I cast my ballot on Election Day at the public library in Aurora Hills and went searching for the first of many baseball books to get me through the winter until baseball season resumes on Opening Day. Jim Reisler’s A Great Day In Cooperstown was a great book to start with because of its focus on the origins of baseball and the establishment of baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Reisler begins his 2006 book by describing Cooperstown, NY in 1939. Main Street was brimming with excitement. Major League Baseball All-Stars and legends fanned out across the town. Over 10,000 visitors packed the town to celebrate baseball’s centennial.
Fans flocked to the players for autographs and many players held court, telling their stories to anybody who was interested. Others cued up at the post office to purchase special issue postcards bearing a commemorative stamp and post office.
The book focuses a lot of attention on why the fanfare was centered in Cooperstown and Reisler debunks the myth that baseball’s rules were invented there Abner Doubleday during the spring of 1839. Reisler explains how the myth gained traction and became widely accepted in the lead up to the celebration of baseball’s centennial
Readers are introduced to each of inductees as they learn about a different aspect of the type of work that went into planning the celebration which included–speeches, the opening of the museum and a series of games played at a newly renovated Doubleday Field.
Resiler also describes the work of two little known figures–Alexander Cleland, a social worker from Glasgow, and Stephen Clark, a Cooperstown philanthropist–who were responsible for acquiring the memorabilia including the “funny old uniforms” and who worked with league officials to establish voting protocols for Hall of Fame ballots.
Washington Nationals fans may be particularly interested in the chapter about Walter Johnson. The chapter includes his brief remarks from his induction speech, the story about how he was discovered by the Washington Senators while playing for a semi-professional team in Idaho and the story about how he managed to throw three shutouts in four days.
The book concludes with a romantic description of the festivities that followed the induction speeches including a detailed recap of the game the Hall of Famers played in alongside the modern All-Stars at Doubleday Field.
I have not yet had the opportunity to visit the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but I would highly recommend this book as an essential read for anybody traveling to Cooperstown for Hall of Fame Weekend 2017.
The Washington Nationals hosted Winterfest at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center over the weekend and it was a great opportunity for Nationals fans to meet and mingle with some of their favorite players. We highlighted some of the most exciting moments from Sunday in this blog post.
One of the most exciting opportunities that fans have at Winterfest, that they are not usually afforded during the regular season, is the opportunity to take photos with players. There were two player photo stations set up near the main stage where players rotated taking photos with fans for thirty minute intervals. The meetings at the photo stations were not opportunities to get autographs, but they were terrific opportunities to welcome the new players and wish them well as they prepare for spring training.
There were five sessions at each photo station each day and fans interested in taking photos with players could meet up to 20 players each day.
Some of the players who posed at the photo stations on Sunday included: Chris Heisey and Wilmer Difo, Koda Glover and Max Scherzer, Trea Turner and Pedro Severino, Dusty Baker and Trevor Gott, Adam Eaton and Derek Norris, Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Grace as well as Michael A. Taylor and Matt Grace.
These players were excited to meet their fans and they deserve major props!
Nationals players who were noticeably absent from Winterfest this season included Bryce Harper (who looked like he was enjoying himself at a Duke basketball game), Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon.
Bryce Harper stopped by to meet Coach K and the Duke Basketball team following their game vs UNLV. (bharper3407/Instagram) pic.twitter.com/d6jkskro4Q
The best way to guarantee your autograph at Winterfest this year was to purchase an autograph voucher online as soon as they went on sale. A Nationals Insider email alerting fans that vouchers were going on sale at 10:00 a.m. on December 2 was distributed at 9:06 a.m. the same morning which resulted in many fans missing out an exciting opportunity. The vouchers were all sold out when I checked my email at 11:00 a.m. that morning, but someone, generously, gave me a voucher after they overheard me speaking about the Nationals in a conversation.
I got my first Stephen Strasburg T-Shirt in 2010. Today, I finally got the opportunity to meet him and thank him for playing so hard! #Natspic.twitter.com/rK646fSVrD
I redeemed my autograph voucher for a special bracelet and got in line for my autograph session featuring Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross. It was an amazing experience to meet Strasburg and Ross.
Winterfest offers plenty of other opportunities to see players around the convention center floor at the different elements. Eaton, Ross, and Scherzer stood with Santa Claus on Sunday afternoon for family photos.
A.J. Cole was also out and around the convention center. He started the clock for children at the steal home challenge.
New For 2016
There were a handful of new elements this year at Winterfest. The Ballpark of The Palm Beaches, the new spring training complex that the Nationals and Astros will share in 2017, had a presence behind The Slider. This area had a video playing about tourism sites in the area showcasing restaurants, spas and the beaches. Fans who stopped by also walked away with a koozie, spring training schedule, and pamphlets about new ballpark and other activities in the area.
There were also multiple new main stage events to complement the classic events like the gingerbread house contest. The games allowed fans to get a better feel for the personalities of their favorite Nationals.
