Tag: Gio Gonzalez


The Nationals extend their winning streak to 10 games with another walk-off victory


Here’s hoping Nationals manager Matt Williams has been practicing his Babe Ruth home run trot, because he has a promise to fulfill.

The Nationals extended their winning streak to 10 games this evening with a 1-0 walk-off victory over the Diamondbacks in Nationals Park. Amazingly, it was their fifth walk-off victory in their last six games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Nationals are the first team to have five walk-offs wins in six games since the 1986 Astros.

This one ended in odd fashion. Behind strong outings from Gio Gonzalez and Wade Miley, the game went into the bottom of the ninth inning scoreless before Denard Span singled off Oliver Perez with one out. Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson then turned to Evan Marshall to face Anthony Rendon. Span stole second base during the at-bat before Rendon hit a grounder to third baseman Jordan Pacheco, who made a wild throw to first base which skipped out of play and allowed the winning run to score. It seems like everything is bouncing the Nationals’ way right now.

The 10-game winning streak matches the franchise record, which was set in the team’s first season in D.C. in 2005. The Nationals now sit 20 games over .500 at 73-53, 7 1/2 games in front of the second-place Braves in the National League East.

Williams recently said that he would do his famous Babe Ruth impersonation if the Nationals won 10 straight and he told reporters after today’s game that he’s prepared to deliver.

Please let there be video. The internet needs this.

Numbers game: Tigers fall victim to baseball’s speed obsession


When the Detroit Tigers traded Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals back in December for a a middling left-handed pitching prospect and some change, it was, well, baffling. Here we are a few months later, and it’s no longer baffling. Yes, it’s self-destructive. It’s ruinous. It’s loony. It might be the trade that changed the entire face of baseball for 2014. Baffling just isn’t nearly a big enough word now.

Let’s do a quick review:


Last year: The Nationals were sixth in the National League in runs allowed, gave a struggling Dan Haren 30 starts and finished second in the National League East and out of the playoffs.

This year: The Nationals lead the NL in ERA (more than a half run lower than last year), they are six games up in the in the National League East, and Fister is their best pitcher.


Last year: The Tigers were third in the American League in ERA, Fister made 32 starts for them (the Tigers went 18-14 in those starts), and the team won 93 games, won the American League Central and reached the ALCS.

This year: The Tigers are 10th in the league in ERA, Fister’s starts were mostly taken up by since-traded Drew Smyly (team went 6-12 in his starts) and the player acquired in the deal, Robbie Ray (1-4 in his starts). Detroit finds itself one and a half games behind the Kansas City Royals.

It was a disastrous deal for Detroit, and it was a probably a season-saving one for Washington, and it leads to the question that made little sense at the time and makes no sense at all now: Why in the heck did Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski do it?

There were explanations at the time. One of those explanations was that the Tigers were trying to open up a spot in the rotation for Smyly, a talented lefty who had pitched very well in relief in 2013. The Tigers talked on and on about how important it was to get Smyly into the rotation — they were supposedly worried that if they gave him another year in the pen, he might never make the transition to starter.

OK. What else? Well, Dombrowski made a point of saying how much he and his staff liked Robbie Ray, the pitching prospect they got in return. On this front, Mike Rizzo concurred — just a couple of weeks ago, when I talked to Rizzo about how good Fister has been, Rizzo quickly said: “Well, we gave up a lot to get him.”

What else? OK, there’s the money. The Tigers have a huge payroll, but even the big payroll teams would like to save money where they can. With Fister entering his later arbitration years (he signed for $7.2 million this year) and Smyly apparently ready to start, Fister was perhaps expensive enough to move.

Now, with a a few months of clarity added to the picture, none of these things makes sense.

1. Smyly? No. The Tigers have already traded away Smyly to get David Price and make a desperate run for the playoffs with a wounded and uneven team.

2. An under-appreciation of Ray? Too early to tell but early signs say: No. Ray has struggled in his early starts which doesn’t mean much, but I still haven’t talked to a scout who loves him.

3. Money? No. When Dombrowski realized that his team was short on pitching, he went out and got David Price who is making twice as much as Fister and will make more next year.

So … why?

