No Divine Intervention at Nationals Park

Nationals fans had high hopes that the Pope Benedict XVI might leave behind some holy mojo for the home team after presiding over mass at Nationals Park just a few days ago.

Unfortunately, Mets pitcher Johan Santana had other ideas, scattering 7 hits and ruining another good outing by Nationals pitcher Tim Redding to kick off the Nationals’ longest homestand of the season.

Sadly, Teddy Roosevelt wasn’t feeling it either, as Abraham Lincoln kicked off the homestand by moving into a tie with Thomas Jefferson for the season lead in the presidents race.

Worst of all was the presence of a vocal minority of Mets fans at Nationals Park — the first time we’ve heard such a heavy rooting contingent for the visiting team since our new stadium opened.

I suppose I shouldn’t complain too loudly since I’ll be at Verizon Center for the Wizards playoff game on Thursday night, but it sure would be nice if tomorrow’s crowd at Nationals Park was a little more vocal in support of Shawn Hill. Cheer for Teddy(!), and I’ll see you in section 128 for Friday night’s game against the Cubs.

Photo by Flickr user cyurasko

Losing Streaks Continue at Nationals Park

With George, Tom, and Abe having each won one of the first three presidents races at Nationals Park, and the snakebitten Washington Nationals coming into the evening on a 6-game skid, the question on the mind of Nats fans was whether they would see the end of somebody’s losing streak tonight against the Florida Marlins.

Unfortunately, the luck of neither Teddy nor the team changed tonight, as Thomas Jefferson took the 4th inning contest to take the season lead, and our Nats suffered their fourth heartbreaking one-run loss just ten games into the season. After consecutive sweeps by the Cardinals and Marlins, the Nationals 3-game winning streak to start the season is a distance memory.

Friday night the Atlanta Braves come to Nationals Park for the final series of this homestand. Let’s hope for a big turnout and an end to some losing streaks this weekend!

Photo by flickr user afagen.

Presidents Race “Best On-Field Promotion of 2007″

GameOps.com, a web site focused on sports entertainment and promotions, recognized the Washington Nationals presidents race with its Golden Steagle award for best contest or on-field promotion of 2007.

Of course I couldn’t agree more, but this is a nice feather in the cap for Stan Kasten and the young Nationals marketing team, especially considering that Gameops.com covers teams across a spectrum of sports (including frequently more creative minor league teams).

Parking at Nationals Park – The Real Tragedy

Parking at Nationals Park – The Real Tragedy

As the inaugural presidents race at Nationals Park approaches, get ready to hear Stan Kasten shouting “Take Metro!” on every media outlet in town. Parking availability will be slim to none around the new Nationals Park.

Nationals Park South Capitol StreetAs somebody who used to leave his office at 6:30 by car, and be in his seat at RFK in time for the star spangled banner, this won’t be an easy transition. But it’s a fair enough compromise. RFK Stadium was unusually accessible by car for an inner city ball park, with major highways funneling right into a parking lot. We couldn’t expect the same to be true of any other location. The Navy Yard metro stop is close enough to the new Nationals Park, and there are tens of thousands of parking spots at metro stations. In the end, I could cry about parking availability all I want, but I doubt I’d want to be exiting Nationals Park by car, since (unlike RFK) I’ll be hitting surface roads with traffic cops and post-game crowds crossing streets. The thought sends shivers of FedEx Field flashbacks up my spine.

Nationals Park Parking GaragesNo, the scarcity of parking spaces is not the real tragedy here. The real tragedy is taking shape over the left and center field walls, where construction is almost complete on the two above-ground garages that were part of the deal with major league baseball to approve the stadium site. Everybody knew that above-ground garages would be unappealing, but in a classic case of bureaucratic decision making, that’s what got approved. Major League Baseball held fast to its deadline, the city and the team held fast to their budget, and the rest of us get stuck with these two ugly behemoths for generations to come.

