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The dog days of March

Mar 27, 2013, 10:00 AM EDT

USA Today Sports Images
Dan Haren served up four homers in six innings yesterday.

VIERA, Fla. — With Opening Day now so tantalizingly close, it's perhaps a real mental challenge for the Nationals to slog their way through these last few days of the spring.

"Few days?" Ryan Zimmerman said with a smirk yesterday when I asked him that. "Yeah, this is awful. I mean, I don't want to sound like a broken record, but it's pretty hard to get excited to play a game for the seventh week in Melbourne, Fla. We've been down here a while."

Yes, they have. And it's safe to say they are absolutely champing at the bit to get out of Florida, head north and begin this season already.

We probably saw evidence of that yesterday during the Nationals' 8-5 loss to the Marlins in Jupiter. Aside from Bryce Harper's torrid streak at the plate — 9 for his last 9 with a walk — and Dan Haren getting his final six innings of the spring in the books, there wasn't a whole lot else that piqued many people's interest at Roger Dean
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  1. NatsJack in Florida - Mar 27, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    Count those of us who sit in the stands during games and on the sidelines during practices as done in by this extended Spring Training.We are worn out.

  2. JT - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    It will be good to get the long spring in florida over….but get ready for some cooler/colder non spring weather in DC. Fins up.

  3. Rabbit34 - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    Haren giving up home runs is like Zimmerman striking out. They both walk away like they are bewildered, like is was some sort of anomaly, which of course it wasn't.

  4. natsfan1a - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    High of 61 is sounding good to me for Monday.

  5. sjm308 - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    I am still sticking with my plan for minimal attendance on Friday (with other activities included) but Monday is looking stronger. An old swimmer of mine sent me a red curly W hat with ear flaps as a joke!! Guess who will have that on the for the exhibition? Looking at the new alternative hat as my latest purchase (total of 15 National/Senator hats). I just can't get into the spring training hat as it reminds me of the Orioles. I figure if I buy the new alternative hat, I can retire one of the two non-fitted hats they gave out at various games and use them just for yard work and off season. I have already retired the green non-fitted hat.How many others here are having a difficult time with our lads now being the favorites? I don't mean that it is laborious but its just not the mind set I have had in the past. I love that we are now good but I liked how we sort of snuck up on people as we improved each year. I have actually run into people that are not crazy about us because we are considered to be so good. We have not won anything yet, we are not the Yankees with multiple pennants. Certainly is different to say the least.Go Nats!!

  6. SCNatsFan - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    Would it be possible to build up arm strength abd not give up 4 bombs?

  7. JayB - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    Flipping a switch does not always work. Haren is a vet so I will believe it for now. His MPH is down in the warm FL setting. Not completely sold that he is health and not washed up. This team should be the favorites to win it all. If they do not (again)….I do not want to hear excuses about just missing by inches or lack of experience showed. That was last year…..this is a new year and they have no excuses left.

  8. natsfan1a - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    I'm not having a difficult time with it but it's certainly different. On a related note, I was talking with my Chicago baseball buddy the other day and she was remarking on how the Cubs and the Nats were still in rebuilding mode. I had to correct her on, er, half of that statement (she doesn't follow the Nats as closely as I do, which is understandable given that she's not local). That said, I did also opine on how there's no sneaking up on other teams now, given that they'll probably be bringing their "A" game.

  9. NatsJack in Florida - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    sjm308… I hated the ST and practice hats….at first… but they've really grown on me. Now I kinda like them.As for the Nats…. get used to it. They have huge targets on their back and are now the hunted. I always tell everyone that, I agree…. the Nats haven't won anything….. but it sure beats being ridiculed for being inept. I also remind people how 2 years ago, I told them that this is exactly where they were going to be.

  10. NatsJack in Florida - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    Spring Training games are played with about 25% of the intensity of a regular season game for the vets. That's why it's not good to someone like Cory Brown or Carlos Rivero look so AAA when they need to stand out.

