The New York Daily News can confirm this outrageous bit of news: The Yankee slugger, who has been MIA since he was linked to a Miami clinic under investigation by MLB for providing performance-enhancing drugs to baseball players, was caught leaving The Atlantic Grill on the Upper West Side. According to insiders, A-Rod, who is rehabbing his left…
Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.
Team slash: .256/.326/.415
Team ERA: 2.61
Runs per game: 4.42
Daniel Murphy, 2B: .393 AVG, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1.076 OPS
It was just another ho-hum week for the sizzling Murphy, who posted five multi-hit efforts in the last seven games. In fact, in 46 games played this season, he's now logged more than one hit an astounding 24 times. So we're way past the point of this being considered merely a hot streak; this is nearly two months' worth of consistency from the Nats' second baseman. Dusty Baker said recently that he believed Murphy has been the acquisition of the year in baseball. There's not much room to argue.
Ben Revere, CF: .450 AVG, 5 RBI, 5 R, 2 SB
You know things are going well for Revere these days when he's trotting around the bases after hitting a rare home run. His solo shot in Tuesday's 7-4 win over the New York Mets was just another sign that the Nats' leadoff man is starting to regain his pre-oblique injury form. But aside from the long ball, he's starting to do all the things a prototypical table-setter is supposed to do: see pitches, hit line drives into the gaps and be a pest on the base paths. That's what the Nats thought they were getting when they acquired Revere last winter from the Torono Blue Jays, and it looks like that's what he's becoming once again.
Stephen Strasburg, SP: 2-0, 12.2 IP, 3 ER, 21 K
He doesn't get mentioned with the likes of Jake Arrieta and Clayton Kershaw, but Strasburg is putting together the type of season that unequivocally cements his status as one of the game's top arms. He's now 8-0 with a 2.79 ERA, and his 86 strikeouts on the season are second in the majors to the aforementioned Kershaw.
So what's the difference for the 27-year-old right hander this year? For one, he's stayed healthy and continued the momentum that was established late last year after he came off the disabled list. He's also added a slider/cutter to his repertoire to keep hitters off balance, especially in fastball counts.
However, you don't get to 8-0 without a little bit of good fortune, either, and Strasburg has certainly that: In his 10 starts this season, the Nats offense has averaged 6.7 runs per game. Still, he's undoubtedly pitched well, so there's not much one can do to try to cheapen his fast start.
Bryce Harper, RF: .190 AVG, .507 OPS
When the Nats' skipper feels the need to give Harper a "mental rest day" against a chief division rival like the Mets, that's a telltale sign that things aren't going so well for the reigning NL MVP. Harper's frustration has been quite evident for the last week; he apparently took extra batting practice immediately following Monday's 7-1 loss, and then the next day went out onto the field early — a rarity for 23-year-old slugger — to take even more hacks.
Harper's slump is unique in that, despite his struggles, opposing teams are still pitching around him. He's hitting .195 in May despite a .454 on-base percentage, a very Barry Bonds-ian gap between his average and OBP. And like Bonds, Harper is only getting about one or two pitches he can work with per game, but he's been unable to take advantage of those of late.
After two days practicing against Kirk Cousins, new Redskins CB Josh Norman knows how fiery the quarterback can get. And remember, Norman faced off against Cam Newton for years with the Panthers, so the corner knows a bit about excitable passers.
Minor sparks flew a bit on Wednesday when, after a 20-yard completion to Pierre Garçon, Cousins ran down the field to hug the receiver and celebrate what would have been a first down. Cousins' excitment outpaced the rest on the practice field and Norman was asked after the OTA session about his new quarterback.
"I was like - God, calm down," Norman said. "I don’t want to go there yet. I'm gonna be cool."
Perhaps Norman doesn't want to go there yet because he's new to the team, or maybe because it's May, but one way or another he will need to get used to Cousins. Off the field, Cousins is cerebral, soft-spoken and courteous.
On the field, it's different story. It's been evident in practice since Cousins took over as the starting quarterback, and the world saw Cousins' passion with the famous "You Like That" explosion.
That doesn't mean Norman will back down.
"I came back out here and he looked away a couple times and didn’t throw the ball so I got a little jubilant," he said.
For a corner, the QB going a different direction almost means as much as being able to make a play on the ball. But the play in question, the completion to Garçon?
Norman knew exactly what happened.
"The last play the [starters] were out he threw a ball and he completed it and got excited again," Norman said. "I was like Kirk, man, we whipped y’all butt today. Calm it down a little bit."
At Wednesday's practice, the Redskins defense looked better than the offense. It's not worth taking much from a May session with no pads on, but the competition is real.
"We're only gonna make each other better," Norman said. "We just gotta keep challenging them, and they keep challenging us."
DeSean Jackson’s teammates would prefer that the star receiver join them for OTAs, but one prominent Redskins veteran said this week that the locker room is confident Jackson is working out on his own.
“You want him here, but like I was telling someone else, you understand he has things going on,” safety DeAngelo Hall said. “He has a newborn and he lives all the way on the west coast. It’s not like his home is an hour-and-a-half away like mine, where I can jet down to Atlanta every now again and be around the family. He has to go a long way.”
“We understand that D-Jac is going to work,” Hall continued. “Same thing with Trent [Williams]. Trent went to Houston [to work with his personal trainer], just got back [on Wednesday] and he’s probably in the best shape I’ve seen him since I’ve been here. As long as guys are working, I don’t think we mind too much.”
Jackson has attended some of the Redskins’ offseason program, but he has not been present for this week’s OTA practices—the first group of 10 voluntary sessions. And, according to Coach Jay Gruden, it’s not clear when exactly Jackson will return. Gruden joked that Jackson will “probably show up next week, or it could be whenever.”
Jackson missed a portion of last year’s offseason program, as well. And while there was some speculation that his absence contributed to the hamstring injury that hampered him early in 2015, Gruden has consistently denied that there was any connection.
As for the team-building aspecct of OTAs, though, there’s little doubt that Jackson’s absence could have an impact in that area.
“Obviously, you want guys around,” Hall added. “You want that camaraderie.You want to build that team unity. But that’s what training camp is for and [mandatory minicamp in June] is for. Yes, you want him here, but this is an offense he knows and he knows himself. When you’ve got a guy who knows himself, you want them to train the way they want to train.”
But Hall—and new teammate Josh Norman—want Jackson back at work for selfish reasons, too. They are eager to test themselves against the fastest wide receiver on the roster.
“I’m just excited about getting him out here,” Hall said. “Josh is excited about getting him out here. We want to go against him. We’re juiced up to get him out here.”