Nobody is saying why, but I have a guess. It’s a guess that directly relates to something I see all around baseball, even at some of the more enlightened places. I have invented a word for it: Fistrust.

FISTRUST (pronounced FIS-truh-st, noun): A deep suspicion and profound lack of confidence in pitchers who cannot throw 90 mph.

The radar gun has changed baseball in so many ways. It has changed the way scouts rate players. It has changed the way pitchers train. It has changed modern bullpens and changed the types of pitches that batters will see in the eighth and ninth innings. It has changed the way people watch the game too — how often do you find yourself at a ballpark or on television, and a pitcher throws a fastball by a hitter, and you think: “How fast was that?” And you’re actually peeved if that information is not immediately available.

One of the ways I think it has changed the game is that the radar gun has sparked a powerful (and often involuntary) mistrust — fistrust — of pitchers who are getting people out when their fastballs top out in the 80s. I see it all over the game — even among some of the smartest and most forward-thinking people in baseball. I had one of the game’s truly great minds tell me, “I KNOW I shouldn’t worry about the radar gun, but dammit, I see a guy getting people out at 87 miles per hour, and I can’t help it.”

Right. They just can’t help it. So much of pitching is a mystery. Nobody REALLY knows how many pitches or innings or days between starts is the right number. The scouting and development of pitchers is so hit and miss. The radar gun is something tangible in that sea of confusion, and so when the reading says 87 mph, the mind simply has a hard time associating that with pitching success.

Doug Fister was a seventh-round pick as a senior at Fresno State — “seventh-round pick” and “drafted as a senior” almost always add up to “non-prospect.” Though he stood 6-foot-8, he never did throw very hard — his calling card was impeccable control and a heavy sinking fastball that (in theory) batters would top into the ground.

He meandered for a while with Seattle, pitching way better than his won-loss record (well, his won-loss record was 12-30, so ANYTHING would be better than that) and then he came to Detroit in what seemed a minor deal in 2011 and basically pitched the Tigers to their first division title in almost a quarter century. On August 20, the Tigers were nine games over .500 and leading a lethargic division. The Tigers won Fister’s next seven starts — he allowed one earned run or less in every one of them. Detroit ended up winning the division by 15 games.

Did the Tigers believe? Maybe. Maybe not. Fister did strike out nine Kansas City Royals in a row in 2012 — that’s an American League record — but in general the strikeout wasn’t a big part of his game. His fastball didn’t hit 90, and his success seemed to rely on shaky things like keeping the ball in the ballpark and not walking hitters. I once had a baseball general manager tell me that the one thing a pitcher never wants to be called is a “sinker-slider type pitcher.” The GM explained: “That means he can’t throw hard enough, and doesn’t have an out pitch.” Fister was the very definition of a sinker-slider type pitcher.

He also was very good — good ERA, good Fielding Independent Pitching numbers, good results. He gave up hits, and he didn’t intimidate anybody even at 6-foot-8, but the guy gave you quality starts time and again and for all the griping about quality starts, teams tend to win a high percentage of them.

This leads to my guess: I just don’t think the Tigers trusted Fister coming into the season. They have a pitching staff loaded with dazzling stuff and, against that canvas, Fister’s sinkers and sliders just seemed uninteresting to them. This wasn’t only true for the Tigers, by the way. I don’t think many teams around baseball appreciated Fister. I mean Dombrowski’s a smart guy — you know he shopped Fister around, and it seems the Nationals’ uninspiring offer was the best one made.

Think about that for a minute. You would think that teams would be breaking down doors to get at a pitcher with Doug Fister’s production the last three years. I mean, sheesh the Twins gave Ricky Nolasco $50 million, and the Brewers gave Matt Garza $50 million, and the Orioles gave Ubaldo Jiminez $50 million and the Phillies gave A.J. Burnett $16 million for one year,

But Nolasco, Garza, Jiminez, Burnett, they all throw 90-plus. Doug Fister doesn’t.

Fister is pitching much better than any of those others, something that should not have been that hard to predict. The guy can pitch. Right now he’s pitching about as well as anybody East of Kings Felix and Kershaw. With Stephen Strasburg having a weird year and Gio Gonzalez having a down year, Fister has been at the heart of a Nationals team that is a real World Series threat.

