We already knew this was coming at some point, but the Mets made it official this afternoon. David Wright was named the fourth captain in the team’s history, joining John Franco, Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter. Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko are the only other active designated “captains” in…
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: .221/.275/.385
Team ERA: 2.44
Runs per game: 3.57
Daniel Murphy, 2B: .333 AVG, 5 RBI, .889 OPS
So it's been a month now, and Murphy has shown no signs of slowing down yet. Is this just who he is? Time will tell, but the longer his hot streak keeps going, the more inclined the Nats are to believe this might be the real deal. If so, they might have gotten one of the best bargains of the offseason.
Murphy now leads the team with a 1.044 OPS on the season, and is second only to Bryce Harper with 15 extra-base hits. Ever since he changed his approach late last year with the Mets — crowding the plate more and focusing on pulling the ball rather than going the other way — it seems he's become a different hitter, and one opposing pitchers have had a tough time adjusting to. Can he really keep this up?
Max Scherzer, SP: 1-0, 0 ER, 9 K, 0 BB
Now that's the Max Scherzer Nats fans remember. After scuffling in a few of his previous starts, Washington's ace looked like himself against the Cardinals, tossing seven shutout frames while striking out nine batters and walking none. With the rest of the rotation in a groove right now, Scherzer picked a good time to find his early-2015 form.
Bryce Harper, RF: .077 AVG, 13 K, .277 OPS
After winning NL Player of the Month for a spectactular April, who'd have thought Harper would find himself listed here in the first week of May? That's baseball, and it shows that even the best players in the game aren't immune to a slump or two. That said, Harper's mired in the type of funk we haven't seen from him in quite some time: He has just one hit in his last 23 at-bats, has struck out 13 times in the last week alone compared to four walks. And in the last nine games, his batting average has fallen from .323 to .256. Ouch.
Harper will start hitting again, probably sooner rather than later. But with the rest of the lineup starting to get on track, it'd be nice to see what this offense could be if he starts looking like the reigning MVP.
Jonathan Papelbon, RP: 0-1, BS, 2.18 WHIP
Papelbon blew his second save of the young season Tuesday night in Kansas City, a frightening sight for Nats fans who are worried their closer may not be reliable. The 35-year-old reliever is still 9-of-11 in save opportunities, and while that's the most important metric, there are a few other things to consider.
The phrase du jour about Papelbon these days is how he's "not missing bats" the way he did earlier in his career. That's true; per Fangraphs, his induced swing-and-miss percentage this season is at 8.3, down from 12.4 in 2015. One of the probable reasons for the decline is because his average fastball velocity has steadily fallen from 94.8 mph in 2011 to 90.8 this year. As a result, his strikeout numbers down, making him eminently more hittable. He's allowed base runners eight of his 13 outings, so even when he does earn a save, he usually doesn't pitch a clean inning.
If Josh Norman's production on the field in 2016 matches up with his first few weeks as a Redskin, where he's churned out spectacular quote after spectacular quote, the Carolina Panthers are going to be kicking themselves. Then they'll probably kick themselves some more.
Norman delivered throughout his opening press conference with the team, and has nailed other interviews with various outlets. A recent piece he wrote for The Players' Tribune, however, is undoubtedly his best work yet. The whole thing is riveting, but here are the five coolest chunks from his work, which is titled, "Steal Your Bologna."
5. When he talks about the day he first picked up football.
Norman opens the article by revealing that, as a youngster, he'd be left out during games of basketball. Because of that, he'd be forced to get shots up by himself on "the crooked-ass rim with no net." In case you aren't aware, shooting on bent rims that don't have a trace of nylon completely sucks. Those definitely weren't the greatest days for little Norman.
Eventually, though, he found his calling. Allow him to explain.
"One day, they made a mistake. They messed up. They let me put on a football helmet. They let me get in the dirt. Now, all of a sudden, the same dudes who used to steal my [spot on the court] were hearing a very particular sound. It’s a sick sound, really. I’ll never forget the first time I heard it. It’s the crack of a football helmet obliterating some poor dude’s chest protector. Then you hear him wheezing. You see the spirit draining right out of his body."
Having your spirit drained doesn't sound like a nice experience, but it's a tremendous visual.
