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: Mets interview Dave Littlefield to fill GM vacancy

AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Marc Carig of The Athletic reports that the Mets have interviewed Dave Littlefield to fill the club’s GM vacancy. The position hasn’t exactly been a popular one for potential candidates, with many preemptively taking their name out of consideration.

Littlefield, 58, was the Pirates’ GM between 2001-07. It didn’t exactly go well. The club never won more than 75 games during his tenure. Littlefield was also infamous for the 2003 Rule 5 draft in which he carelessly left several valuable players unprotected, including Chris Shelton and José Bautista. Littlefield was also criticized for trades he made (e.g. Aramis Ramírez) and for trades he didn’t make (e.g. Kris Benson for Ryan Howard).

In the time since, Littlefield worked as a scout for the Cubs, then for the Tigers. Since 2015, he has worked as the vice president of player development for the Tigers. Littlefield’s successor, Neal Huntington, went on to have more success which didn’t help Littlefield’s cause any. Huntington was also comparatively much more open to analytics.

The Mets’ interest in Littlefield isn’t surprising. There are plenty of up-and-coming GM candidates — like Ben Cherington — the Mets could target, but Fred Wilpon (pictured above) doesn’t want that. He wants someone malleable who will adhere to payroll constrictions. Mets ownership’s involvement is an issue for the younger, analytics-oriented executives, Matt Ehalt of The Record reported earlier this month. Ehalt wrote, “There are rumblings that several candidates with progressive, analytics-oriented approaches do not believe they will be able to operate as they please should they take the Mets job, according to a source. That hesitation played a factor in why former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington bowed out of the mix, per the source.”

You have to feel bad for Mets fans, who seem relegated to having to root for a middling ballclub once again. And you have to feel bad for the likes of Brandon Nimmo, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard, who will once again have to perform for a team that doesn’t have competing as its chief priority.