August 19, 2010 [LINK / comment]
They waited until the very last minute to "git 'r done," but it was really not such a big surprise that the Nationals and reputed future Hall of Famer Bryce Harper reached a deal. The contract was signed just before midnight late on Monday evening. It runs for five years and totals $9.9 million, a record for a rookie position player, and most of that is a signing bonus. See MLB.com. Harper is in a "league of his own," in more ways than one. He took a GED test to bypass the last two years at Las Vegas High School, and enrolled at the College of Southern Nevada to get quick experience in serious baseball. Harper has played mostly as a catcher, but will probably become an outfielder. He is only 17 years old, and will presumably spend at least a full year in the minor leagues before joining the Nationals rosters.
In Wednesday's Washington Post, Thomas Boswell wrote "A franchise and a town are lucky if they have one [superstar] player a generation." ... Now, he says, with the signing of Bryce Harper, Washington has three of them, on top of Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman. I tend to be skeptical of promotional hype, but Stephen Strasburg has at least lived up to expectations so far, so maybe the Nats will get lucky again. If so, their prospects for winning in years to come will be greatly magnified.
The Nationals got beat badly by the Braves on Tuesday, 10-2, but they bounced back last night and had the game tied 2-2 for several innings. It was a classic pitchers' duel, and even mighty Adam Dunn went 0 for 4. In the bottom of the ninth, Nats reliever Sean Burnett got one out but then gave up a single, and was replaced by Tyler Clippard. He walked the first batter he faced, putting a runner in scoring position, and one out later gave up the game-winning single to Jason Heyward. Drat. Ryan Zimmerman and manager Jim Riggleman were both ejected from that game in the eighth inning after Ryan threw his bat down after striking out. It seemed he was mostly mad at himself, but the umpire took it as an insult, and both mild-mannered men were kicked out. Very unusual. Today's game was truly a team effort, as all but one position player either scored a run or batted one in. Willie Harris, who has had a horrible year at the plate, stunned the (sparse) crowd by hitting a two-run homer in the top of the ninth, providing an extra layer of insurance. The Nats won the game, 6-2, thus averting being swept for what would have been the second time in the last ten days. John Lannan, who recently returned from minor league "retooling," had another very good outing, going 5 1/3 innings. He earned his fifth win of the season, thus evening his record.
The Nationals got some bad news, however, as outfielder Josh "Hammer" Willingham was put on the 15-day disabled list because of a bad left knee. He is probably going to have surgery and miss the rest of the season, which is a real bummer, as he was having the best season of his career. At least he got one more home run during the brief time since he came off the DL last week, making 16 total for the year. Nyjer Morgan just came off the DL to take his place, and went two for five today.
Meanwhile, Wil Nieves is on temporary family leave, as his wife just gave birth to a baby girl. ¡Felicitaciones, Wil!
On Monday, Fenway Park hosted a rock concert featuring Aerosmith and the J. Geils Band, both of whom come from the Boston area. According to rollingstone.com, Aerosmith's lead singer (screamer) Steven Tyler embodies Boston's underdog spirit. "That's why Red Sox fans cherish Carl Yastrzemski more than Ted Williams, who was an infinitely better player -- Yaz tried harder, and needed us more." Hmmm... What about two other superstar rock groups from Beantown: The Cars, and of course, Boston?
The guy who hit "the shot heard round the world" to help the New York Giants snatch the 1954 National League pennant away from the Brooklyn Dodgers, died on Monday at the age of 86. It was in the bottom of the ninth inning on Oct. 3, 1951 that Bobby Thomson hit a line drive home run over the left field wall (279 feet down the line, about 315 feet where his ball crossed) at the Polo Grounds. The obituary in the Washington Post has a of the Giants' dramatic comeback late in the 1951 season, and a detailed description of the game situation when Thomson's bat cracked that ball, which has never been found for sure. So let's cue up Terry Cashman's nostalgic jingle, "Willie, Mickey, and The Duke":
The Whiz Kids had won it
Bobby Thomson had done it
And Yogi read the comics all the while...
Well, that should cover the baseball news for a while. Oh, oh, wait a minute...