Baseball Fever: Catch It!

Putting my Mets fandom on the side for the moment (although I am wearing my Mets cap & sweatshirt today) yesterday was a baseball fans paradise. Four games, four series, some great games, one not so great game but even a bad baseball game is better than no baseball games, am I right?

Some observations:

The Strasburg Shutdown will haunt Mike Rizzo all winter if the Nationals do not advance at least to the NLCS. How much do the Nationals miss their ace since both Jordan Zimmerman and Edward Jackson have not come up big in games 2 and 3? Leo Mazzone didn’t hold back in his criticism of the Nationals not just shutting down Strasburg but the way they did it with so much pomp and circumstance. I wonder if Rizzo when staring into his morning oatmeal regrets how he and the organization went about handling Strasburg. Maybe a skipped start or reassignment to the bullpen was the better move and maybe Rizzo is finally coming to the realization that the postseason is a privilege not a birth right unless of course you were born in the South Bronx.

I have made it known here that I am a big Tim Lincecum fan and I’ve been as stumped as everyone why The Freak lost his mojo this season. As much as deep down Lincecum was seething over being demoted to bullpen duty, he didn’t sulk, didn’t throw a tantrum and said all the right things but make no mistake when you are a two time Cy Young Award winner and a wear a World Series ring, you have that certain something that separates also ran’s from champions . Lincecum stepped up like a champ yesterday as a Bruce Bochy’s stomach was doing flips every time Barry Zito delivered a pitch until he couldn’t take it anymore and lifted the sorry lefty. After great relief work by George Kontos and Jose Mijares it was time for The Freak to come in and step up. Not only did Lincecum step up, he dominated. That’s what winning players do.

As pissed off as I am over Raul Ibanez becoming the next fairy tale hero of Highlander lore, you can’t help but smirk a bit at the busted ass luck of the NY Highlanders. The last innings of the Highlanders-O’s game is the essence of how great a game baseball is. Joe Girardi made the biggest move of his managerial career in pulling the hitter formerly known as Alex Rodriguez in favor of Ibanez. Rodriguez made a wonderful grandstand move jumping up and down as if he was really thrilled for Ibanez. A-Rod said all the right rehearsed lines after the game talking up team before me and how he’s matured and is all about winning and a lot of other happy horse shit. There is no way in hell when Rodriguez went home last night and stared at his I AM CENTAUR mural above his bed that he didn’t shed a tear and spend a sleepless night trying to figure out where it has all gone wrong.  A-Rod is the Anti-Freak/      

I’ve loved watching the Oakland A’s games this year, especially the games at the Coliseum.  I have no answer why the A’s fans don’t come out in force all season as they do in the post season but I’ll say this, for all the fan bases involved in this post season , they are the most vocal and creative of them all. Every crowd shot you see is of fans deck out in A’s clothing, with banners and signs and beating drums and tom-toms, can you imagine trying to get a drum into Citi Field or Highlander Stadium? Imagine real live working class baseball fans left to be baseball fans? I lasted until the 7th inning on this game since it was after midnight and I had to get up at 5:15 this morning for work. Add to that I had watched baseball from 1PM that afternoon, I didn’t need to count rosin bags to fall asleep. It wasn’t until I turned on 101WINS while shaving that the great Mark Ernay relayed the news that the A’s came back from 3-1 down to win 4-3. Before leaving for work I just had to take a peek at the highlights on my At Bat app to see Coco Crisp come through with the game winning hit, the 15th time the A’s have walked off with a victory. The A’s get to live another day for a Game 5 showdown with Justin Verlander. Don’t count these A’s out as you can see from this quote from Josh Reddick, the A’s have a winning attitude:

“We’ve heard a lot of people say we’re not smart enough to know when to lose a game like most people do,” said Josh Reddick, who started the rally with a single. “We’ve been battling till the 27th out all year and we’re not going to stop now.”

WOW! Battling till the 27th out, what an outstanding concept are you listening Sandy? Terry? Anyone?

 

 

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My Day In The South Bronx

The new Highlander Stadium pale’s in comparison to the original 

 

As much as another bullpen meltdown set me off after yesterday’s Mets game , what added to my anger was where I spent the early part of my afternoon, Highlander Stadium.