  11. sjm308 - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    Natsjack – thanks and I actually do remember you saying stuff about how good we were going to be!I will trust you on the Vets% but like JayB, it is tough thinking they can just hit a different level in a few days. That is what I loved about my sport, you got out of it what you put in. You could not have continued poor practices and all of a sudden get results. Maybe baseball is just a different animal.

  12. Traveler8 - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    SJM, remember the year (2008?) that the Nats got three managers of opposing teams fired? Good old days, eh? ;-)

  13. Faraz Shaikh - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    on my way to work, all I could think was how the first game would unfold and Nats win. can't wait for OD.

  14. Mac - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    "I always tell everyone that, I agree…. the Nats haven't won anything"Wrong. They have won the NL East. Not exactly an easy task. The Marlins despite two WS wins have never done it.

  15. NatsNut - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    sjm, agreed on the strange feeling. I think the sense of anticipation that something good *might* happen this year is gone and replaced with a comfortable assurance that no doubt we're going to see some very good baseball. It's not difficult, but I do feel a little weird about it. Still, I can't wait for Friday!

  16. NatsJack in Florida - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    Ok…they've won a play off berth……and 2 playoff games……Beyond that….nothing yet. Show me a League Championship……that's something.

  17. sm13 - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    NatsNut – well put. I find it all bit disorienting, but in a good – I cant wipe this smile from my face – way. Looking forward to good baseball and good crowds at the ballpark.

  18. Laddie Blah Blah - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    I want to see baseball played at the highest level. Win or lose, I want to see the Nats all go for it like the Cyborg does. If they lose, then I want someone else to beat them. They are too good to beat themselves, again. So don't do that, Nats. Give Davey your best and the chips will fall where they may, and you will get no complaints from me. It's a team game, so play like it, and I will cheer you on. Play to win and, more often than not, you will. Play not to lose, and too often you will lose.This should be the best year for baseball in DC in any of our living memories, if you guys just do your part. You can do it.

  19. LoveDaNats - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    Leaving Florida this morning. True. This has seemed like the longest spring training ever and the boys look like they are having trouble gearing up their enthusiasm these last few games. I honestly cringe when I hear how we will easily take the WS. It reminds me of when we would play the worst team in baseball (the years when we weren't actually the worst team in baseball) and were predicted to win it easily and they would thump us with a sweep. One game at a time….

  20. DaveB - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:20 PM

    As folks noted, it is probably unrealistic to think Haren will flip a switch and be great from day 1. It's a lot more realistic to think that he will gradually settle in and get more solid over the first month. Will be interesting to watch, however, all of the screams for his (and Rizzo's) head from the Legion of Doom if that happens.

  21. BigCat - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:20 PM

    Haren…..4 more bombs…..hmmmm…..I don't have a good feeling on this.How many starts do we give him before we pull the plug on him? 5? 7? And who takes his place? Maya?

  22. natsfan1a - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    And then there were the times when the other teams were supposed to win easily against us, with results as referenced by Traveler.

  23. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    "I honestly cringe when I hear how we will easily take the WS."I would too, but seriously, who says that?

  24. BigCat - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    Haren will probably come out and spin a 2 hit shutout his first game and I will be eating big time crow. Hopefully

  25. NatsJack in Florida - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    Haren's fine. He's a much more consistent improvement over Jackson.

  26. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    "How many starts do we give him before we pull the plug on him? 5? 7?"Depends on who "we" is. Fans, or Rizzo and Davey?

  27. PDowdy83 - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    How many seasons is it going to take for people to stop making asanign judgements based off of spring training stats? Every year people want to cut someone or send someone down based off of meaningless stats where people are working on certain things or just not playing as hard as a regular season game. Haren did give up a bunch of homers yesterday but at least 1, maybe 2 of them would not have been regular season homeruns. Yes Storen has struggled in spring training but he struggles EVERY spring training. Case and point. Strasburg has a 2-7 record and an ERA over 4 in his spring training career. Is anybody worried about him being ready because of some meaningless stats?