Dusty Baker and Chris Speier teamed up against Strasburg and Tanner Roark for Smitten Mittens Duo Battle–a game show modeled after “The Newlywed Game.” The teammates took turns answering questions about their partners while one was behind the stage in a “soundproof room.” Some of the answers made the audience laugh including one where Speier said his favorite postgame meal was ribs when Baker predicted it would be salad. It was also funny to watch when Roark correctly anticipated that Strasburg’s favorite flight activity was to watch movies on his iPad.
X’s and Bows was another new game this year and it was hosted by Charlie Slowes–the veteran play-by-play announcer for the Washington Nationals. Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg teamed up with members of the audience to answer trivia questions about Nationals players to get three of their ribbons or bows in a row. Some of the highlights of the event included Ryan Zimmerman answering a question about where he went to college (University of Virginia) and Stephen Strasburg answering a question about the year he was drafted (2009). It was also fun to watch the players correctly answer trivia questions about some of their teammates.
Room For Improvement
Winterfest was a terrific experience, but there are definitely areas where there can be room for improvement. Two of the longer lines were for the video pitch exhibit and the batting cages. Adding an additional two batting cages and encouraging some of the younger attendees to use the rookie batting cages would go a long way at reducing the waiting time for attendees.
Winterfest planners can also consider rotating out some of the exhibits such as the New Era cap exhibit and the snow globe photo station to make room for more popular or new exhibits for 2017.
The final issue of Nationals Magazine for 2016 featuring the Washington Nationals celebrating a walk-off victory is now on sale at Nationals Park. The latest magazine includes a vibrant series of photographs featuring “Signature Moments” from the 2016 regular season and two short articles written by the radio broadcasters.
Nine “Signature Moments” are featured in the magazine. Fans should definitely pick up a copy of the magazine to relive the moments by checking out the photos and reading the recaps. Video clips celebrating the “Signature Moments” were featured on NatsHD before the previous postseason games.
April 4 – The Pursuit Begins – The section celebrates the success of Harper on Opening Day and the arrival of Daniel Murphy.
April 14 – One Hundred Grand – Bryce Harper hit his 100th career home run in style.
April 24 – The Roller Coaster – I never leave games early because of games like these. Bryce Harper delivered a game saving pinch-hit home run and Chris Heisey delivered a game winning home run in the 16th inning agains the Minnesota Twins.
May 9 – The Accidental Walk-Off – In a game most notable for Harper’s ejection and subsequent outburst against home plate umpire, Brian Knight, Clint Robinson hit a walk-off home run without knowing the inning of his pinch hit appearance.
May 11 – 20th & K – Max Scherzer had, arguably, the most dominant games of his career when he struck out 20 players in a nine inning game. Strikeouts are sexy.
June 15 – 2 Legit 2 Quit – Jayson Werth told his critics that they could kiss his ass after he delivered a walk-off against the Chicago Cubs.
June 30 and July 3 – See You L-8-R – Danny Espinosa won NL Player of the Week honors after an offensive outburst against the CIncinnati Reds. His most notable achievement was hitting home runs from both sides of the plate in both games including two grand slams.
July 29 – Rule of Three – This one took place late at night on the road in San Francisco. Dusty Baker made a triple switch and substituted in Danny Espinosa, Ryan Zimmerman and Sammy Solis. The result was the first 3-3-5 triple play in MLB history.
September 9 – The Perfect Ending – Trea Turner could probably be elected Mayor if he wanted to put his baseball career on hold. The two time NL Rookie of the Month belted two home runs including a walk-off home run to center field to top the Philadelphia Phillies.
In “You Never Know,” Dave Jagler writes about how the Nationals can very feasibly have a successful postseason run. Jagler describes how anything can happen in October and that teams with the most elite hitters, starters and bullpens are not guaranteed the Commissioner’s Trophy.
Charlie Slowes echoes a similar sentiment in “Hero Time.” Slowes describes how players like Daniel Murphy, Max Scherzer, Trea Turner can each play a role in a successful postseason run. The magazine also contains a large (two-page) scorecard which you can use Thursday to score the game.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were clinging to their postseason lives entering Game 4 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine. Manager Dave Roberts made the decision to throw, three time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP, Clayton Kershaw on just three days rest.
Daniel Murphy, the 2015 NLCS MVP and 2016 NL runner-up for the batting title, continued his hot hitting this postseason against Kershaw.
Murphy, who hit a monster home run against Kershaw in the 2015 NLDS, put the Washington Nationals on the board in the first inning when he slapped a 1-1 curveball with runners on first and second base into right field to score Trea Turner.
The Nationals countered Kershaw with Joe Ross, who was making his MLB postseason debut. The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead the next half inning after Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run home run. Ross was on a short leash and was pulled in the third inning after surrendering another run.
Murphy drove in his second RBI of the game in the third inning when he hit a deep sacrifice fly off of Kershaw into center field which plated Turner and evened the game at 2-2.
Kershaw recorded 11 strikeouts in his outing and exited after loading the bases in the seventh inning.
The Nationals were able to pounce on the Dodgers bullpen just as they did Monday night. Werth did not have to swing the bat to make it a 5-3 game when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
Murphy’s turn was next and he made Kershaw bury his face in his hands when he slapped a single to left center field off of Luis Avilan to score Turner and Bryce Harper. The game was tied 5-5 and Murphy had 4 RBIs on the night.
