Did the Nationals create a red herring on Memorial Day?

The disappointment over Teddy Roosevelt’s Memorial Day loss is still stinging not just the Natosphere, but also the National press, with Yahoo! Sports and even the Philadelphia Inquirer joining the ranks of news media wondering why the Nats haven’t let Teddy win.

Which raises the question: After nearly 400 consecutive losses, why were expectations so high on Monday?

The rumors that the Hero of San Juan Hill would take his first victory on Monday appear to have started in the press box. Could it be that the Nationals planted this story as a red herring?

Teddy Roosevelt Loses the Nationals Presidents Race on Memorial Day

Despite widespread expectations of victory, Teddy Roosevelt finishes a distant 4th on Memorial Day at Nationals Park


The catalyst, no doubt, came Friday night when outfielder Jayson Werth called for the Nats to Let Teddy Win, and picked up steam on Saturday, when the Nationals’ star player started clearly watching the race with anticipation, and disgust.

But something happened on Sunday, and unlike many Nats rumors, this one started in the press room, as newspaper, radio, and TV journalists all started reporting that Monday could be Teddy’s big day.

Washington Nationals Broadcaster FP Santangelo on MASN

Nationals color man F.P. Santangelo: "Somebody set me up good.


Nationals TV color man F.P. Santangelo guaranteed a Memorial Day victory on the air. Washington Post blogger Dan Steinberg published his ten reasons why Teddy could win on Memorial Day. Teddy’s quest was previewed on local news stations around DC, and Danny Rouhier of 106.7 The Fan devoted extensive time during the Nats pregame show to “inside information” suggesting that Teddy might win.

Rumor has it that the inside source was none other than the Nationals PR department. We don’t know whether the Nats seriously considered letting Teddy win on Monday, but it’s apparent that they wanted the press to think so.

On Tuesday’s broadcast, Santangelo apologized. “I got to check my sources,” he said, “I was almost sure that Teddy was going to win yesterday. I got some bogus information, partner. Somebody set me up good.”

You and me both, F.P.

At least one Teddy hopeful remains undeterred. On Tuesday night, Jayson Werth stayed in the dugout, but watched the presidents race closely. You have to keep the faith:

Video courtesy of YouTube member lfahome

What happened to baseball?

The Redskins opened their season last night, and you know what that means. Just as baseball’s playoff races get interesting, and the future of the Nationals goes on display every night with the team’s September call-ups, the nation’s pastime is no longer anywhere near the front page of the sports section in DC, and gets barely a mention on the weekend newscasts.

Washington Nationals Danny Espinosa

Nats September call-up Danny Espinosa goes 4-for-5 with 2 HRs and a grand slam in his Nationals Park debut, and gets almost no coverage because it's Dallas Week in Redskins country.
AP Photo - Nick Wass

Nationals fans can dream of the day when a Nats dynasty is a nationwide media darling and season ticket wait-lists make Nationals Park seats a hot commodity; but until that day comes, the Nationals PR team faces an uphill battle each fall.

Thankfully, the Nationals have one of the most vibrant blog communities in major league baseball to fill the gap. Collectively, the “Natosphere” misses nothing in its reporting on the team, and wisely, the Nats have been progressive in their embrace of blogs, issuing full season press credentials to select bloggers for the first time this year.

Saturday marked the team’s fourth “blogger day,” during which many more of us were again invited to the park to interview players and team representatives, and report on the game from the press box. The team has also brought on a Senior Manager of Social Media to provide us a point of contact and support when needed.

Kudos to the Washington Nationals for recognizing that this new media form is an outstanding way to break through and embrace their community of passionate fans — even those crazy enough to obsess over giant foam-headed dead presidents.

Speaking of which, the Nats honored my request to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the calling of a presidents race this past weekend. Video report to follow.

2010 Nationals Blog Review

Today Mark Buterbaugh at the DC Pro Sports Report released the annual Nationals Blog Review. This is a highly-recommended bookmark of all the best Nationals blogs (and we’re not just saying that because we made this year’s “5 Star” recommendations). If you’re still starving for Nats news after clicking through all these links, then you really need to get a life.

Nationals blogs forced to fill the print gap

With the Washington Nationals preparing for their most highly-anticipated spring training since the team moved to DC, the oft-snakebitten franchise finds itself without a voice at DC’s major newspapers.

The Washington Times today announced restructuring and layoffs that include drastic cut-backs in local news and sports reporting. The staff reductions of over 40% mean the Times is throwing in the towel on local print news to focus on national politics.

The announcement comes after Washington Post Nationals reporter Chico Harlan reported that he is leaving the Nationals beat as soon as the Post can find a replacement.

Of course, anybody paying attention saw it coming. Two seasons ago, when Harlan took over the Nats beat, he made it clear he wouldn’t stay in the job more than a couple of years. As for the Times, even their most tenured sports reporters have been interviewing for jobs this year as they watched readership drop and were continually asked to do more for less.