  28. Mac - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    "Ok…they've won a play off berth……and 2 playoff games……Beyond that….nothing yet. Show me a League Championship……that's something."They have won a division championship, not just a "playoff berth." In other words, they have competed across a full 162 game season and emerged in first place. Four other teams tried and failed to do that. Not only that, in doing so they had the best record in the entire 30-team MLB!You often hear it said that "it's a marathon, not a sprint." Actually, the regular season is the marathon and the playoffs are a sprint. The Nationals won the marathon, even though they have yet to win the sprint. That is definitely something.

  29. SCNatsFan - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    BigCat I'll get a spoon and happily eat half the bowl of crow with you

  30. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    Even in a worsT case, if Haren is done, this year's Brad Lidge, he still probably mixes in a couple of good-enough starts. If he isn't injured, Davey'll go a long while. Fans, OTOH, not so much.

  31. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    Of course, another case in point would be the Caps, who finished in first a couple of times.

  32. Rabbit34 - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    Even if we won the world series last year, it wouldn't make any difference now. It would just be bragging rights. We would still be where we are now. The same team, the same record, the same expectations. The past means nothing. The future means nothing. Baseball is just in the "now".

  33. NatsJack in Florida - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    I agree, Rabbit…..that's how I like my baseball….. Now.

  34. JayB - Mar 27, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    Too Easy and a cop out in my view….NOW….just Now…no past no future….No accountability no growth that way…..yes less pain….but nobody has to own their performance that way. Drew, Jackson, Davey all just walk away from Game 5?

  35. NatsJack in Florida - Mar 27, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    Yep…. They've totally moved on.

  36. Joe Seamhead - Mar 27, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    I, for one, am not expecting the Nats to win the World Series, but I have a realistic feeling that the could. JayB if it doesn't happen, it won't be Rizzo, or Davey's fault. I still see this team as being way ahead of the schedule I thought we on two years ago, and for that I thank Rizzo and Johnson. GYFNG!!!

  37. Theophilus T. S. - Mar 27, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    The only tension at the moment is awaiting Ghost of Steve M's "Rizzo Surprise."

  38. Joe Seamhead - Mar 27, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    "that they could"

  39. NatsJack in Florida - Mar 27, 2013 at 2:12 PM

    Rizzo gas been conspicuously absent for the past 2 road games. On Monday evening, I asked Bob Boone where he was and he said with a smile "I don't know. probably working on a deal".I wouldn't put anything past Rizzo.

  40. 4571c960-cc1f-11e1-909b-000bcdcb471e - Mar 27, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    Pul-eeze. Don't get me wrong, I love Ryan Zimmerman, but a multimillionaire complaining about playing baseball in 80 degree weather in March is hard to stomach. Particularly considering that he didn't even put on a glove in a spring game until about two weeks ago.

  41. JayB - Mar 27, 2013 at 3:00 PM

    Not exactly Njack…..Jackson sent packing, Drew still can not get anyone out and is not longer closer…..and the one that really counts and time will tell…..Davey….this year I think he will manage to win in the Playoffs…..if he had done that it would have been Ryan M pitching and Danny sitting. It would have Drew not pitcher 3 days in a row. It would have been Drew or his replacement intentionally walking to get closer out of game……Davey must have learned something from losing that game.

  42. baseballswami - Mar 27, 2013 at 3:01 PM

    The chilly temps and metro DMV traffic will wake these guys right up. Oh- and the large, noisy crowds : )

  43. 4571c960-cc1f-11e1-909b-000bcdcb471e - Mar 27, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    Honestly, JayB, do you really follow the team for fun or just to channel negativity? the team isn't a total failure that completely sucks if they don't win the World Series. A lot can happen in a season, and its entirely possible that the Nats don't win the division without being complete idiots that aren't worthy of your time. we've got a good, well constructed team that has a chance. The world didn't come to an end because we lost game 5 last year. We had a great, memorable season. Chill out and try to have some fun being a fan.

  44. EmDash - Mar 27, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    Interesting Harper-Trout note: in addition to publicly taking the Angels to task for the amount of money Trout was paid, his agent has said that Trout's unhappy and disappointed about being moved to left field this season. Harper, and Boras, haven't said anything like that. Should be a bit of an eye-opener for people who think Harper is so immature and arrogant and Trout is down-to-earth, but probably won't be.