Daniel continued to do in Game 4 exactly what he’s done all season for Washington–come up with timely hits and drive runners in. Murphy went 2-3 with four RBI against starter Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, inflating his average this Postseason to .462 (6-for-13). Manager Dusty Baker on Murphy’s performance, “he knows how to hit…he comes through in the clutch.”
The Washington Nationals desperately needed a win Sunday afternoon to avoid having to fight for their postseason lives in Chavez Ravine just to force a decisive Game 5 in Washington.
Things did not get off to a strong start for the Nationals. Chase Utley got the Dodgers off to a 1-0 lead in the first inning after he slapped a line drive for a home run to right center field off Tanner Roark.
The Nationals offense came out flat against Rich Hill, a midseason acquisition from the Oakland Athletics, as he managed to strike out Trea Turner, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth.
Jose Lobaton was having an especially rough day. The Nationals back-up catcher, who played in just 39 regular season games during the regular season, squandered a bases loaded rally in the second inning when he into an inning ending 1-2-3 double play on the first pitch he saw from Hill.
To make matters worse, Lobaton also mishandled a strong throw from Bryce Harper during a close play at the plate in the third inning. Lobaton could not handle the ball and reached across the plate to tag Justin Turner without the ball. The Dodgers now had a 2-0 lead which they held until the fourth inning.
The bad vibes surrounding Lobaton evaporated when he crushed a three-run home run into the visitor’s bullpen. It gave the Nationals a lead they would not relinquish.
Dave Jagler, a Washington Nationals play-by play announcer, enthusiastically described the scene at the ballpark after the home run.
“Delirium here at Nationals Park,” he said.
The moment brought everybody to their feet and kept the team fired up.
Daniel Murphy was one of the runners to score on the home run after reaching base on a walk. Murphy also had three hits in Game 2 including an RBI single in the 5th inning which chased Hill from the game and gave the Nationals a 4-2 lead. Murphy’s final hit of the game was another RBI single which scored Jayson Werth and gave the Nationals a 5-2 lead.
(#558) The Washington Nationals trailed the Los Angeles Dodgers 2-0, in the bottom of the fourth inning, as they held a 1-0 deficit in the NLDS. With runners on first and second and two outs, Jose Lobaton delivered a clutch, three-run shot that put the Washington Nationals out in front for good, as they came away with an eventual, series-tying, 5-2 victory. (#559) Daniel Murphy continues to rake in Postseason play. Murphy went 3-for-3 in Game 2 of the NLDS, accounting for two RBI and a run scored for the Washington Nationals. Murphy’s offensive efforts helped lead the Washington Nationals to a series tying, 5-2 win.
News broke on Christmas Eve that the Washington Nationals had finally come to a deal with a free agent. They had already missed out on big deals with Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward who signed with the Chicago Cubs, despite receiving more lucrative offers from the Nationals. This time, however, the Nationals got the man they wanted–Daniel Murphy–and they signed him to three-year $37.5 million contract.
Murphy rejected a one-year $15.8 million qualifying offer from the New York Mets after a miraculous postseason where he hit seven home runs in nine games and was named NLCS MVP. He hit just 14 home runs during the 2014 regular season and there were critics of the deal who thought the Nationals were paying for his hot postseason numbers.
The Nationals would explode on the Mets over the next two games. Boos replaced cheers almost immediately. Murphy drove in two runs on a single and a sacrifice fly in a 7-1 victory. Mets fans were even more critical the following night when Murphy hit a two-run home off, Mets “ace,” Matt Harvey and the Nationals bounced him from the game and the rotation with a 9-1 victory.
I was fortunate to witness this ownage at five of the 19 games this season including two games in New York. Perhaps my favorite exhibition of Murphy’s damage to the Mets came when the teams met in late June. Murphy had a monster solo home run into the second deck of Nationals Park above their bullpen to open the scoring for the day. Murphy made it a multi-home run affair in the eighth inning when he took Sean Gilmartin deep and drove in Bryce Harper to make it a 4-0 game.
Murphy has been the best player for the Nationals this season. He leads the major leagues with a .348 AVG. He is second to only Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz in other offensive metrics including .598 SLG and .991 OPS. Murphy also leads the National League in doubles (45) is second to only Ortiz in the majors with 46.
Murphy, somehow, was able to save some of his best hitting for the matchups against the Mets. The Nationals won 12 of the games and Murphy made Mets fans regret their decision to let him walk by walking all over the Mets.
With a first-inning single vs. the New York Mets on September 14th, Daniel Murphy capped off the first season of play vs. his former club by hitting in all 19 games played. The 19-game hit streak marks the longest single-season streak against any one team in the divisional era (1969), and also goes down as the longest streak by a player vs. his former club since Lou Brock’s 17-game streak in 1965 vs. the Chicago Cubs. All told, Murphy’s 2016 stats vs. the Mets round out to .413/.444/.567 with 7 HR and 21 RBIs.