pick him out of a lineup.

Angels 3, Mariners 2: Kole Calhoun‘s RBI single in the eighth put the Angels over, gave them their fifth straight win and helped them keep pace with Houston. And the Rangers, frankly, as they’re only three back of Texas and end the season with a four-game series against ’em. The Angels have won 8 of 10 overall.

Giants 5, Athletics 4: The win at least technically keeps the Giants alive in the West, though they’re six back with seven left to play. They now face the Dodgers in a four-game series starting to night. It’s at home, where Los Angeles is 0-6 this season, so I guess that’s as good as they can expect things to be under the circumstances.

Diamondbacks 4, Padres 2Ender Inciarte hit two homers and had four hits in all. David Peralta homered as well. All three homers came off of James Shields. In his defense, this was not a particularly Big Game.

Rockies 12, Dodgers 5: On the one hand, the Dodgers got swept by a last place team. On the other hand, it now gives them a chance to clinch at AT&T Park in San Francisco, and that would annoy the hell out of Giants fans. They don’t have a pool in which they can celebrate, but if they’re not too worried about hypothermia and sharks and crap they can jump into McCovey Cove. Nolan Arenado, who deserves a hell of a lot better than playing for the Rockies, homered and drove in a career-high five runs

Cubs 4, Pirates 0: Jake Arrieta tossed seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit go win his 21st game. It’s gonna be Arrieta vs. Gerrit Cole in the Wild Card game and that’s gonna be amazing.

Lance Berkman is a spokesman against an LGBT rights law in Houston

Lance Berkman

SB Nation’s Outsports reports that former Astros first baseman/outfielder Lance Berkman has become a spokesman for a group opposed to a ballot initiative in Houston known as the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. He’s taped commercials attacking the law for providing equal protection for LGBT people.

Which, hey, baseball players skew conservative and conservative people are more likely to oppose LGBT laws than many, so no big deal? Normally yes, but this particular campaign and Berkman’s particular words against the law are pretty damn vile.

The law in question would ensure public accommodations for transgender people to use public bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. As it is now, transgender people frequently face discrimination in this regard and are denied the same access as others to facilities. Many cities have ordinances on the books ensuring such access, but Houston doesn’t. The vote on the ordinance is November 3.

The campaign against the ordinance, however, has chosen to traffic in some of the oldest and most disgusting stereotypes against LGBT people, characterizing them as “troubled men,” equating them with sexual predators and sex offenders and citing the safety of their “mothers, wives and daughters” as a reason for opposing the ordinance. Here is the group’s spokesman:

“Parker’s Bathroom Ordinance would force businesses and public establishments to allow troubled men, or men who want to start trouble, to use women’s public bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities. This endangers women and girls and places them in harm’s way,” Campaign for Houston spokesman Jared Woodfill said in a press release.

“There are 8345 registered and convicted sexual predators in Harris County. This just scratches the surface of this dangerous problem. These men could use this ordinance as a legal shield to threaten our mothers, wives and daughters,” Woodfill added.

Berkman’s ad follows this script exactly, talking about his two daughters and citing the “troubled men” slander.

Such characterizations have been used for decades, hell centuries, to demonize the LGBT community, casting them as sick people and criminals. The opposition here is no different. And conveniently forgets that, as things currently stand:

In reality, the use of “troubled men” and fears for the children are a handy way to avoid saying “we’re against this law because we are uncomfortable with transgender people in general and allowing what we perceive to be a political victory for LGBT persons in particular.”

One hopes Berkamn is ignorant of the ugliness animating the campaign for which he speaks, as many celebrity endorsers are.

Frank Wren named Red Sox VP of baseball operations

FILE - In this March 11, 2014, file photo, Atlanta Braves general manager Frank Wren meets the media before a spring exhibition baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Kissimmee, Fla. The Braves have fired general manager Frank Wren. The move was announced Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, by team president John Schuerholz, one day after the team was eliminated from the NL playoff race. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

The Red Sox have announced that they have named former Orioles and former Braves General Manager Frank Wren their new vice president of baseball operations.

Which requires us to regroup a bit, because that’s a lot of GM-types in the Red Sox’ front office.

Dave Dombrowski was hired last month as the Sox’ President of Baseball operations. He will, presumably, have full and final say over any baseball moves the Red Sox make. His hiring caused former GM Ben Cherington to resign, leading to yesterday’s promotion of senior vice president/assistant general manager Mike Hazen to the post of general manager. Now Wren enters the picture, one presumes, in between Dombrowski and Hazen.

UPDATE: Nope, Wren is below Hazen as well. Which sort of moots all the stuff I had in an earlier version of this post about the dynamics between Dombrowski, Hazen and Wren. Wren, it seems, is going to be merely an advisor, not unlike former Royals GM Allard Baird is with the Sox.

Which makes this more a function of title inflation than anything else. Advisors are now “Vice Presidents” despite not really having any executive authority. General Managers now answer to people higher on the chain. If it makes everyone feel better and more important, well, so be it.