Meanwhile, the Tigers pitching staff is a mess — Anibal Sanchez is hurt, Justin Verlander can’t get anyone out, Max Scherzer is a a few weeks away from becoming baseball’s most sought-after free agent pitcher. They sure could use a solid sinker-slider pitcher who doesn’t walk anybody and has a 1.89 ERA since the middle of May. Then again, who couldn’t use that guy?

It’s been a trying year for Bryce Harper


WASHINGTON — Before we can get into Harpergate – the silliness, the confusion, the panic – we must begin by talking about October 10, 2012. That was the date of the first baseball playoff game in the nation’s capital in almost 80 years, the first playoff game since Goose Goslin and Heinie Manush played in these parts.

That was a crazy American day because baseball in Washington is a crazy American thing. For a long time, baseball in Washington was simply lousy, hysterically so; those Senators were the team that inspired the Vaudeville joke, “First in war, first in peace and last in the American League.” And then the Senators were gone, shipped off to Texas to become Rangers, and Washington baseball was mourned loudly and often by real senators and congressional leaders and political writers and various power brokers.

So that day – October 10, 2012 – was a pomp and circumstance, marching bands, political leaders waving celebration day. Flags unfurled. The afternoon was bright and warm, one of those bold-faced days when colors pop, like everything is freshly painted, and the Nationals had the best record in baseball. They also had two of the most exciting young players in recent memory – flame-throwing pitcher Stephen Strasburg and 19-year-old phenomenon Bryce Harper. This team looked like baseball’s next superpower, a potential dynasty. Washington was the shining city on a mound.

Yes, everything seemed possible that day.

Well, yeah, then the Cardinals clobbered the Nationals 8-0. Washington lost the series two days later after blowing an early six-run lead and a two-run lead in the ninth inning. Strasburg didn’t pitch at all in the series – Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo had shut him down to protect his healthy arm. The preseason World Series predictions in 2013 did not prevent Washington from an abysmal, unfocused injury-laden start, Harper smashed into a wall, and the Nationals still had a losing record in late August. Manager Davey Johnson was pushed overboard. This year has been marked by stops and starts and more injuries and arguments.

The story never changes. It is really hard to get things done in Washington.

* * *

Before we get into Harpergate – the absurdity, the misunderstandings, the climax – we must note that the Washington Nationals are in first place. It is easy to miss that when you’re inside the beltway. More than that, at this moment the Nationals are in first place by 4 ½ games, which is the biggest lead in the National League. More than that, the Nationals have the best run differential in the National League.

They have a five-man pitching rotation so extraordinary that you could argue their fourth and fifth starters at the moment are Strasburg (who leads the league in strikeouts) and Gio Gonzalez (who could have legitimately won the Cy Young Award two years ago). Their bullpen has a sub 3.00 ERA. The Nationals also have a lineup that, when healthy, has six or seven above average hitters, and that does NOT EVEN INCLUDE Bryce Harper, who we will get into in a moment.

“We’re a good team,” Rizzo says, but it is like he’s shouting into the wind.

“I’m really happy with the way this team has battled,” Rizzo says, but it is like no one is listening.

“We have a lot of players that …” oh, wait, I forgot to write down the rest. This Washington thing is contagious.

Baseball is not a sport for the restless or the impatient. It’s a long season. A loss is just a loss. A slump is just a slump. In baseball, a week is nothing, a month barely registers. The all-star Tommy Helms when he was a minor-league manager, used to do his postgame interviews in front of the mirror, while shaving. “Turn the page,” he would always say without looking away because one baseball game in the summertime, win or lose, is never worth cutting yourself shaving.

But Washington is a particularly restless city, an agitated and frenetic place where today’s news is the most important thing that ever happened … until tomorrow. So the Nationals 62-51 record is not simply that. It is a record of spectacular and calamitous events, a talking point followed by another talking point followed by another. For a while in July, the Nationals were healthy – healthy enough that they had their slugging shortstop Ian Desmond hitting seventh – and they went 15-5 with that impressive lineup. Then, at other times, they have seemed utterly helpless, unable to score.