Yup, I went to see the NY Highlanders take on the Los Angeles Angels Who Reside in Anaheim Orange County California at Highlander Stadium.  I had a whole day to myself as my son and his friends high tailed it to Great Adventure and my wife and daughter went with friends to see Ghost, leaving dear ol’ dad home alone, so I had to find something to do besides do some work around the house. Our beloved Mets were in Atlanta and the Brooklyn Cyclones were on the road, even the Staten Island Highlanders were traveling, damn not a baseball game to be had around here, except for the Bronx Bastards. I go on Stub Hub and buy a ticket in the upper deck for $30 bucks and off to the SI Ferry and 4 train I go.  Of course I am incognito and I’m happy to report I did not see one patron wearing Mets gear at this game unlike the dickheads who wear Highlander paraphernalia at a Mets-Astros game at Citi Field.

As I walked through the mall main concourse the first thing I think of is this has got to be the highest concentration of Caucasians in the boro of the Bronx since the old Swede himself, Joanas Bronck landed there in 1600’s, seriously I didn’t know if I was at a baseball game or a George Strait  concert in Branson, MO . There were a lot of tourists and tons of the upstate/NJ/CT crowd as well. It’s a much different clientele on a weekend as it on a week night but I think you can say the same for Citi Field as well. The suburbanites seem to make a big deal out of these trips to the outter boros by carrying in as much food from home as they are allowed to get past the security guards.  They also have a tough time in figuring out where their ticket says they should sit, most of the fans at the game yesterday looked at their tickets like a contestant on Survivor does at a puzzle challenge. It’s not that hard folks Section, Row, Seat all clearly marked on the ticket and throughout the stadium. Then when they finally figure out where to sit, they lack common courtesy:

Ticket Holder: Excuse me is this Section 422 Row 13?

Me: Yes

TH: oh great we have seats 5 & 6

Me: OK but this is seat 28

TH: OK so can we get through?

Me: you want to walk all across this whole row to get to your seat? Why don’t you just go back down and come up the other side of the section so you don’t disturb the whole row of people?

I may as well had been talking in Pig Latin this schmuck had no idea what I was talking about so finally I said fuck it, go ahead at least the rest of the row knew what I was talking about and gave this guy and his gal pal (both of course with cocktails in their hand) dirty looks.

I love listening to Highlander fans, there were three guys in back of me complaining after Robinson Cano hit a 3 run HR because Joe Girardi whom they refer to as “Super Genius” refuses to play small ball to get ready for the post season. The Highlanders lead all of baseball in Home Runs and these dolts want them to play “small ball”?

The most disturbing sight for me was after a Highlander home run on the side video boards they put up a picture of Michael Kay and his Alien sized dome with his mouth moving up and down and the words “See Ya” next to it. EEEEEWWWWWW!!!!!!!!! It gives me the chills just thinking of it.

So as for the game itself what pissed me off about the Mets loss yesterday was how the Highlanders beat the Angels. Freddy Garcia labored through five innings but not to worry because that’s all the Highlanders needed from Garcia as Cody Eppley pitched two solid innings in relief and David Robertson and Rafael Soriano took care of the eighth and ninth, ball game over, the beauty of having an effective bullpen.

By the time I got home from the South Bronx I caught the last three innings of Mets-Braves.  First off, why would you try to get a five out save out of Bobby Parnell? That’s not putting your player in a spot to succeed and shows you why Bob Geren was axed in Oakland. Here it is that Bobby Parnell has pitched very effectively lately as the ninth inning closer coming in to start an inning and Geren tries to destroy all the confidence building Dan Warthen and Terry Collins have worked at with Parnell. And what the hell was up taking Ruben Tejada out with a double switch for Rony Cedeno ? I don’t care if the pitchers spot was coming out Cedeno for Tejeda ? Bullshit.

Sometimes as Mets fans we forget that the core of this team is very young and still learning the big league way of playing baseball. Kirk Nieuwenhuis is really struggling as is Lucas Duda and you have to expect this. I’d  say the for Josh Thole as well plus he should not be the starting catcher (nor should Mike Nickeas) if reports are true that the Mets are looking at Kelly Shopach then please Sandy Alderson bring him in.

