March 2015

Matt’s Bats Nats News: Trades, Injuries, Podcast, Every Nats Game’s A Story

mattsbatslogo-hiresThere has been a lot of big news in Nationals baseball in the past day.

First, the trades:

  • Backup catcher Sandy Leon was traded to the Boston Red Sox for cash considerations.
  • The Nats signed Reed Johnson to a minor league deal, after he was let go by the Miami Marlins.
  • And the biggest news– the Nationals traded lefty reliever Jerry Blevins to the New York Mets for Outfielder Matt den Dekker.  Keep reading for a little bit of background to get to know den Dekker.

Matt den Dekker was born on August 10, 1987, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He played high school baseball at the Westminster Academy, where many baseball players went, including Kevin Chapman, an Astros pitcher (and den Dekker’s cousin) and Nats minor league outfielder, Michael A. Taylor, who happens to be the guy den Dekker is fighting for the Opening Day centerfield position. Interestingly enough, den Dekker and Taylor played together in their high school years.

taylorRT

Den Dekker went to college at the University of Florida. As a sophomore, den Dekker hit .333 and was perfect in stolen bases/stolen base tries. Entering the 2009 draft, Baseball America ranked den Dekker as the #92 best prospect in all of the USA, in a list that included Giancarlo “Mike” Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, Jordan Zimmermann, and others. The Mets drafted him in the 5th round in 2010, and assigned him to the Gulf Coast League Mets. After 5 games down in Port Saint Lucie, he was promoted to the Savannah Sand Gnats (now he’s played for two Nats!). He started 2011 with the St. Lucie Mets, who also play down in Florida, and shared that season with the Binghamton Mets. He played for the Las Vegas 51s in 2013 before getting called up to New York on August 29. He hit his first home run off Ross Ohlendorf on September 1st against the Nats. And now here he is, playing for the Nats throughout the season.

I think we’ll see a breakout year from den Dekker this year. Last year he looked like a volcano ready to explode, and this year it just may happen.

Next the injuries:

  • 3B/2B Anthony Rendon, who has been on the bench with a knee injury, will go see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion.  I hope he doesn’t need surgery or a long DL stint!
  • Newly signed reliever Casey Janssen has rotator cuff tendinitis and will not be ready for Opening Day.
  • Drew Storen left a training game early because he had a blister on his toe.

Finally, my interview and article:

I was interviewed over the weekend, along with other Nats and Orioles commentators, for the Nats GM Show podcast.  Check it out here.

My post for the Citizens of Natstown project “Every Nats Game’s a Story” will be up this week too.  Check it out!

Guest Post: Live From Spring Training!

Spring Break fell late this year, so I couldn’t go to Florida for Spring Training. Luckily, a Matt’s Bats reader and professional photographer named  Geoff Chesman took some pictures from the Nationals games on Monday, March 16 in Viera and Wednesday, March 18 in Jupiter. He was also kind enough to give his opinion on what he saw. Since Geoff is an event photographer with ImageLink, I think the pictures are the best part.

This is the first guest post I’ve ever had on MattsBats.com, so here it is!
SpaceCoast

NATS AROUND FLORIDA

Guest Post by GEOFF CHESMAN

 

SpaceCoast2Monday, March 16
Nationals vs. Astros
Space Coast Stadium
Viera, FL
I had a two-hour plus drive to get to Viera from where I was staying in Boynton Beach. Flying solo, I was able to get up and out on the road to arrive early to Space Coast Stadium. The first thing I noticed when walking out to the field were the Green Hats in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. The thing about Spring Training, of course, is that it’s very intimate. The stadium is small, there are no bad seats, and the players are closer than ever.
lineupsstgc1We were all treated to a glimpse into a potential future of the franchise with Michael Taylor starting for the injured Denard Span delivering a lead off triple in the first inning. He scored on Ryan Zimmerman’s sac fly.Scary moment in the third inning when Jordan Zimmermann got smacked with a ball right back at him from the Astros’ Robbie Grossman.  But Zimmermann is a tough pitcher and he bounced right back up and threw to first but it got by Ryan Zimmerman and Grossman reached third on the error. Jordan stayed in the game, eventually giving up a single to the next batter Jonathan Villar for a run.

jzIn the fifth inning, Bryce Harper baited the Astros Left Fielder Alex Presley into trying to stretch a single into a double. Harper gunned him down at second. Lesson learned – Don’t run on Bryce! By the time Clint Robinson tripled home Tony Gwynn, Jr. in the bottom of the seventh inning to take the lead for good, I was comfortably resting on the grass in the shade of the scoreboard in left center. Overall a beautiful day to be at the ballpark and I liked what I saw from Jordan Zimmerman picking up where he left off last year. Nats win 2-1.

Jayson Werth in the green St. Patrick's Day cap.

Jayson Werth in the green St. Patrick’s Day cap.

Food Report – Since this is the 10th anniversary of our beloved Nationals, I had an Italian Sausage in an homage to our tradition at the old RFK vendors. Unfortunately the link was a little overcooked and dry and the fries were uninspiring.