4. When he writes about the kinship he feels with a particular superhero.
Everyone's got a favorite superhero. The All-Pro corner is no different. But the reasoning behind his pick is what's notable.
"My favorite superhero since way back was always Batman. I always related to Bruce Wayne because he came up through the darkness, and so did I."
Spiderman would've been a solid pick for Norman considering they both have sticky hands, but the darkness idea is much more powerful.
3. When he describes his mentality.
What's your mentality in life? "Do your best?" "Never give up?" Whatever it is, prepare to feel lame when you hear what mantra Washington's pricey aquisition follows.
"From the first day I put on a football helmet I have repeated the same three words to myself every time I go out on the field: seek and destroy. Seek and destroy everything."
Sure, that may not work for a barrista at Starbucks or a dental hygienist, but it fits Norman's profession perfectly.
2. When he turns the narrative of the Draft being the proudest day of a player's life upside down.
When Norman was taken in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Panthers, was he ecstatic? Was he full of glee?
"I was pissed. Because that’s just who I am. That’s how I got here. Fourteen other cornerbacks went before me. I wrote those names down. Oh yeah, I did. Very few people believed in me, and I’ll never forget that."
1. When he gives a shoutout Odell Beckham.
Early on in his writing (and now you'll understand the title he chose), Norman discussed how, growing up, his older brothers would steal his bologna and he simply let it happen out of shyness. So, in his final paragraphs, he brings back that image as he mentions Odell Beckham, who he probably likes less than those crooked-ass rims from his childhood.
"When Odell and I went at one another last year, people got mad. Imagine that. People who watch this sport every Sunday and say they love it actually pretended to be offended. They don’t see the beauty in it. They don’t see the truth.
"But Odell and I, we know the truth. Anybody who makes it to this level knows it. The truth is that on the football field, he’s trying to steal my bologna, and I’m trying to steal his.
"See you twice a year, bro."
Friendly reminder: Only 143 days until Redskins vs. Giants.
Scot McCloughan raised a few eyebrows when he signed Vernon Davis to a free agent contract on March 31. The Redskins general manager has talked about staying away from bringing on veterans in their 30’s, believing that they often bring bad habits and attitudes from their former teams at a high price.
But he made an exception last year when he traded for 31-year-old safety Dashon Goldson. And this year he signed Davis to a one-year contract that can pay him as much as $4.5 million if he hits on all of the incentives.
There is a simple explanation for McCloughan adding these two (relative) senior citizens to his roster. He drafted both of them when he was in San Francisco. He knows that both of them are his type of “football players”.
McCloughan wanted to make sure the Davis still had the desire to play before signing him.
“I brought him in to sit down and talk with him, make sure he still had the passion, the energy to play,” McCloughan said to Mike Florio on PFT Live on Tuesday.
Evidently McCloughan thought that Davis is in the proper frame of mind because he signed him to that potentially lucrative contract. And now that the team has assembled on the field to continue offseason workouts, McCloughan says that Davis is showing he is physically ready to go as well.
“I wish you could have seen him yesterday on the practice field because Phase 2 started yesterday,” he said. “He’s the same guy. He’s explosive as all get out, he’s smiling.”
Davis’ production has taken a precipitous slide in the last two seasons. He went from a Pro Bowl 2013 season with 52 receptions for 850 yards and 13 touchdowns to a combined stat line of 64/640/2 in the past two seasons. Some of the decline can be attributed to age but he also didn’t exactly have the best quarterbacks throwing him the ball as he attempted to catch passes from Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco and an aging Peyton Manning and inexperienced Brock Osweiler after he was traded to Denver.
McCloughan believes that Davis is back in his element. He graduated from Dunbar High before playing at Maryland. According to McCloughan it looks like Davis still has the athleticism that made him draft him sixth overall in 2006.
“He’s very excited. He’s a genetic freak,” said McCloughan. “He’s one of those guys who’s never been hurt. He’s 32 and when I look at when I drafted him, he’s the same guy. It’s amazing. He’s got speed and quickness still, you know what, people downplay it but he’s a good blocker, too.”
Any blocking help that Davis provides will be a bonus. He was brought aboard to team up with Jordan Reed and create nightmares for opposing defenses. If he can do that nobody will care how old he is.