Nationals quietly support candlelight vigil for Wilson Ramos

Vigil for Wilson Ramos at Nationals ParkThe Washington Nationals have remained silent on the Wilson Ramos kidnapping at the request of government and law enforcement officials, but that didn’t prevent the team from quietly supporting the impromptu candlelight vigil tonight in front of Nationals Park.

The vigil was organized entirely by fans via Twitter in a matter of hours. Those who braved freezing temperatures to show their support for the Ramos family arrived to find tables set up with coffee and hot chocolate, courtesy of the team.

The Nats also let it be known that the area around the center field gate fence is open territory for signs to be left in support of their catcher.

9:50pm UPDATE: The Ramos family has just confirmed that they received a call from authorities telling them that Wilson Ramos has been found and freed!

11:00pm UPDATE: Statement from Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo: “The news from Venezuela tonight is reassuring. Though details are limited and we have not yet talked directly with Wilson, we are thrilled with reports that he has been rescued and is being safely returned to his family. We greatly appreciate all the prayers and thoughts of all who have joined us in wishing for this conclusion to what has been a nightmarish 48 hours. We are eager to see Wilson and let him know just how many all over the world have been waiting for this news.”

Vigil for Wilson Ramos at Nationals ParkCandlelight Vigil for Wilson Ramos at Nationals ParkWilson Ramos Nationals Vigil SignCandlelight Vigil for Wilson Ramos at Nationals Park

And finally, just after midnight, from @educal1973 and Mauricio Centeno at El Carabobeño newspaper:

Wilson Ramos Rescued

Candlelight vigil for Wilson Ramos tonight at Nationals Park

Free Wilson Ramos Candlelight VigilThe entire nation of Venezuela along with baseball fans and concerned citizens in DC and around the world have been on edge since Wednesday night, when news broke of the kidnapping of Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos.

Following last night’s candlelight vigil held outside the stadium in Ramos’ home town of Valencia, local fans are building momentum for a similar vigil
to be held tonight outside Nationals Park.

This is an unofficial event, organized by fans. The gathering will begin at 6:00pm outside the Nationals Park center field gate. Dress warmly and bring your own candles, signs, etc.

Please note that the Navy Yard Metro station is closed for maintenance. Free shuttle bus service will operate between the L’Enfant Plaza and Southern Avenue stations to closed Metro stations.

For those wishing to drive, note that parking meter enforcement will not be in effect in observance of the Veterans Day holiday. There will be no enforcement of residential parking or rush hour lane violations, which means parking should be plentiful.

For up-to-date info, you can follow the Twitter hashtag #vigilforramos.



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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.

Since When Was Cheering Unprofessional?

New York Mets losing pitcher Nelson Figueroa, after last night’s 10-4 defeat at the hands of the Washington Nationals, called the Nationals players — led by Elijah Dukes — “truly unprofessional” for cheering loudly from the visitor’s dugout at Shea Stadium.

“They were cheerleading in the dugout like a bunch of softball girls,” Figueroa, said. “I take huge offense to that. If that’s what a last-place team needs to do to fire themselves up, so be it. I think you need to show a little bit more class, a little bit more professionalism. They won tonight, but again, in the long run, they are who they are.”

Yes Nelson, and the Mets have reminded us who they are as well. Last off-season, Lastings Milledge was run out of town by his Mets teammates for such unprofessional behavior as high-fiving after making a big play. I think I’ll take a team full of young, enthusiastic players who never quit when they’re down over a bunch of overpaid underachievers who choke in the stretch and point fingers afterwards.

Am I wrong? Since when was cheering for your team unprofessional?

Photo by flickr user tagvestibule

Goodbye John Patterson

John PattersonThe Washington Nationals surprised nobody but their own fans by releasing pitcher John Patterson today. I was surely not alone in being taken by surprise. A lot of us had hopes that he could still play the role of staff ace, having been mesmerized by his flashes of brilliance in 2005 and at the very beginning of the 2006 season, before arm trouble got the best of him.

But after failing to hit 90 mph in Spring Training, and stinking it up this week in his final spring training game in front of Nats owner Mark Lerner, the team clearly had seen enough.

The remarkable thing is that he wasn’t traded or waived. Patterson’s release means that general manager Jim Bowden couldn’t get a single bite on Patterson via trade. If no major league team was willing to take on Patterson’s $850,000 contract, then you know we’ve all been drinking the Kool Aid. Good luck John (just not against the Nats).

Lastings Milledge in the Presidents Race?

Could Lastings Milledge don the Teddy Roosevelt costume?Presidents race watchers should take note to watch manager Manny Acta’s lineup card this season to see whether he’s given center fielder Lastings Milledge the day off.

In a video interview on Friday, Lastings Milledge tells the Washington Post that he plans to take the first opportunity to help Teddy win the presidents race.

“I’m gonna dress up as Roosevelt. I’m gonna win for him,” Milledge said. “If I get an off day I’m gonna ask Manny if I can dress up and win one.”

Milledge likens Teddy’s quest to win the presidents race to the Nationals’ pursuit of the NL East title. His advice to Teddy?

“Hang in there, man… You know, he’s just gettin’ a rap like how we get, everybody expecting him to lose, so he’s going to come out on top.”

The Washington Nationals Got Younger. Will They Be Better?