Nats followers will surely miss Mark Zuckerman and Ben Goessling’s Chatter, and the commentary of Thom Loverro, who last season so eloquently argued that the Nats must Let Teddy Win in order to escape the curse of Teddy Roosevelt.

But I’m going to miss Chico the most. Harlan won me over in his first weeks on the job, but the humor and eloquence with which he chronicled last year’s train wreck of a season merits a plaque in the sportswriter’s hall of fame.

As for the Nats, the sad reality is that come opening day, the Nationals Park press box will be home to just one full-time print journalist who has never covered the team.

Nationals president Stan Kasten has always had a love/hate relationship with bloggers, but his decision last season to embrace the Natosphere is looking mighty prescient. As print coverage continues to wither, a small army of loyal and dedicated Nationals bloggers continues to cover the team’s every move. The team has followed up this off-season with conference calls and invitations to press conferences as the Nats announced their skipper and GM.

The Natosphere is remarkably strong for such a young franchise. For better or worse, it represents the most consistent local coverage of our favorite team. Kudos to the Nats for recognizing the growing role of blogs in local coverage.

George Washington ejected for arguing with umpires

Nationals Press Box with TeddyTonight was blogger night at Nationals Park, in which several Washington Nationals bloggers were invited to meet with Nats players and executives, visit the field for batting practice, then report on tonight’s game vs. the Toronto Blue Jays from the Nationals Park press box.

Racing president Teddy Roosevelt joined Stan Kasten for a lively Q&A before heading down to warm up for the evening’s presidents race. Kasten has historically expressed confidence in Teddy, but admitted tonight that the “sprinting may simply not be his event.”

Tonight’s presidents race featured a new twist: Blue Jays fans Tim Williams and Joe Ferrell, who wear Major
Nationals Park UmpiresLeague Baseball Umpire uniforms and mock the home plate umpire throughout Toronto home games, sat in the first row behind the Nationals Park home plate throughout tonight’s game except for the 4th-inning race, when they took over for usual judge Screech at the presidents race finish line.

Coming out of the gate, Abe Lincoln got off to an uncharacteristically slow start, running just behind Teddy as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson sprinted ahead. The two presidents appeared headed for a photo finish, but George collapsed just before the finish line. George then appeared to accuse Jefferson of foul play, and was summarily ejected by the “umpires” for arguing.

Nationals Park Press BoxAs for blogger night, it was a great treat to cover tonight’s game and file this report from the press box, and to meet other members of the “Natosphere” (I sat next to Brian Markham from Nationals Review throughout the game). The Nationals blogger community is robust and growing. Kudos to Kasten and the Nats for embracing the team’s most outspoken fans.

Goodbye to the Best Nationals Blog

Blogger Chris Needham has has hung up his keyboard after almost 4 years at the helm of Capitol Punishment. Chris’s blog was required daily reading by every Nationals blogger, beat writer, and team executive (not necessarily in that order).

Hard Times Chili NachosThis is going to really sink in the next time Jimbo pulls the trigger on a trade, when the rest of us will be flailing around looking for thoughtful, well-researched analysis.

Chris, I raise a Hard Times chili nacho in your honor. You were great reading — a valuable and informed alternate perspective that will sorely be missed.

Kudos to Chris Needham and the Natosphere

Today Marc Fisher at the Washington Post offers a very nice nod to the Nationals blog community, and recognizes Chris Needham of Capitol Punishment as Blogger of the Month.

That and $3.99 might get Chris a grande iced caramel macchiatto at the Alexandria Starbucks, but the point is that I am proud to be among the newest members of one of the best blogging community in baseball, and Chris deserves being recognized as the king of the pack.

Capitol Punishment is among the first things I read every day, and my conversations with other prominent Nationals bloggers confirms that it’s the same for them as well. As Fisher points out…

Capitol Punishment is what works on the web: A strong, attractive personality backed up by a clear devotion to accuracy and good storytelling, with a good dose of humor and a real interest in creating and maintaining a community.

Being so new it was nice to have LetTeddyWin.com singled out as well, despite being labeled as “remarkably obsessive,” but hey… that’s what the internet is about. In fact, for the ultimate in remarkable obsessions, check out StrikeTwo.net, which has built an automated algorithm to rank baseball blogs based on things such as frequency of posts and the number of times they are linked to from the home pages of other blogs!

As you can see, Chris takes the prize among Nationals bloggers, but just as impressive is the overall showing of the Natosphere. The Washington Nationals fan blogs rank only behind the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox, and are pretty close to the Cubs in terms of the proliferation and following by blogs and their readers.

For a losing team with only a 3 year history, that’s pretty impressive. Now if we could just win a few games and fill up that ball park on South Capitol street, we’d really have something to write about.

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