View from the Owner's Suite at Nationals ParkAs unforgivable acts of civic shortsitedness go, this one tops my list as a Washington Nationals fan. When I learned of the plan to build these garages above ground, I was extremely disappointed, but when I saw them for myself on a recent tour of the new stadium, I was positively stunned. If they had to be above ground, did they still have to be right over the outfield walls by the stadium’s main entrance? The photo to the right is from the location of the owner’s suite behind home plate. Yes, that’s the U.S. Capitol dome being blocked by the new garage. Sure, they’re going cover the garage with advertising posters and plant cherry trees in front of it, but is this the DC skyline view we were promised?

Nationals Park Parking Garages over the left and center field wallsFor everybody’s sake, I hope that the team, the city, and major league baseball can start thinking beyond the outfield walls. The new Nationals Park should be a source of civic and fan pride, but that can’t come 100% from the amenities within the park. New ballparks should integrate and represent the neighborhood and the city, becoming attractions unto themselves, drawing tourists when they come to town, and driving ticket sales even when the team falls short of expectations. This isn’t rocket science. You don’t have to have the Rocky Mountains of Denver or the San Francisco Bay to pull it off. New ballparks have taken advantage of the comparatively nondescript skylines of Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Milwaukee. You’d think we could have done better.

With luck, the new Nationals Park will pour in buckets of money for both the city and the Washington Nationals team, and additional parking options will built in the adjacent neighborhood in the next couple of years. Then perhaps we can have some serious discussions about ripping these things down and starting over.

Flickr photos by Scott Ableman

You can be in the presidents race

Presidents RaceHave you ever wanted to don the Teddy Roosevelt costume and race in the Washington Nationals presidents race? The Washington Nationals Mascot Coordinator is now soliciting applications via the team’s web site.

Applicants must be between 5’7″ and 6’6″ in height, able to run 100 yards wearing a 45 pound costume, and available for “at least” half the Washington Nationals home games. That’s 41 games plus playoffs (Ha! We can dream, right?).

Teddy wannabes should note that you don’t always get to be Teddy. The roles rotate between the staff, so all you lovable losers must also be able to demonstrate the brains of Tom and the honesty of George and Abe, from time to time.

Flickr photo by Scott Ableman.

Nationals Park Photos

New Nationals Park

Nationals ParkIn today’s Nationals Journal, Washington Post beat writer Barry Svrluga finally got to show off some photos from his recent tour of Nationals Park under construction. Unfortunately, the Washington Post’s blogging function doesn’t give Barry flexibility to let you see much detail. I also wish Barry had gone into some more of the things that are designed to make Nationals Park unique.

I realized I needed to get off my butt and finally post some of the photos from my recent tour of the new Nationals Park. Yes, I had a private tour recently but have been too busy to add to the blog. Shame on me.

Some Highlights:

Nationals Park Scoreboard

Nationals Park ScoreboardOf course what everybody keeps asking about is the new Nationals Park scoreboard. Yes, it’s high-definition, and yes, it’s huge. At almost five stories high, it will be the biggest scoreboard in major league baseball.

Some have mistakenly suggested that it’s the biggest in all sports, but that honor goes to some of the newer football stadiums such as Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Still, on a square-inches-per-viewer basis I think the new Nationals Park scoreboard wins easily.

Nationals Clubhouse and Locker Room


Nationals Park Clubhouse
The update that the players are most excited about in the new Nationals Park is their home clubhouse. The locker room is spacious, and is surrounded by state of the art facilities including oversized whirlpools and underwater treadmills.

Nationals Clubhouse Svrluga noted that the new locker room was football shaped. The shape is said to promote team chemistry, with everybody facing in and no corners. What Barry did not mention is that the visitors locker room is less spacious, with a traditional rectangle shape. Anything to get a competitive edge in a series!




Nationals Park Bullpen

New Nationals Park Scoreboard from the Nationals Bullpen A highlight for me was a visit to the new Nationals bullpen. The team chose to put it’s bullpen in right field, just far enough over to still see the new scoreboard.

Most importantly, Nationals Park has a tunnel that connects the bullpen to the home dugout, which is on the first base side. This will enable players and trainers to move between the dugout, the clubhouse, and the bullpen during games if needed. The visitors dugout in left field has no such access. As with older ball parks, the visitors bullpen pitchers will walk across the field to the bullpen before the game, where, except for a bullpen telephone, they will be isolated for the duration of the game.

