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GHOST OF JOHN WETTELAND SINKS NATS IN 9TH

[June 17th] -- Gary Majewski admitted that former bullpen coach John Wetteland's antics might have caused he and closer Chad Cordero to perhaps not follow the game as closely as they should have. That's what he said. What he probably meant was that they didn't let the game get in the way of their antics. If that's the case, then Wetteland, fired on Thursday following the team's loss to the Rockies, must have been lighting fire crackers in abstensia on Friday. Majewski allowed three hits and two runs in just 1.1 innings, allowing the Yankees to come back from a 5-3 deficit to tie the game in the 8th inning. Chad Cordero pitched the 9th with the game still tied, and allowed two runs to send the Nats to defeat.

When I first heard of the firing of John Wetteland, I certainly didn't think that a bullpen coach could have possibly been responsible for the reliever's poor performances this year. The more I hear, however, the more I am beginning to understand. The bullpen became a cabal of capriciousness, with more time and attention given to firecrackers and wise cracks than the status of the game. Instead of discussing the various scenarios that the pitchers might face during the game, they played childish high-school pranks. He is being replaced by Randy Knorr, currently the manager of the second-place Potomac Nationals. He is a no-nonsense guy, and I hope that we'll begin to see some changes right away. It

It would seem that the Nats' "magic" is gone. After sporting the best record in baseball for three weeks, the Nationals have now lost five in a row, and face in the coming days and weeks the very best of the American League East. Unless something significant happens, the Nats might find themselves with a similar record in two weeks to the one they had a month ago.

On the positive side, Alfonso Soriano broke out of his week-long homer-less slump with a bomb off of Jaret Wright. Was tonight the beginning of a three-day audition for Soriano, and did his home run enhance his chances of rejoining the Yankees? Many Yankees' blogs have openly been rooting for a trade between the Nats and Yanks. Soriano has made it clear, however, that he is going to be a second baseman in 2007, which means the Yankees would have to at least consider moving Robinson Cano next season to placate Soriano, assuming he could be resigned. I get the feeling that Fonzie would be willing to take a smaller payday to ensure that he returns to second base next year. Cano is certainly a decent enough second baseman, but not good enough to keep Soriano from playing there. Ryan Zimmerman got two more hits and an RBI and is now batting .281. Until recently, the only part of Zimmerman's rookie season that was less than stellar was his batting average. No more. More and more, Zimmerman is going the other way, dumping singles over the second baseman's head as well as driving doubles down the right field line. He looks drive the ball on with one strike, but when he gets down in the count 0-2 or 1-2, he tries to go the other way. Zimmerman is proving with every game that he is going to forsake "slugger" status for that of a "professional hitter." He is just as apt to go the opposite way or bunt down the third base line as he is to bounce a fastball off the back wall of RFK. Once he cuts down on his strikeouts, he will be as good as, probably better, than the Braves' Chipper Jones. While his offense will be remarkably similar, his defense will be far better than Chipper's ever was(remember, Jones has been barely adequate at 3rd during his career).

While watching the game, it seemed that rookie Shawn Hill was getting the begeebers beat out of him by the Yankees. There were always runners on base, and he seemed to be giving up runs every inning he pitched. In the end, however, Hill gave up only three runs and eight hits in six inning -- not exactly an embarrassing outing. His ERA is still stellar at 2.42. Overall, considering it was the Yankees he was facing, and in front of 44,000 fans, I'd say he pitched remarkably well.

Remember how badly Frank Robinson felt, how many tears he shed, when he was forced to pull Matt LeCroy in the middle of an inning? Well, apparently he feels comfortable embarrassing Marlon Byrd. With the bases loaded and one out, Robinson yanked Byrd and pinch hit Daryle Ward (who hit a sacrifice fly to score a run). How come pinch-hitting for a player early in the game is okay, but pulling a catcher in mid-inning isn't? I mean, it wasn't like it was the 8th inning -- it was only the 3rd inning.

Royce Clayton was injured diving for a Melkey Cabrera ground ball. Although there has been no word about the extent of his injury, Clayton looked to be in a great deal of pain in the dugout. Brendan Harris will be given the opportunity to replace Clayton if his injuries keep him out of the lineup for a prolonged period. Actually, though I wish no ill towards Clayton, the Nationals need to find out if Harris can play short on an everyday basis. His best positon is 3rd, but that's not going to happen, and he can play second very well too. If he can handle sort, he may become the team's long term answer there.

The Nats send Ramon Ortiz to the mound on Saturday to face Shawn Chacon (4-1, 5.33).


Comments:
I question any blogs purporting to be Yankee fan sites who think Soriano is the
answer. I do not. Of course he's very talented, but if you've been around for his whole major league career including
his post season performance in 2003, plus
are aware of problems coaching & managing
him (I heard specific problems with him while at both Yankees & Rangers), then
of course you don't want him. There are
also biases and buddy arrangements among
certain bloggers and other baseball
reporters/writers that come into it. And Cano needs to stay where he is.
 
A trade of Soriano to the Yankees isn't going to happen because the Yankees have no young talent of interest to the Nats. They have sold their future for the present.
 
I don't understand the removal of Rausch from the game after he had struck out two batters with baserunners on. Yes he was scheduled to bat second in the eighth but with a two run lead who cares? Robinson is too quick to pull successful relievers for the sake of this setup and closer crap that has taken over baseball.
 
Taking Rausch out for a pinch hitter is one of those "cardinal rules of baseball," that when down in the late innings, you pinch hit for your pitcher.

And Robinson is without question "old school" and follows those "cardinal rules."
 
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