Quick Links

Nationals have something special brewing

830229.png

Nationals have something special brewing

The images from the defining moment of Sunday's dramatic, 11-10 victory in Milwaukee were striking and memorable.

Michael Morse with left arm raised as he watched his game-tying home run in the ninth inning sneak over the right-field wall at Miller Park. Davey Johnson doing a little jig from the top dugout step as he watched the ball sail out. Ryan Mattheus, who had put the Nationals in that hole by serving up three homers in two innings of relief making sure he was the very first one to greet Morse and offer his teammate a bear hug.

That moment, perhaps as much as any other this season, revealed why the Nationals aren't just a good team in 2012 but why they may just be something special.

Sure, there's a boatload of talent on the roster, and of course that's the No. 1 reason this club now shares the best record in baseball with the scorching-hot Cincinnati Reds.

But there are other, less-tangible qualities to this assemblage of players and coaches that have allowed that talent to reign supreme: Character and chemistry.

The stat-heads can debate this one for all eternity, arguing whether or not such nebulous concepts make any difference in a team's won-loss record. All that matters is this important fact: The men who wear Nationals uniforms and help create their roster universally believe they are winning right now not only because of their physical abilities but because of their camaraderie and fortitude.

How many times has this team bragged about the manner in which it never gives up on a ballgame? Certainly after each of the 24 games the Nationals have come from behind to win.

How many injuries of significance has this team overcome, not merely replacing the disabled starter with an adequate fill-in but with someone who nearly produced as much as the guy who went down?

And how many times have we heard them talk about having each others' backs, about the importance of all 25 members of the roster contributing to the greater cause, about players who put more stock in team performance than individual accolades?

It's a near-daily theme inside that clubhouse. It's the hallmark of a special team. And it's the biggest reason general manager Mike Rizzo is likely to stay quiet through tomorrow's trade deadline.

Are there a couple of holes Rizzo could fill, a few areas of concern that could use a boost? Yes. The Nationals' catching situation leaves much to be desired. And there's a serious lack of infield depth now that Ian Desmond is on the disabled list.

But Rizzo is incredibly leery of tinkering with the delicate balance of a victorious clubhouse right now. The Nationals aren't just winning games, they're having fun doing it, and the last thing a GM wants to do in the middle of a run like this is disrupt positive mojo.

Players aren't talking about the need to add a veteran catcher or a fifth starter or a backup infielder. They're talking about the gutsy performances Jesus Flores and Sandy Leon are putting together every day behind the plate. They're talking about the manner in which Ross Detwiler has stepped up this season and become the quality pitcher he always was supposed to be, and about the important role they expect John Lannan to play down the stretch. And they're talking about the vital contributions Mark DeRosa makes, not so much on the field but in the dugout and in the clubhouse as he mentors younger teammates who have never experienced a big-league pennant race.

Rizzo sees all this. So does Johnson. They sense what is brewing right now. A season that was supposed to see the Nationals take the next step forward in their long-term plan has seen them take two leaps forward.

The goals have changed. The expectations have been raised. This is a team that can do something special.

They've shown that several times over the last four months, and they really showed it yesterday in Milwaukee.

And the last thing anyone wants to do right now is anything that might screw it all up.

Quick Links

Man shot in the face near Nationals Park job fair

nationals_park_usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Man shot in the face near Nationals Park job fair

On Tuesday morning, shortly after 10:00 a.m., a man was shot across the street from Nationals Park, local authorities reported.

After the shooting, the victim then ran toward the stadium where a crowd of people were waiting to enter a job fair at the park.

The victim was shot in the face and was transported to a local hospital. According to police, the victim was conscious when transported to a local hospital by authorities.

Authorities say they do not believe that the shooting was at all related to the job fair, which was for concession workers at the stadium.

The Nationals organization has since issued the following statement:

RELATED: NATIONALS REGULAR SEASON OUTLOOK

This morning a shooting occurred within a few blocks of Nationals Park. The injured victim fled the scene and was located and treated by emergency personnel outsider the center field gates, where jobs seekers were gathered in advance of a concessions staff job fair. The victim was transported by D.C. Fire and EMS to a local hospital. The Nationals are cooperating with the MPD investigation. Due to the incident, the concessions staff job far has been rescheduled for January 31.

The incident occurred at Half and N Street SE, which is near the center-field entrance of Nats Park. After initially believing the shooting took place outside the center field gate, police now believe he was shot behind a nearby liquor store.

Investigators believe the suspect fled the area in a car and have no details on a physical description.

 

Quick Links

Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez became the first former Nationals player (2005-present) to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. He was inducted in his first year of eligibility, marking the 52nd first-ballot hall of famer in history. 

Rodriguez, who was the first free agent signed by current Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, played the final two seasons of his career with Washington in 2010-11. During his time in D.C. he hit .254 six homers and 68 RBI. Pudge's greatest contribution to the Nationals came from his leadership and work ethic. He guided Stephen Strasburg through his rookie season and also helped develop Wilson Ramos so he could pass the torch to him. 

During his 21-year career, Pudge made 14 all-star teams, won 13 gold gloves, won seven silver slugger awards, led his league in caught-steeling percentage nine times, and was named American League MVP in 1999 with the Texas Rangers. He became a World Series champion in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. Pudge's 13 gold gloves are the most ever by a catcher, and his 2,844 career hits are the most ever by a player who appeared in 50 percent or more of their career games as a catcher.  

In addition to Rodriguez, former Montreal Expos great Tim Raines was inducted to the Hall of Fame. Raines is the franchise leader (Expos/Nationals) in walks (793), runs (947), stolen bases (635) and triples (82). Raines was an all-star seven times and he won a silver slugger in 1986 with the Expos. He is the only player in MLB history with at least 100 triples, 150 homers and 600 RBI in a career, and the only player to steal at least 70 bases in six consecutive seasons. 

Related: Bryce Harper wants Nationals to spend money on players, not team store