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Two years later, two surprise All-Stars

Jul 12, 2011, 12:17 AM EST

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Tyler Clippard and Joel Hanrahan have each enjoyed career renaissances this season.

PHOENIX — It was the final week of June 2009, and the Washington Nationals were — to put it bluntly — a disaster.

Thirty games under .500. The bullpen, statistically, ranked as the worst in big-league history. The pitching coach had been fired, and the manager was probably going to be next.

In the clubhouse, Joel Hanrahan was miserable. The Nationals’ first-time closer boasted a 7.71 ERA, five blown saves and three losses. All around him, he saw fellow relievers getting demoted or released, and he new his time was coming as well.

“It was tough for me to go to the park sometimes,” he said. “I’d be sitting at my locker wondering: ‘Alright, they just sent down three guys. How am I still here? What’s next? Am I going to get sent down tomorrow? Am I going to get released tomorrow? When’s my day coming? … How am I still surviving this?’”

A few hours to the north in Syracuse, Tyler Clippard was wondering about his future as well. The right-hander had been following what was transpiring on the big club, especially in that wretched bullpen, and he
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  1. dj in Fl. - Jul 12, 2011 at 12:32 AM

    Great article MarkI hope Joel knows that we all are rooting for him, except during, well he understands. He also lacked a defense behind him, to help out while here.Glad Clip coped and succeeded with the switch to the pen, just as you did moving to the internet. We all have won on this one.

  2. Drew8 - Jul 12, 2011 at 1:31 AM

    This story is a good reminder that sometimes perseverance pays off and the second act is better than the first.Which brings me back to Randy Tomlin's marvelous alchemy at Harrisburg. Another case in point: Today Shairon Martis (remember him?) won his 7th game for the Senators. Under Tomlin's watchful eye, Martis is sporting a nifty 2.70 ERA.The stunning turnarounds by Peacock, Martis and Erik Arnesen (6-1, 2.27) can't be a coincidence.It's exciting to see guys like Milone and Peacock benefit from superb coaching and progress through the system. I can't wait to see who moves up to AA (Taylor Jordan? Daniel Rosenbaum?) and is the next to benefit from Tomlin's tutelage.

  3. FS - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:55 AM

    Thanks Mark for the great reminder on where we were not so long ago. WOW I can't even remember half the bullpen guys named in your article. 35 games under .500? How did we survive that? Amazing stuff.

  4. JaneB - Jul 12, 2011 at 3:14 AM

    One of my favorite pieces I've read, Mark! Thank you. I am so happy for all three of them. And especially happy for Clip.

  5. Doc - Jul 12, 2011 at 4:14 AM

    Great article Mark. You have a flare for the drama in baseball, kid!As I recall from those early days of the spring of '09, it was Acta that was upset with Joel the most for not throwing his FB more.Out that muddled BP we find 2 ALL-STARS!

  6. Scooter - Jul 12, 2011 at 5:10 AM

    Steven Shell … good gravy. We've come a long way, baby.

  7. Another_Sam - Jul 12, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    Nice work, MZ. And I know I have often benefitted from advice analogous to that offered by Clip's dad – from my wlfe. LOL

  8. NatsLady - Jul 12, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    Looking at the list of pitchers/relievers Bochy has, we probably won't see either Clipp or Hanrahan in the game. But it will be great to hear them announced!!

  9. sjm308 - Jul 12, 2011 at 12:36 PM

    Drew8 – wow, he really has done some work hasn't he. I remember when Martis started out something like 5-0 here and I had watched him pitch and just could not figure out how he was doing so well. He nibbled, took forever to throw pitches when runners were on (which was often) and we scored a ton of runs for him. I am guessing he is still under 28 so he actually might have a future. Then again, he has gone the wrong direction (Majors – AAA – AA) How long before he gets moved back to Syracuse OR will he stay under Tomlin and be a Sept callup?Go Nats!

  10. Gonat - Jul 12, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    Drew8 beat me to it. Martis (W, 7-3) 6IP, 9H, 3R, 2ER, BB, 10K. Those 10 K's is impressive. Like we learned with Peacock, they made an adjustment. Martis big problem with the Nats was missing locations and staying up in the strike zone.What has changed here? This is the biggest positive turnaround for one of the exiled players that I have seen.

  11. sjm308 - Jul 12, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    Insiders: I have never seen us take batting practice. I actually like the bullpen(s) and do not like buying $9 beers & $5 hotdogs when I can get them cheaper (with better beers I might add). Who on the current team puts on the best pb show? I just read an article over on espn by I think Jason Stark saying how Dunn is amazing in bp and that Harper is also a showman. Who do we have now that can just put the ball in the seats with ease. My guess would be Nix. The other player that surprised me was Ichiro, did not figure he did that during bp but apparently he just jacks them out. I realize bp homeruns are not the same as during a game, but it is probably neat to watch.

  12. JD - Jul 12, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    SJM, Martis is only 24 and when he first came up he was only 21 so yes he may still have a future. As I recall his problem was that he didn't have enough weapons to get major league hitters out. Not an exceptional fastball and so so secondary pitches. It is not automatic that success at AA translates into success at higher levels; I am anxious to see how Peacock does at AAA. Brad Meyers moved up earlier this year and is doing so so. There is a qualitative difference from one level to the next so it's actually nice to see that Milone has handled the move nicely.

  13. JD - Jul 12, 2011 at 1:20 PM

    SteveM. When comparing Marquis to Livo one must take into account that Livo earns $1 mil a year and Marquis earns $7.5 mil. To me Marquis is not that good a pitcher and the money could be allocated better elsewhere. I understand your point about wins but I disagree with it. Any statistic which gives a pitcher credit based on actions of others makes that statistic almost irrelevant. Jordan Zimm. is pitching at Tim Lincecum level yet has only 6 wins. How is that his fault? All he can do is get people out. He can't control the offense or the quality of relief in games after he's taken out.

  14. JimHoy - Jul 12, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    Great article. Had an idea for ya, Mark: You've been up close and personal with this team since it arrived in DC. Assuming we finally get over the hump and become true contenders, I'd love love love a book detailing the rise from being a disaster franchise to contender. Reading those names of our bullpen from that year really reminds me of how far we've come just to get to average. The move from Montreal, the process to find an owner, the Lerner's learning process, injuries, the Smiley Gonzalez scandal…Your inside knowledge and writing skills would make a very compelling read.Just plantin' a seed…

  15. CBinDC - Jul 12, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    Mark all I have to say is GREAT JOB …….I really would like to hear more about the inside baseball of the dark years and people's impressions of those involved….ie Jim Bowden

  16. JaneB - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    Just re-read this…sort of like poking a sore place…to remember when it used to be that you had to get out of the park or turn off the TV in the seventh to keep from throwing up. Things are so much better now! I second the idea for a book, when the time comes.

  17. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    JimHoy, remember Jack & the Beanstalk…be careful what you plant. We don't want Mark taking a year off to write a book.

  18. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    But it would be a good read. There's more to a "culture of losing" than just lollygagging–it's people's careers.

  19. Big Cat - Jul 12, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    Good to see Hanrahan successful. He had a real tough go of it here. I saw Mike McDougal throwing 98 for the Dodgers the other day. Has a 1.74 era with them. He was real nasty with us…..of course, he was known to walk a guy or two

  20. JD - Jul 12, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    Big Cat ERA doesn't matter especially for relievers. How about inherited runners? K's and BB's per 9 innings etc?

  21. Eugene in Oregon - Jul 12, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    JimHoy @ 9:36Having known a lot of reporters over the years, I've got to assume that particular seed has long been planted.

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