It’s been rumored that Stan Kasten is considering adding more presidents to the presidents race at Nationals Park in 2008. Could this be part of The Plan to make the team younger as they seek to build a champion? Teddy Roosevelt is currently the youngest of the racing presidents, but he was born 149 years ago, so none of them are exactly spring chickens.

But seriously, the team did get younger this week. The question on fans’ minds is did they also get better?

At the recently-concluded winter meetings, Washington Nationals GM Jim Bowden made several big moves. When the dust cleared, the Nationals had said goodbye to Brian Schneider, Ryan Church, Jonathan Albaledejo, Billy Traber, Justin Jones, and Glen Gibson.

The new faces on the Nationals include Lastings Milledge, Elijah Dukes, Tyler Clippard, Aaron Boone, Matt Whitney, Garrett Guzman, and as has been reported by Barry Svrugla., catcher Paul LoDuca.

Followers of the Washington Nationals such as Mark Zuckerman and Chris Needham seem to agree that the team made a lot of progress this week. But while I applaud Bowden for executing against The Plan, I’m not ready to greet the moves with anything other than a little cautious optimism.

Did the Nationals address needs? Yes.
Did they get younger? Absolutely.
Did they acquire some upside potential on the cheap? Without question.

On the flip side, they also created some holes that have yet to be filled. There are no left-handed bats to speak of, and more importantly, they left themselves with only Jesus Flores at the catcher position. The signing of LoDuca doesn’t fill that hole. It only puts an exclamation point on the fact that they couldn’t fill it. LoDuca’s 1-year contract is a stopgap until a long-term solution is found.

At some point, when the Nationals acquire their catcher of the future, let’s take a look at what they had to give up to get him, and then we can do the math. If it turns out that another year of seasoning is all Jesus Flores needs to become an all star behind the plate, then Bowden looks like a genius.

Washington Nationals Trade All Their Left-Handed Starters

When I first saw the cozy right field dimensions of the new Nationals Park, my first thought was “if their averages don’t improve at least we’ll see more home runs from Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.”

Well, today the Washington Nationals announced that they had traded Brian Schneider and Ryan Church to the New York Mets for outfielder Lastings Milledge. Milledge is only 22 years old and filled with raw talent, but the Mets are in “win now” mode, and are willing to trade potential in change for consistency and experience, particularly behind the plate.

I have to commend Jim Bowden for continuing to advance The Plan. Schneider in particular was a fan favorite — an original National whose experience is credited with holding together last year’s rag-tag pitching staff. Still, it’s hard to criticize the team for getting younger and cheaper while filling a hole. It could be an absolute steal if Milledge fulfills his potential in a Nationals uniform.

Here’s what concerns me. Am I the only one who noticed that the Nationals just traded their only 2 left-handed starting pull hitters in exchange for another righty?

With Church and Schneider gone, switch-hitting Dmitri Young is the only potential regular starter with even a slightly better career batting average vs. left-handed pitchers. Here are the career splits for the 11 Nationals position players who stand to get the most starts. The right column shows the difference in batting average when facing right-handed pitching (for Nook Logan, I only included his right-handed at-bats, since he is no longer a switch-hitter).

Player vs Right vs Left Difference
Dmitri Young .286 .295 +.09
Cristian Guzman .263 .263
Felipe Lopez .257 .260 -.03
Ronnie Belliard .270 .284 -.14
Nick Johnson .264 .295 -.31
Austin Kearns .257 .289 -.32
Lastings Milledge .246 .281 -.35
Wily Mo Pena .247 .283 -.36
Jesus Flores .220 .270 -.50
Ryan Zimmerman .267 .330 -.63
Nook Logan .237 .314 -.77

As you can see, things are fairly stable with the switch hitters at the top of the list, but it falls off the charts pretty quickly after that.

I hope the Nats have found the centerfielder of the future, but I just can’t get too comfortable with this young lineup. Last year, as a team the Nationals batted only .250 vs. right-handers while hitting .272 vs. lefties. You won’t find a differential like that on a playoff team, yet after today’s trade, how can it possibly improve?

Mike Bacsik for Sportsman of the Year

If you thought Teddy was the Washington Nationals’ ultimate lovable loser, think again. The team’s own Mike Bacsik has been nominated for Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated writer Lee Jenkins.

Bacsik, the journeyman lefthander with a 5.46 career ERA, was one of several improbable starters for the 2007 Nationals, whose already-thin rotation was decimated by injuries before last spring’s cherry blossoms had finished blooming. His 20 starts were largely unmemorable, except of course for August 7, when his named was penciled into the lineup and he promptly served up home run #756 to a certain slugger named Barry Bonds.

He was soon back in the minors, but thus did Michael Joseph Bacsik pitch himself into the history books alongside Al Downing, who for the past 32 years as profited from his fame as the man who gave up the previous record-breaking home run to Hank Aaron. Had Bacsik pitched a no-hitter that day, he could not have achieved such significant and sustained recognition.

For those who love to hate the new home run king, Jenkins argues that Bascik provided the perfect antidote to Bonds’ self-congratulating ego. As Bonds thumped his chest and pointed to the sky, Bacsik stood on the mound and laughed at himself. The self-deprication continued after the game. “I always dreamed about this as a kid,” Bacsik said. “But when I dreamed of it, I thought I would be the one hitting the home run.”

Jenkins says that the lovable, self-depricating loser Bacsik single-handedly made the moment tolerable. I don’t know if that makes him Sportsman of the Year, but given how long it’s going to be before any other Washington National stands a chance at that honor, I say “why not?”

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