The Nationals have the best record in baseball when scoring four or more runs – 53-6. But they have one of the worst records in baseball when failing to score four runs (9-45). This schizophrenic tendency drives Washington’s most extreme impulses. One Washington insider I know who is otherwise known for his calmness in crises will fluctuate from elation to utter alarm on a daily basis when it comes to his Nationals. He seems to more or less fit the Washington Nationals fan profile.

* * *

Stephen Strasburg has been at the center of this Washington whirlwind for – believe it or not – five seasons already. He came up as one of the most hyped pitching prospects in a half century; some thought his debut was the most anticipated since a 17-year-old Bob Feller took the mound. Well, why not? He brought a 100-mph fastball, a lane-changing curveball and a change-up that made hitters jolt awake in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. He came up to the big leagues very quickly and struck out 92 batters in 68 innings. And then he blew out his arm.

Everyone knows the story that followed. He had Tommy John surgery. He missed almost the entire 2011 season. Then, in 2012, he was often brilliant – he did not pitch more than seven innings in any game, but he still struck out 10 or more five times, allowed zero runs six times, righties batted just .185 against him. Rizzo had said from the start that he would shut down Strasburg after a certain number of innings, but then the Nationals began winning. And winning. And winning. Rizzo kept repeating that he would stick to the plan, but few believed him. Hey, if the Nationals made the playoffs, they would HAVE to pitch Strasburg, right? Right?

Wrong. Rizzo had made up his mind. Some thought he was capitulating to Strasburg’s powerful agent Scott Boras. Some thought he was just stubbornly refusing to give in to public pressure. But the most common thing I heard inside baseball was this: Rizzo felt sure that he had a brilliant young team that wasn’t quite ready to win, a team that he felt sure would get better over the next few years. He saw no need to push in all his chips. He was betting on Stephen Strasburg and the future.

So now what? Well, Strasburg is having an unusual year. He leads the National League in starts and strikeouts and his 177-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio is fantastic. But he also is posting the highest ERA of his career so far (3.39) and the Nationals are just 12-12 in games he starts. He has honed his change-up into one of the most devastating pitches in the game, but his velocity slowly comes down and hitters have teed off on his fastball for much of the season. Even teammates have commented on how aggressively hitters attack his fastball. He could get to 200 innings for the first time this year, but he does not have a complete game and has only twice even started the eighth inning.

And so Strasburg has been one of the most argued about people in Washington – not quite at the level of President Obama but probably on par with, say, John Boehner. Some see an emerging ace. Some see an enigma who doesn’t pitch inside enough. Some see a pitcher with great stuff but not great presence. Some see a young man who is maturing because he recently became a father. Some see a pitcher who has not improved at all since coming to the big leagues. Every day there’s something new about Stephen Strasburg. Every day.

“So I thought I’d write something on Stephen Strasburg,” I told Mike Rizzo.

“How novel,” he replied.

If he was any 26-year-old pitcher leading the league in strikeouts … but he’s not. He’s Stephen Strasburg. This is Washington. The pontificating never ends.

There’s only one player who feels it even more.

So, here’s what seems to have happened in Harpergate. Nationals manager Matt Williams went on a radio show Tuesday morning and the hot topic was Bryce Harper because Bryce Harper is always the hot topic. Harper talk is especially hot now because he has been hitting about .225 with no power since returning from his latest injury on June 30. He has been swinging and missing a lot.

The hype for Harper, if possible, even trumped the Strasburg stuff. Harper was on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was 16 years old with the understated headline: “Baseball’s Chosen One.” In case you missed the point, the subhead was: “Bryce Harper is the most exciting prodigy since LeBron.”

He got his GED and left high school after his sophomore year, went to junior college at Southern Nevada when he was 17 and smashed 31 home runs. He was the first pick in the draft, of course. Comparisons? Mickey Mantle! Barry Bonds! The work ethic of Pete Rose, the power of Willie McCovey, the hand-eye coordination of Ted Williams! The head of a hawk, the body of a lion, the force of Reggie Jackson! Baseball America called his raw tools “freakish,” and that was one of the more understated things said about him.

He came up at 19 and showed everything – power, speed, arm, the whole package. He was selected Rookie of the Year and made it back on the cover of Sports Illustrated, which this time used its headline to ask a question: “What does Bryce Harper have in mind for his encore?”

The answer was below: “Some seriously monumental numbers.”

