I Think I’m Going to Like Chico Harlan

Those of you who get your Nationals news from blogs and feed readers may have not have noticed a big change in Nationals coverage over at the Washington Post.

Barry Svrugla, who had covered the Nationals beat since the team first moved to DC, recently moved on
to cover the Redskins.

Barry is great at what he does, and helped bring the
Post into the 21st century with his frequent and candid posts on the Nationals Journal blog. I was sad to see him move on from the Nats beat.

However, in just a few short weeks, Svrugla’s replacement Chico Harlan has proven to be razor sharp with the pen. In today’s Post Harlan paints a painful picture of pitcher Odalis Perez’s day, battling through 6+ innings just hours after undergoing an emergency root canal. Great stuff.

Some of the other memorable gems Harlan has given us in this short season:

On a 12-2 drubbing at the hands of the Phillies:

Certainly science has a name for this, the kind of implosion too vast for common math to quantify.

On the trials of starting young players:

Milledge and Dukes are both 23. Peña is 25. Whether they flourish or flounder, they will play. Sometimes, they will play games like this one.

On the anemic Nationals offense:

With the season 47 games old, they’re still waiting for the offense to break from its sleepwalk. They’re still waiting for a lineup to produce with runners in scoring position. They’re still waiting for results to catch up with logic, because an entire roster of hitters can only flounder below their career averages for so long, right?

On Manager Manny Acta’s shaved head:

With a razor, using the same technique that Carlos Delgado once taught him, Acta shaved the stubble from his head. He was ready for a clean start. Head fully Mr. Cleaned, Acta then turned to his next cleanup job — the team outside his office door.

On Shea Stadium:

Shea Stadium, decrepit and months from demolition, deserved a game like this one — filled with both trash and trash talk.

Yes, I think I’m going to like Chico Harlan.

Nationals T-Shirt Tuesday Schedule Set

The Washington Nationals have finalized which Tuesday home games will feature free t-shirts with images of the racing presidents.

The promotion is part of T-Shirt Tuesdays, in which the first 10,000
fans to arrive at Tuesday night home games at Nationals Park receive a
free t-shirt courtesy of a Washington Nationals’ sponsor company.

All of the racing president’s T-Shirt Tuesdays are sponsored by tickets.com.

Thomas Jefferson will be featured
on T-Shirt Tuesday, June 3rd against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Abe Lincoln will be featured on T-Shirt Tuesday, July 8th against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Finally, Teddy Roosevelt will be featured on T-Shirt Tuesday, August 12 against the New York Mets.

Our first president had his big day last Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies, when fans received a free t-shirt with George Washington on the back and the phrase “Who’s Your Founding Father?”

George won the presidents race on his night. Coincidence? I can’t say, but if Tom and Abe win on their t-shirt Tuesdays, I’ll be circling August 12 on my calendar.

The Nationals Presidents Race Gets Political

Today the always entertaining Washington political blogger Howard Mortman used a little digital photoshoppery to encourage his readers to visualize opening day at Nationals Stadium in April, 2009.

Middle of the 4th inning.

Once again, Teddy comes in last, embarrassing himself while losing
to Abe, George and Tom.

But who’s that new President with the big ears and winning smile?

Howard, you may have gotten just two things wrong with your prediction. One is that instead of “Nationals Stadium,” you’re more likely to be reporting from Geico Field. Two is that regardless of opponent, Teddy, with his eternally sunny outlook, does not ever appear to embarrass himself.

Teddy and the Nats Collapse at the Finish Line

Presidents Race Photos - Teddy Falls & Loses to Abe at Nationals Park, May 26, 2008On a sunny Memorial Day afternoon at Nationals Park, the Washington Nationals completed their home-
stand with a bittersweet extra-innings loss to the the Milwaukee Brewers, failing to hold the lead after another great outing by pitcher Jason Bergmann who stretched his string of scoreless innings pitched to
19 2/3.

Teddy Roosevelt kept his less auspicious 145-game streak alive as he took a big lead into the final stretch of the presidents race for the second time this holiday weekend, only to collapse — literally — before reaching the finish line.

While the result was the same, it was nothing like Saturday night’s loss. On Saturday, Teddy seemed to have the presidents race in hand and high-stepped as he approached the finish line; but he slowed up just enough to be passed by the speedy Abraham Lincoln before they crossed the tape.

There would be no such premature celebrating at today’s presidents race. A serious and determined-looking Teddy grabbed the early lead and was still ahead of the pack as they reached the first base foul territory. Then suddenly, Teddy grabbed his neck and collapsed. As has become so common this year at Nationals Park, Abraham Lincoln was there to run past Teddy to grab his 14th presidents victory of the young season.

Is Teddy OK? Fans in section 128 were crying of foul play by Abe, who has been on a suspicious tear and taken 9 out of 14 presidents races in May. Teddy did walk off the field on his own. With the Washington Nationals now heading on the road, Teddy has until the next home game on June 3rd to recover.