Wednesday, March 18RogerDean1
Nationals vs. Marlins
Roger Dean Stadium
Jupiter, Florida
Jupiter was only a 35-minute ride and I liked the ease of parking and the location of the stadium in Jupiter. I arrived early again and got a chance to get up close and personal with pitching coach Steve McCatty and center fielder Michael Taylor.
mtMichael was kind enough to autograph a ball for me too!
It was nice to see former Nationals Jhonatan Solano and one of our favorites, Michael Morse, now playing for the Marlins.Miami starter Mat Latos looked good early while the Marlins mostly starting lineup hit Fister tallying two runs on six hits. Clint Robinson keeps hitting the ball hard with a home run to lead off the fifth inning to stake the Nats to  one run lead. It was nice to see a consummate pro like the 41-year old Ichiro Suzuki, a veteran offseason acquisition for the Marlins with a triple late in the game.

I checked out the Berm in right field which is a great little place to camp out for the game if you get the special Berm tickets.
bermFormer Nats backup catcher Jhonatan Solano singled home his brother Donovan in the eighth inning and the Marlins held on to win 5-4. Another beautiful day at the ballpark when I hear there’s cold rain and snow in the Northeast.

miastlfoodFood report – There were some interesting food options including some creative hot dogs I was not courageous enough to try…I had a Sonny’s Bar-B-Que pulled pork sandwich with Mac and Cheese. Apparently Sonny has been in business since 1968 so he knows a thing or two about Bar-B-Que. The roll was a little thick but the meat was flavorful and tender and had a tasty sweet tangy Bar-B-Que sauce.

Overall, I loved chasing the Nats around Florida for a couple of days and feel lucky to have had the time to make some new memories with my favorite baseball team. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since Livan Hernandez tossed out that first pitch at RFK. With a loaded pitching staff and a balanced lineup, this team is full of promise once again heading into the season as paper favorites. Let’s see if we can finally break through this year and deliver on that promise.
Check out Geoff Chesman’s online portfolio at www.geoffchesman.com/portfolio and his ImageLink website at http://imagelinkphoto.com/

I’m Blogging for MASNsports.com This Season!

beee9-mattsbatslogo-hiresIn case you haven’t heard on my Twitter account, I’m excited to announce that I will be guest blogging about the Nationals this season on MASNsports.com.  MASN, as everyone knows, is the TV broadcast station for the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles, and is the home of Nationals baseball on the web.

Every Tuesday, tune in to MASNsports.com, where you can read my opinion on what’s happening in Nationals baseball.  I will still be writing my Pro Blog for MLB, MattsBats.com, where I will write about the Nats, other cool stories in baseball, and player interviews and other great experiences.  Right now, I can’t for Opening Day and to start writing for MASN.

Read the MASN announcement HERE.   If you are happy that MASN selected me, send a Tweet to @MattsBats and @MASNnationals to let them know.

Thanks for reading MattsBats.com and following on Twitter @MattsBats, and I hope to keep writing about my love of baseball!

masn

It’s Happening Right “Meow”

The sideline reporter has one of the toughest job in baseball. They have do interviews with baseball stars on live television while running the risk of getting pranked or doused with Gatorade. That is a lot to deal with. If you haven’t seen yet, Gio Gonzalez substituted the word “meow” into an interview with sideline reporter Dan Kolko.

Watching this hysterical video inspired me to go out and find some other funny sideline interviews.  Here’s my list of the funniest interviews conducted by sports reporters and players!

Football Freak

Coy Wire, a former cornerback and safety for the Atlanta Falcons, had a little fun with the Falcons Cam Reporter, Niki Noto. Pretending to become ready for an interview with Roddy White, a Wide Receiver for the team, Wire came out and scared Noto, wearing a creepy Halloween mask that made him look like a ghostly member of Kiss.

Blithe Basketball Bombs

This video is a collection of times basketball players (most notably Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh) videobombed interviews either pregame or postgame in the 2012-13 season. These are all hilarious.  My favorite part is when Lebron James makes a funny face and sound in his photo bomb, around the 17 second mark.

Japanese, Jelly, Juice

This is one you may have seen before, when Blue Jays shortstop Muenori Kawasaki did an interview that was supposed to be with Mark DeRosa. After he says some words in surprisingly good English, he gets pied and doused in Gatorade “Julie Alexandria style.” It’s a funny video.

Funny Fencing

kmWhile Twins legend Bert Blyleven tries to give an interview to the MLB Network, in the background you can see two Twins players fencing with baseball bats. It was so funny it was used for MLBN’s Intentional Talk Irrelevant Video of the Day. I think this one is very funny, and so did Kevin Millar and Chris Rose.

Hilarious Harvey

This clip is really funny. In honor of the 2013 All-Star Game, Jimmy Fallon sent NL Starting Pitcher Matt Harvey across New York to ask what the people thought about Matt Harvey. It was  really funny to see what the people thought about Harvey when they didn’t know that he was standing next to them. It is also funny to see the reactions of the interviewees once he actually revealed his identity.