Nationals Park BullpenIt almost made me wish I’d requested seats in that outfield section along the bullpen wall. Is that Section 140? Some lucky fans on the ends of those aisles will be catching a few homers while chatting up the pitchers warming up in the bullpen. It’s a far cry from RFK Stadium, where the fans were so separated from the players out there.




Presidents Race Starting Gate?

Nationals Park from the Washington Nationals BullpenMy visit to the bullpen made me wonder where the racing presidents would enter for the presidents race at the new ball park. Assuming they will continue to race from right field towards home plate, the logic entrance would be from the Nationals bullpen. As you can see, it’s a long way to home plate from out there!

Enough for this morning. More photos to come soon.

Flickr photos by Scott Ableman

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?”

Nationals Park

Nationals ParkNationals Park is really taking shape. The seats and the turf are both almost completely installed, and the new high-definition scoreboard is almost completely in place (the gap in the center of the photo represents the last hole to be filled) .

The giant curly W that sticks out from the Nationals Park scoreboard is a great touch. You can see it clearly from around the neighborhood. I can’t wait to see it light up for night games.

But as Nationals Park takes shape, I am particularly eyeing those catwalks behind and above the scoreboard. Seems like an ideal place for Teddy to hide and make one of his dramatic presidents race entrances!

Presidents Race Videos

Presidents Race VideosAnnouncing the Presidents Race Videos page.

Nats fans know that the presidents race is superior to all those other racing characters from around Major League Baseball. The theme is uniquely DC, the costumes are outrageous, and I doubt any sausage could ever captivate a city the way loveable Teddy has captured the hearts of Washington Nationals Fans.

Still, it’s hard to appreciate the presidents race if you haven’t seen it.

That’s why I am happy to announce a new section of the site for Presidents Race Videos. Lots of you have taken great videos of the presidents race since it started in 2006. Now I have compiled some of the best of those videos in a new section that has a permanent tab at the top of blog.letteddywin.com.

Today, the presidents race video page features vintage races from the team’s first season, and great moments from last year like Teddy’s zip line entrance on opening day, his various attempts to cheat, and his botched coronation on Teddy Roosevelt bobblehead night.

It’s a living video history of the presidents race. The 2008 section is ready and waiting. If you have any great videos you’d like to add, let me know at teddyroosevelt@letteddywin.com.

Welcome to Presidents Race: Let Teddy Win!

Welcome to Presidents Race: Let Teddy Win! What is this site all about?

Presidents Race

The presidents race is a fixture at home games for the Washington Nationals baseball team. In the middle of the fourth inning, a race is conducted between the four presidents featured on Mount Rushmore — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt.

During the Nationals first season in Washington, the presidents race was little more than a cute bit of mid-inning entertainment conducted on the RFK Stadium electronic scoreboard. When the Lerner family purchased the Nationals in July of 2006, they introduced live, costumed racing presidents with oversized heads who entered the stadium from the right field corner and ran along the field towards a finish line near home plate. The new, big-headed presidents were an immediate hit.

Let Teddy Win!

It wasn’t apparent to most fans at first, but astute observers of the presidents race began to realize that something unusual was at foot. Day in and day out, the presidents race would be entertaining and occassionally competitive, but no matter how good a start he got, Teddy would somehow always falter before he reached the finish line. That first season finished with Teddy as the only winless racing president.

The streak continued in 2007. The Washington Nationals improved to a fourth place finish as their long rebuilding process continued, and Teddy’s relentless pursuit of his first victory in the Presidents Race became a rallying cry for fans.

2008 looks to be a huge year for Teddy Roosevelt and the Washington Nationals. As the team moves into its new ball park, the big question on the minds of many fans will be whether the team will finally let Teddy win.

Calling all Teddy fans

Do you think this is the year? Is it time for Teddy to break out? Join me in showing our support for Teddy to win the presidents race in 2008. The official Let Teddy Win shop is now open. As next season approaches, I hope to expand letteddywin.com to include standings, photos, videos, and community features.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,998 other followers

%d bloggers like this: