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General Dempsey a 'rabid' Nationals fan

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General Dempsey a 'rabid' Nationals fan

To say Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin E. Dempsey has a tough job would be quite the understatement. As the top military advisor to the President of the United States, his decisions and actions affect not only the U.S. and its military, but the world as a whole and in turn the course of history. Needless to say, his job is bigger than a lot of things in this world, including sports.

But for Dempsey and his colleagues at the Pentagon, sports can sometimes present a unique dynamic to the office. Most of the military officials he works with are sports fans, particularly during college basketball season where everyone has an alma mater. 

While there is always important work to be done, if a good game is coming to a close or if a must-see matchup is going on, the highest ranking officials of the U.S. military can sometimes turn into regular sports fans.

“We normally stream in whether it’s CNN or FOX or MSNBC. The big screens will be broken into squads. There will be 24/7 news,” Dempsey said. “But during March Madness, there will always be a game on. Or the Ryder Cup, or if there is baseball, so sure we can multi-task.”

Each colleague of Dempsey’s hails from a different part of the country as he works with a collection of the military’s brightest figures. They all have their own affiliations and loyalties, but working in Washington has led to them watching and attending games of local sports teams.

And of all the local D.C. teams, Dempsey says the Nationals have gained the most fans in the Pentagon. It has to do with the way they play and their dedication to supporting the military. The Nationals are active in outreach with the military and invite veterans to each of their home games. The Redskins, Capitals, and Wizards have similar programs and have veterans at their games as well.

“In the American League I’m a Yankee fan, I think I have to be careful saying that publicly here, but in the National League I have become a rabid Nationals fan,” Dempsey said.

“It started when I got to know them. First of all they are a very young team, they remember that it is a game, they play it like it’s a game. Their enthusiasm, they are humble, it’s very interesting. And in their enthusiasm and humility they have embraced the wounded warriors. There is always a group of wounded warriors here, they bring them to the early season introductions to the players, they visit them in the hospitals. So that sealed the deal as far as I’m concerned.”

Dempsey threw out the first pitch of Game 5 of the N.L. Division Series between the Nationals and Cardinals at Nats Park. When taking the mound he showed his sense of humor by removing his general uniform to unveil a number 18 Nationals jersey. Dempsey is the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

When asked if he was nervous throwing out the first pitch, before 45,000 fans at the biggest baseball game in D.C. in the better part of a century, Dempsey said it was no big deal. After all, when compared with commanding men in war no challenge is too big.

“I don’t do that for a living so I don’t put too much pressure on myself. I don’t necessarily gauge myself on success or failure on whether I throw a perfect strike,” he said. “I mean I clearly don’t want to fall of the mound or bounce it. But what I’m really out there to do is to be the face of the 1.4 million men and women in uniform that I represent and their families.”

The four star general is a baseball fan, but his first love is basketball. As a graduate of Duke University, his favorite team in sports is the Blue Devils. 

Working closely with the President, Dempsey says sports come up from time to time in their more casual encounters. He and the Commander in Chief sometimes talk about basketball or as Dempsey describes it, “we’ll joust about that on occasion.” 

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Stock Watch: Harper, Zimmerman looking like themselves again

Stock Watch: Harper, Zimmerman looking like themselves again

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 3-4

Team slash: .283/.359/.454

Team ERA: 5.79

Runs per game: 6.6 

 

STOCK UP 

Ryan Zimmerman, 1B: .375 AVG, HR, 1.014 OPS

Zimmerman announced his return from the disabled list with authority last weekend in Atlanta, hammering the first pitch he saw into left field for a solo home run. The blast was just the beginning; he’s 6-for-16 since he’s been back, getting solid contact even when he doesn’t get a hit. We’re talking about a very small sample size, of course, but a resurgent Zimmerman would mean wonders for the bottom of the Nats lineup.

Bryce Harper, RF: .357 AVG, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 1.026 OPS

Like Zimmerman, Harper’s going to have to be consistent for a little while longer before fans feel like he’s truly back to his old self. Still, the past week and a half have been a welcome sight for an offense that needs him to look like the reigning NL MVP. He’s posted multi-hit efforts in five out of his last 10 games, notching five extra-base hits over that span. For comparison, that’s the same amount of extra-base hits he had throughout the month of July.

Numbers aside, Harper has simply looked relaxed at the plate lately; he’s no longer chasing pitches out of the strike zone, instead reclaiming his patient approach. Even if he may not be able to completely salvage his season, a strong finish would be a huge boost for the Nats.    

STOCK DOWN 

Stephen Strasburg, SP: 1.2 IP, 9 ER, 15-day disabled list

Even if it’s a precautionary measure, there still has to be slight concern that Strasburg is headed to the disabled list with right elbow soreness. The 28-year-old right hander said Monday that his arm recovery between starts had been getting increasingly difficult, but the discomfort never affected him during his performances. Who knows if there was truly a correlation between the elbow issues and his recent 0-3 skid, but the Nats are hoping that time off will do him some good. With the postseason less than six weeks away, will Strasburg be fully rested and ready to go in October? 

Reynaldo Lopez, SP: 1-1, 4.66 ERA, 1.66 WHIP

While Lopez had two good outings recently, both of them were against the lowly Atlanta Braves. Against contenders like the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles? He’s 0-2 with a 10.32 ERA. Granted, he’s still in the infancy of his major-league career, and was only inserted in the rotation because Joe Ross is out with injury. That said, with Strasburg also gone now, it’s up to the back end to create some semblance of stability for the next few weeks. 

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NL East: Phillies among MLB teams to scout Tim Tebow

NL East: Phillies among MLB teams to scout Tim Tebow

Most of Major League Baseball's 30 teams will have a scout in attendance at Tim Tebow's showcase workout on Aug. 30 in Los Angeles, and that list includes the Philadelphia Phillies.

That's according to CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury, who notes the practice will not be open to the public. Tebow, of course, spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles as part of his brief, but noteworthy NFL career.

Tebow has not played a real baseball game since 2005, when he was in high school. Tebow made All-State as a junior in the state of Florida, but since then has been all football. And despite being a quarterback who threw lefty, it sounds like he wants to be an outfielder in his return to baseball. 

Several minor league teams have already offered Tebow a roster spot, including the Waldorf, Md.-based Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. But it sounds like Tebow wants to show off his stuff in front of some MLB teams first.

[RELATED: Nats' defense making uncharacteristic mistakes]

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Nats' defense making uncharacteristic mistakes in recent games

Nats' defense making uncharacteristic mistakes in recent games

Despite having a 37-year-old left fielder, a second baseman with a troubled history in the field and, at times, a host of players learning new positions on the fly, the Nationals have not just been better than expected on defense this season, they have ranked among the top clubs in the majors. 

They are third in fielding percentage, sixth in efficiency rating and 10th in double plays. The Nats have committed the third-fewest errors this season and generally a team not known for beating themselves.

Lately, that has not been the case. In Tuesday night's 8-1 loss to the Orioles, the Nats saw Daniel Murphy - the second baseman referenced above - boot a groundball in the third inning that led to two runs.

That blunder wasn't the reason the Nats lost the game. It was, though, a continuation of a trend for the Nationals that has emerged during their road trip.

In their loss on Monday night, Bryce Harper bobbled a ball in right field that helped lead to a run. In Sunday's loss, the Nats committed five errors, their most in a game since July 15, 2011. In their win on Saturday, Wilmer Difo had an error that led to a run. And on Friday, the Nats had two errors lead to a pair of runs in the eighth inning alone. 

That's a lot of mistakes in a span of just six games, but manager Dusty Baker isn't ready to worry quite yet.

"It's a matter of timing," Baker said. "You get timing in hitting, timing in defense. Things go in streaks. You score a lot of runs in streaks and don't make errors for a long period of time. Then you make quite a few errors in a short period of time."

Murphy was more succinct in his assessment of the Nats' recent defensive woes.

“I’d say we’re not catching it, probably the easiest way to describe it," he said.

Murphy did, however, explain his own mistake on Tuesday night and how he believes it affected young starter Reynaldo Lopez, who made it only 2 2/3 innings, in part due to two unearned runs on the error.

"If I make that play right there, he gets a chance to go another inning, maybe settle into the ballgame. Unfortunately, I didn’t give him that chance tonight," Murphy said. "A six-run lead compared to a four-run lead is completely different, especially in this ballpark. Unfortunate he didn’t get a chance to go back out there and find his rhythm."

The Nats defensive skid has coincided with a tough time for their pitching staff. Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross are on the disabled list, leaving rookies to fill the void. And their bullpen has been beaten up by injuries, rain delays and a heavy workload. 

The last thing the Nats need right now is for their play in the field to exacerbate the problems in their pitching staff. Baker, again, is not concerned.

"Hopefully this is the end of it and we've gotten it out of our system," he said.

[RELATED: Nats fall on wrong side of three challenges by Orioles]

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