Teddy Roosevelt Panther Attack Video

It took a couple of weeks, but alert youtube user squidpants has finally emerged with a video of the end of the April 27, 2008 presidents race, in which a person in a panther suit raced out of the stands to tackle Teddy Roosevelt as he approached the finish line.

The footage is grainy and there is a problem with the sound, but this has definitely earned its place on the Presidents Race Videos page.


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Consider Parking This Weekend at Nationals Park

You’ve heard the ads on the radio. The umpire calls “Strike One. Strike Two. Strike Three. You’re Out!” and the voice over intones “Now you know how it feels to try to find parking at a Nats game.”

Regular readers know that I’m a bit angry about the DC Metro’s horrible negative ad campaign, which has convinced people to stay away in droves by telling them that going anywhere near Nationals Park in a car is a recipe for disaster. You’ve also learned that it’s a complete myth.

In fact, after 6 weeks of ball games, I think it’s fair to say that parking at Nationals Park is at least as easy as taking the Metro.

On Tuesday, I took 20 people from my office in Reston, Virginia to a night at our Nationals’ new stadium. Most had never been, and the reason cited was the perceived transportation hassle. In fact, some said they had turned down tickets previously because it wasn’t worth the transportation nightmare.

We all had a great time. The close game vs. the Phillies kept everybody on the edge of their seats, but the thing that got the most comments from the first-timers was how shockingly easy it was to get in and out. Some took Metro, but most followed the easy parking directions at Nationals.com.

On a weekday evening, using the free Nats Express parking and shuttle from RFK Stadium, it took about an hour from the time we left Reston to standing inside the park at our meeting spot in the centerfield plaza. My boss, who couldn’t get out of the office until after 6:00pm, raced downtown, drove right up to National Park, paid for the cash valet parking and reported it was the easiest stadium parking he’d ever seen.

The Milwaukee Brewers are coming to town tonight for a Memorial Weekend series. The weather will be spectacular, and I can’t think of a better excuse to load the family in the car and drive to the ball park. See for yourself how easy it is, then join me in pleading with Metro to kill this horrible ad campaign.

Teddy Roosevelt Says “Bring On the Sausages!”

Given Teddy Roosevelt’s pitiful record
in the Washington Nationals’ presidents race, he can hardly afford
to be thinking ahead to the next series, but that’s what he did on Wednesday night at Nationals Park.

At the start of our favorite 4th-inning ritual, a self-assured Abraham Lincoln once again spotted the other presidents a big lead, giving Teddy a chance at victory, but as the racing presidents came down the first base line, Teddy stopped and posed for Dave the videographer with a sign reading “Bring On the Sausages!”, and Thomas Jefferson raced on to beat Abe to the finish line.

In addition to disappointing his rooters in the stands, Teddy’s move also confused those in right field who couldn’t see the sign, including youtube user tsbicca:

The reference on the sign is, of course, to the Memorial weekend series which begins Friday night at Nationals Park against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers’ Miller Park is home to the famous Sausage Race, which deserves credit for starting this whole racing mascot thing back in 1995 (it started at the old Milwaukee County Stadium as a promotion for Milwaukee’s Klement’s Sausage Company).

Earlier this month, when the Pittsburgh Pirates came to town, they brought the Racing Pierogies to Nationals Park. Could it be that we’ll see the original racing sausages in town this weekend?

Photos by flickr users Liliang and Philgarlic

Nationals T-Shirt Tuesday Features Racing Presidents

Washington Nationals T-Shirt TuesdayYesterday’s home game against the Philadelphia Phillies marked the continuation of the Washington Nationals’ T-Shirt Tuesdays, which will run all season at Nationals Park.

Each Tuesday home game throughout the season, the first 10,000 fans arriving at Nationals Park will be handed a free t-shirt compliments of one of the team’s sponsors. The t-shirts have a small Curly W on the front, but a different design on the back each time.

The first T-Shirt Tuesday featured a photo of Nick Johnson sliding, but last night’s shirt was the first of a series that will feature our racing presidents. As you can see, George Washington is posed on the back, with his famous (?) quote “Who’s Your Founding Father?”

George certainly seemed motivated by the occasion, as he led the presidents race from wire to wire, holding off a late comeback by Abraham Lincoln. Could this be a sign of things to come?

Next T-Shirt Tuesday is June 3 vs. the St. Louis Cardinals.

Photo by flickr user Scott Ableman.

Abe Lincoln Taunts Fellow Presidents But Fails to Deliver

The Washington Nationals presidents race has been nothing if not puzzling in the month of May. Abe Lincoln raised suspicions by kicking off the month on an inhuman tear, running like the wind and taunting the other racing presidents. Yesterday he rather abrubtly returned to earth, but tonight at Nationals Park, our 16th president was back to his speedy, aggressive and risk-taking ways.

As the presidents race began in the 4th inning, “Honest Abe” stepped back and let the other racing presidents pass him by. After spotting the others a healthy lead, Abe took off at breakneck speed, attempting to catch and pass the other presidents. However, his overconfidence got the best of him, and while he passed Teddy and Tom, he did not reach the finish line in time to pass George Washington.

This video by YouTube user unbleachedbrun misses the beginning but shows Abe outpacing the field from behind. We heard some other fans shouting “Abe is on the juice!” after the game, so Abe’s odd behavior has obviously not gone unnoticed.

Photos by flickr user Scott Ableman.

So Much For That Theory

A day after Abe Lincoln was accused of using illegal substances to fly past his presidents race opponents and keep his winning streak going, our 16th president came out sluggish tonight and finished last behind Teddy Roosevelt.

So much for that theory…

Thomas Jefferson picked up his first victory since April, but Teddy still needs some help.

I’ll be cheering for Teddy from Section 418 with a group of 20 on Tuesday night. See you there!

Presidents Race Featured in First Post Hunt

Our beloved racing presidents continue to entrench themselves as fixtures in Washington, DC culture.

High culture, I might add…

Sunday brought thousands of people to downtown Washington for the first-ever Post Hunt — a live, brainteasing, scavenger hunt/puzzle founded and hosted by humor columnists Dave Barry and Gene Weingarten, and Washington Post Magazine editor Tom Shroder.

The contestants picked up clues which led them through downtown DC, and eventually to Washington Square, where they found puzzle #4 — a race being run repeatedly the Washington Nationals’ racing presidents and a man in a deer costume.

As the race was run again and again, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place “in the money” finishers were repeatedly announced as the deer, followed by George Washington and Abe Lincoln. A sign “Presidents Race: A Time For Change” was an additional clue that participants were to consider the money values of the winners — the buck, followed by Washington (the quarter) and Lincoln (the penny).

The solution to this puzzle: $1.26.

Photo by flickr user afagen

Could Abe Lincoln Be on the Juice?

What’s going on with Honest Abe?

Barely one quarter into the 2008 season, racing president Abraham Lincoln is running away from the pack in the standings, having won 7 of the last 8 and more than half of all presidents races so far.

In fact, since the end of April, our 16th president has been running out of the gate like Mercury, taking huge commanding leads over the other presidents in almost every race. The Great Emancipator’s only loss in that time was on Saturday night, May 10, when his lead over the other presidents was so big that he stopped and waited for the others to catch up, then lost to George in a photo finish.

In that time, #16 has become a bit of a showboater, taunting and bumping the other presidents as he outruns them. This all begs the question. What’s Honest Abe been putting in his breakfast cereal?

What do you think? As the team returns to Nationals Park to begin a homestand against Philadelphia, I say we should all keep an eye on Abraham Lincoln. If #16 continues this improbable run, an investigation might be in order.

Photo by flickr user melanie.phung

The Racing Presidents Invade Baltimore

This afternoon as the Washington Nationals’ welcomed Jason Bergmann back to the bigs with a thrilling 1-0 victory (and series win) over the Mets in New York, the racing presidents — George, Tom, Abe, and Teddy — took to the streets of Baltimore in preparation for this weekend’s series against the Orioles at Camden Yards.

Accompanied by team mascot Screech, the presidents taunted the Orioles Bird at the Inner Harbor, carrying signs that included “Old Bay Stinks!” (Tom), “Honestly, The Nats Will Sweep Baltimore Hun!” (Abe), “I Can Not Tell A Lie–The Nats Will Win!” (George), and of course “I’ll Race the Orioles Bird and Beat Him!” (Teddy) .

I was fortunate enough to be in Baltimore for business today, but didn’t have my camera with me(!). However, this video by WNST in Baltimore captures the spirit, and there are some other great shots over at Nats 320. Washington Post writers Dan Steinberg and Marc Fisher had separately predicted an unfriendly and even dangerous reception for the presidents by Baltimore locals; but while the presidents heard a smattering of boos and O’s cheers, the reception in the tourist-heavy Inner Harbor area was mostly enthusiastic.

Most surprisingly was the reaction by Orioles owner Peter Angelos, the long-time nemesis of DC baseball fans, who reacted politely to the visit, telling the Baltimore Sun “They’re welcome to do that. It is one huge megalopolis, you know? It’s about time we realize it.”

UPDATE: The Nationals confirmed that the presidents will not be racing at Camden Yards this weekend, but Screech will be there to represent the team.

New Presidents Race Photo Group on Flickr

If you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of flickr, which is not only a great storing/sharing service for photos and videos but also among the best social networks on the web. Just about every photo that appears here is published with permission by photographers who share their work on flickr.

This week we started a presidents race group on flickr, which is already growing and filled with your great images and videos from Nationals Park. If you are a flickr member, I encourage you to check it out!

Update: Nats Antagonist Designated for Assignment

Just a 1/2-day after Mets pitcher Nelson Figueroa allowed six runs then antagonized the Washington Nationals players in post-game interviews, the Mets designated him for assignment.

Darn. Thousands of childish, unprofessional Nats fans were looking forward to seeing him pitch in Nationals Park.

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