It did look that way for a while last year – he hit two homers on Opening Day. He hit .337 and slugged .700 in April. Then it started to go bad. He slumped. He got hurt running into a wall. When he returned, he wasn’t the same. He was beat up. His knee hurt. He hit just .266 the rest of the way with just eight homers in 74 games. People started talking about how he needed to adjust his game, be a little less aggressive, be smarter. He didn’t agree with any of that.

This year has been trying. He started off reasonably well then got hurt again, this time sliding into third base. When he came back he griped about Matt Williams’ lineup. And he just stopped hitting. One scout told me that he looks lost up there, like he’s completely lost his feel for hitting. On Tuesday night against the Mets, he looked particularly overmatched. He struck out looking, then he struck out swinging, then he lofted a fly ball to deep left that died at the warning track. When he reached first base he slammed his helmet down in frustration.

The next day, he dove into first base on a play that wasn’t even all that close. “He has got to stop doing that!” echoed throughout the stadium.

So, yes, Harper was going to be the conversation for Matt Williams’ radio show. But it took an odd turn – the idea of Harper going down to the minor leagues was brought up. But it wasn’t exactly brought up as an idea. It was brought up in a sort of passive-aggressive way, with the kicker being: “is that just a stupid idea on my part?”

This might have been a good time for Williams to say, “Yes, stupid idea,” and everyone could laugh and move on. Instead – maybe to be nice, maybe because this is something that has been on his mind, maybe because it was early in the morning and his brain wasn’t quite awake – he said this according to the Washington Post transcript:

“I don’t know. I don’t think it’s stupid. Generally if you have young players, that’s what you do. But this guy is a special player, we all know that. It’s different. … But I don’t know if it’s a good idea at this point to do that because it’s completely different pitching. … It’s probably more of an option to have him feel good here, get it back.”

Well, you can imagine what happened next: The Bryce Harper-to-the-minors talk in Washington pushed to 11. Could they really send him down? Should they? Don’t they realize that, even with the latest slump, he has accomplished more at 21 than all but a handful of major leaguers? But could sending him down shake him up?

Well, of course this happened — this is Washington, and this is Bryce Harper, and Matt Williams can ask any politician of note what happened: He had just fed the beast. In a few hours he would come into the press room and lambasted the media. “I will caution everyone in this room,” he said, “The minute you think you can read my frickin’ mind, you’re sorely mistaken.”

But it was too late then. You can’t go on the radio as the manager of the Washington Nationals, tell someone that sending Bryce Harper to the minors is NOT a stupid idea, and then expect Washington to sit still. It’s WASHINGTON for crying out loud. (Williams later realized this an apologized).

Rizzo said shortly after Harpergate began that Bryce Harper is fine, he’s matured a lot, he’s got a great work ethic, this little slump is nothing more than a little slump. He’s going to work through it. He’s going to be a great player. And, oh, by the way, maybe you can notice that the Nationals are in first place.

“Bryce is a key part of this team,” Rizzo says. “We have a lot of key parts … that’s what makes us a good team.”

Well, yes. Doug Fister missed a few starts for injury, but he has one of the lowest ERAs in the game (2.47) and the Nationals have won 12 of his 16 starts. Tanner Roark has emerged as one of the better starters in the National League. Late inning guys Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and closer Rafael Soriano all have sub-2.00 ERAs.  Twenty-four year old third baseman Anthony Rendon looks like he is going to be a big star. And so on.

But … Bryce Harper? What about Bryce Harper?

Thursday afternoon, in the 13th inning against the Mets, Bryce Harper mashed a long walk-off home run to extend the Nationals lead.

“I haven’t felt like that in a long time,” he said afterward, and for a few hours all was all right in our nation’s capital.

Strasburg? Gonzalez? Zimmermann? Fister? Nope, the Nationals’ leader in wins is … Tanner Roark

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals - Game Two

For all the big-money, big-name starters in the Nationals’ rotation–Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister–the team leader in both wins and ERA is a little-known 27-year-old sophomore named Tanner Roark.

Roark was drafted in the 25th round by the Rangers in 2008 and came to the Nationals in the mid-2010 trade for Cristian Guzman. He never cracked anyone’s top-100 prospect list and didn’t even debut in the majors until age 26 last season after posting an underwhelming 4.04 ERA in the minors.

And then he went 7-1 with a 1.96 ERA as a rookie and has followed it up by winning a team-high nine games with a 2.91 ERA in 19 starts this season.

Roark doesn’t have overpowering raw stuff with a fastball that averages 91 miles per hour and he’s managed just 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings, but among the 149 pitchers with at least 150 innings since the beginning of last season he ranks 19th in walk rate at 1.9 per nine innings and fifth in home run rate at 0.46 per nine innings. Throwing strikes, keeping the ball in the ballpark, and letting the defense do its job can definitely be a recipe for success.

Chase Hughes of CSNWashington.com has a good article about how Roark went from non-prospect to standout starter, with lots of quotes from his Nationals teammates. It’s a helluva story.

And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Cardinals 8, Rockies 0: Matt Adams had two homers and drove in six. After the game he was asked why he’s been so dialed-in lately and he said “I’m laying off the sliders and the curveballs from the lefties.” One of his homers was off a righty last night, but let him go he’s on a roll.  In other news Lance Lynn allowed only three hits in eight shutout innings. It was the first time the Rockies were shutout at Coors Field since July of last year.

Mariners 12, Red Sox 3: Logan Morrison joined Adams in the two-homer club last night. If they take their ticket stubs to Dairy Queen they are entitled to a free Dilly Bar. Or was it a Mr. Misty? I forget. Probably not important. Anyway, this was the fourth straight win for Seattle and the first winning decision for Felix Hernandez since the beginning of the month, despite the fact that he’s pitched fantastically in his two no-decisions and one loss since then. Amazing what a little run support will do.

Marlins 4, Phillies 0: Nate Eovaldi with six shutout innings and four relievers to finish it off. Eovaldi had been shelled the last few times out and 12 of his 19 outs here were fly balls, so he was kind of dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight (in other news happy birthday Tim Burton’s Batman). But results matter most, so let’s not imagine what might have happened if Eovaldi were facing a team that squared him up a bit more last night.

Orioles 6, White Sox 4: Someone on a radio show asked me yesterday who I thought had an extra gear in the AL East. I said Baltimore, because Chris Davis hasn’t been Chris Davis so far this year and if he turns it around it’s like adding a big time slugger during the season. Yesterday, despite starting the game on the bench because of his general suckitude of late and because Chris Sale was pitching, Davis came in for a pinch-hit, three-run walkoff homer.

Nationals 4, Brewers 0: That “add a big piece by merely fixing one of your previously-existing broken ones” thing works for the Nationals and Gio Gonzalez too. After ineffectiveness and a stint on the DL, Gonzalez was sometimes shaky — he waled four guys in six innings — but otherwise shut the Brewers out while he was in the game. His mates shut them out while they were in the game. Adam LaRoche hit a three-run homer for all the O the curly W’s would need.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $35,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Tuesday night’s MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $6,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on TuesdayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Blue Jays 8, Yankees 3: The Yankees have given a name to their pain, and it is Adam Lind. A three-run homer and four RBI, to hand the Yankees their third straight loss.

Reds 6, Cubs 1: Tied 1-1 into the ninth and then — bam! — a five-run inning, capped by a Devin Mesoraco grand slam. It was his fourth game in a row in which he hit a homer.

Pirates 8, Rays 1: Pedro Alvarez had a three-run homer in the fourth and Edinson Volquez rebounded from a nightmare start last Wednesday to allow one run over eight. The Rays hit into three double plays behind him.

Padres 6, Giants 0: Odrisamer Despaigne made his big league debut, taking the place of Andrew Cashner, and he did not disappoint. All he did was throw seven scoreless innings. He was signed just a couple months ago by Josh Byrnes, who just got canned. I wonder if he watched the game and if he did, I wonder how he felt.

Royals 5, Dodgers 3: The Royals beat up their old friend Zack Greinke and snapped their four game losing streak. Well, maybe he’s not their old friend. A lot of them didn’t even play with him. Of those who did,, maybe he was a jerk to them. Maybe he was really close friends with, like, Billy Butler but he and Alex Gordon had a falling out over a poker game? You never can know these things.