Striewski Snags A Slider

Last year, the Boston Red Sox visited Toronto to play the Blue Jays.  Casey Janssen (current Nat!) induced a pop fly to either Edwin Encarnacion or Dioner Navarro. Instead of staying on the field, the ball sailed into the camera-well where reporter Gary Striewski made a nice one-handed catch.  Flashback! Let’s take you back to 2012, where F.P. Santangelo caught a foul ball in the press booth at Fenway Park.

Bro Boogie

While the Houston Astros were in Anaheim, the TV broadcast showed a man dancing. After they got back to David Martinez and Erick Aybar on the field, one of the CSN Houston announcers told Julia Morales, the sideline reporter for the team, that the man in the background was actually Morales’s brother. I think it was a total coincidence, but watch this funny clip and you can decide for yourself.

Summer Sprinkler

Before the Tampa Bay Rays took on the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park, Emily Jones did a quick sideline report. A Texas squad featuring Nelson Cruz and Elvis Andrus threw a towel on top of the camera, but Jones had a water sprayer used for the blistering Texas heat. She squirted Cruz and Andrus, and the Rangers took the field, but they must have had a curse of the water, as the Rays won 8-4.

Did you like my selections? If I missed any please comment or tweet me @MattsBats. Go Nats! And just to let you know, there are 24 days until the Nats start playing baseball!

 

My Top Five from the First Five

1 tmo

Tyler Moore has been ripping it up this spring, shown here hitting a home run at Champion Field in Lake Buena Vista, FL

Baseball!  Its been a great five days, listening on the radio and watching on MASN as my favorite team played their first five spring training games.  Its been a pretty good start to spring training so far with a meaningless record of 3-2 but some clear highlights for the Nats.  Even though you can’t judge a team’s regular season performance by how they fare in spring training, its good to see some early positive signs for the Nats.

 

 

1. Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman

The Nats’ Hot Corners appear to be in great shape.  Zim looks very comfortable over at first base. He has started at first for most of the games so far this spring and he has been doing a good job.  He’s picked throws out of the dirt and made some tough plays.  Rendon is picking up where he left off in 2014, looking solid at 3B.  He even made a web gem, diving to save an Alberto Callaspo roller that was headed to the outfield, and shooting it to Zim at 1B, which Zim picked from the dirt.  Zim and Rendon are showing signs of good chemistry.

2. Tyler Moore

Moore, after shining in his debut for the Nats in 2012, had been stuck in a backup role, only coming up to play in the Bigs to replace an injured player. With the early spring training performance he has shown in 2015 so far, I don’t think that he will be that guy anymore. I think he will be on the team as a bench outfielder. His many extra base hits this spring include a towering shot off Alex Wood in Lake Buena Vista, FL, and two doubles in two at-bats against the Mets on Thursday.  I think that if Matt and Mike had to make rosters today, Moore would be in it for sure.   That’s important, because if he doesn’t make the team, he’s out of minor league options and will probably be traded or released, which would be a waste of good talent.

3. Starting Pitching

Coming into spring training, it was pretty clear that the Nats had an amazing pitching rotation – easily the best in the MLB and maybe the best in the history of baseball.  Its good to see so far in spring training that the pitchers are living up to their reputation.  It was great seeing Max Scherzer make his debut in a Nationals uniform.  Having Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, and Doug Fister in a rotation almost guarantees success.  Our pitching reserves are better equipped now too – 2 years ago, the Nats used Zach Duke to fill in for an injured player.  Today, the Nats can rely on Tanner Roark, who was a 10+ game winner last season.  Roark looks a little rusty so far this spring training, but I think he will shake it off by opening day.

4. Outfield

The biggest blow to the beginning of the season is that Denard Span will not play Opening Day due to his core muscle surgery.  Add that to the fact that Jayson Werth’s shoulder probably won’t be ready for Opening Day either, and Nate McClouth isn’t likely to be ready either to fill in.  So 2 of the Nats 3 outfielders will be backup players.  On the bright side, though, there are some young Nats who are ready for that opportunity to step up and patrol the outfield.  Best bets are for either Tony Gwynn, Jr. or Michael A. Taylor to get that spot.  Both have shown great baseball so far during Spring Training.  I think the starter will be Taylor just because he has shown the Nats that he can perform at the Major League level.

5. Bullpen

Since the Nationals lost Tyler Clippard to the Oakland A’s and we haven’t seen Drew Storen yet, there are still two open slots in the Nats bullpen. Pitchers like Casey Janssen, Jerry Blevins, and Craig Stammen are locks for the ‘pen, but there are spots open for players like Blake Treinen, Xavier Cedeno, and AJ Cole who may be ready for MLB time. Don’t forget Heath Bell too! It is just that everyone is doing well and it will be hard to find that missing piece.

So as I conclude my post, I would like to say that the spring season is going steady, with not too many mountains to overcome so far for the Nats (like the Giants have with Hunter Pence or the Phillies have with Cliff Lee) but not too many valleys to climb out from like the Cubs or Brewers (0-5, last in the Cactus League). And we have 28 days until either Scherzer, Zimmermann, Strasburg, Gonzalez, or Fister takes the ball on Opening Day in front of the entire world.