  45. EmDash - Mar 27, 2013 at 3:15 PM

    Also, something interesting in Haren v. Jackson – last year, he went 12-13, so the Angels won at least 12 games he started last year.Of the games Jackson started, he got the win in 10 and the Nationals went 12-19 in his starts. So if Haren just repeats last year, he'll be roughly the same as Jackson – not a step forward, but not a step back either. And last year went pretty well.

  46. Diz - Mar 27, 2013 at 3:26 PM

    My concerns would be Haren, Stammen on the pitching side and Span and ALR on the hitting side.I am fairly confident that everyone is where they need to be though, since they are all vets and have been through it before.It will also help we get the Marlins to start.

  47. BigCat - Mar 27, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    I would feel a lot better if Haren was giving up a lot of grounders thru the hole, not barreled up bomb after bomb. I said when we got him that his lost velocity was a major concern. Nothing has changed as far as I am concerned.

  48. UnkyD - Mar 27, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    PDowdy83: "asanign …"Spellcheck: "…….. Go for it. I got nothing."{=^D

  49. baseballswami - Mar 27, 2013 at 3:44 PM

    Stamen had exactly one bad outing- all the pitchers had at least one. He was awesome last season.

  50. sjm308 - Mar 27, 2013 at 3:49 PM

    Asinine – there you go UnkyD and PDowdy (by the way, your short lived blog was well appreciated by this old fan)JayB – sure am glad you got to spout off again about Davey being stubborn, Mattheus throwing in game 5 and benching Danny. Bet we won't hear that again this season huh? please please please leave it alone, let it rest. Any I am convinced you never ever competed on a high level in any type of sports if you honestly believe that world class athletes look backward. One of the great aspects of a winner is that he has a short memory. Another aspect of winners is that they all have failed and moved on. Looks like you can't do that.

  51. Oldguy - Mar 27, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    There is no rear-view mirror in baseball. Never. Period.

  52. PDowdy83 - Mar 27, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    Haha yeah that's how you spell it sjm. Thanks! Sadly real life got in the way of much writing these days.Big Cat, Haren's average velocity in 2011 was 89mph and just barely 90 in 2010. It sounds to me like he is sitting in that range now. I haven't heard reports (other than the dead arm start) that he is lower. He was touching 92 early in spring and has consistently been 88-90. He was a very useful pitcher in both of those years I stated above and Haren has NEVER been a flame thrower. Also BigCat, is your name an Andres Galaragga reference?

  53. PDowdy83 - Mar 27, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    Even if Haren only repeats last year he was still worth 1.8 WAR which is very good for a 5th starter. Yes he is making $13mil this year but the higher salary this season was Rizzo's way of not having to deal with long term deals for the likes of Jeremy Guthrie, Kyle Lohse et al.JayB, when are you going to give it a rest on Storen? Drew is awful EVERY spring training and flips the switch when the season starts. This is nothing new. For relief pitchers you cannot simulate the adrenaline coming into the middle or end of a spring training game that comes with a regular season game.

  54. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Mar 27, 2013 at 4:52 PM

    PDdowdy, sjm, hexa-bits: you're talking to a wall. Just think of him as one of those motion-activated fish on a plaque that sings the same song whenever somebody walks past it.

  55. Ron In Reston - Mar 27, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    Right on the nose, Sec 3!!!

Archives

FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 96 66 --
ATLANTA 79 83 17.0
NEW YORK 79 83 17.0
MIAMI 77 85 19.0
PHILADELPHIA 73 89 23.0

NL POSTSEASON SCHEDULE

NL WILD CARD GAME
WED: Giants at Pirates, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN)

NLDS
FRI: Game 1, Pirates at Nats, 12:07 p.m.,
OR Giants at Nats, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2, PIT/SF at Nats, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
MON: Game 3, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (MLBN)
OCT. 7: Game 4, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (FS1)*
OCT. 9: Game 5, PIT/SF at Nats, TBA (FS1)*
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