What has Mets fan in a tizzy is, we see there is no great team in the NL and we have the memory of past second half collapses burned in our memory.  I hope this second half the club can put up at least a 39-35 record that would give the Mets 85 wins and a shot at a Wild Card spot.

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TEJEDA AND PITCHING IS THE METS WAY TO GO

Six pitchers to win a nine inning baseball game, welcome to the next re-invention of baseball, courtesy of The Genius.  The biggest impression I have of the post season is that we are now going from having a setup man and closer as your main relievers to having to have at least seven pitchers who can come out of your pen, game in game out.  Before the post season even started, Sandy Alderson made it known that rebuilding his bullpen would be job one.  

The story of Game one changes dramatically if Allen Craig does not come through with that huge pinch hit single to put the Cards ahead 3-2. The second guessers and LaRussa haters (I raise my hand) would have been out in full force. Just goes to show the difference between a genius and an asshole in baseball is a fair ball.

There was a terrific column by Adam Rubin on ESPNNY.com on how the readiness of Ruben Tejada could soften the blow of Jose Reyes leaving for greener (backs) pastures. Rubin quotes Mark Simon, ESPN’s numbers cruncher with stats that show me the Mets would be better off with Reyes leaving and Tejada taking over shortstop and using the money saved on pitching. Defensively you really don’t lose much with Tejeda (according to the metrics the Mets would gain with Tejeda at shortstop) it’s on offense where you lose the most.

“If you look at it from a WAR [wins above replacement] perspective, Reyes was a 6.2 last year via Fangraphs. Tejada was a 1.8,” Simon said. “The question would be: What is Tejada at his best … maybe a 3-WAR player? So there is a drop-off.”

You’d think that a healthy Ike Davis, David Wright (if he’s not dealt) with the fences of Citi Field lower and closers (and painted blue I hope),and a rejuvenated Jason Bay (a guy can dream can’t he) would make up for the offensive slack lost by the dearly departed Reyes   

I think this quote from an NL scout sums it up:

  Said one National League scout: “Tejada is ready to play every day. Save the money and go get some pitching. You’re not winning anything in 2012 anyway. Find out if the kid can do it. He really has improved with the bat and gotten physically stronger. He’s going to need a backup, though, in case he gets hurt or needs a day off”

As Mets fans, we need to root for three more Redbird wins in a row so we can get our off season started, the suspense is killing me.

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HEY, HOT DOG HERE!!!!! HEY, BEER HERE!!!!!!

 

A staple at a baseball game is a hot dog and a beer, in some stadiums it can break your budget in others the combo is quite affordable as we see in this beautifully put together chart by the folks at webstaurant.com. I knew that the Cincinnati Reds sold hot dogs for a buck but who knew the Rays had the highest priced wieners in all of MLB? Maybe that’s what keeping the fans away in St. Pete?

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BOBBY PARNELL AND NICK EVANS A STUDY IN CONTRASTING PLAYERS

What’s worse than watching a baseball game in September that’s meaningless? How about watching a meaningless baseball game in September being played in “Your Name Here” Stadium in South Florida in front of dozens of fans with an hour plus rain delay? Then when the game resumes your team in this meaningless contest has the lead and the pitcher who is thought to be the closer of the future comes in and blows the save for the fourth time in nine chances, but his ass is saved by a player who you couldn’t give away at least three times this season getting the game winning hit?

So is the tale of Bobby Parnell and Nick Evans. Parnell has been given the opportunity to show he should be the closer for the Mets from now until whenever but he has shown that he does not have the qualities needed to be effective at that position. Parnell has a flamethrower for a right arm but has a ton of trouble locating pitches for strikes. He also has this nasty habit of giving up a hit and then falls apart by falling behind in the count to the next batter who either walks or gets a nice juicy fastball or a flat slider to mash at. It’s not just the pitches that are ineffective; it seems Parnell loses some nerve and confidence when he’s behind the 8 ball.  Small fires become forest fires for him on the mound.

It looks as though the manager who has shown a lot of faith in him is starting to doubt if Parnell can close out games:

“Well, we’re going to talk to Bobby tomorrow,” Collins said. “I mean, there’s a couple things (pitching coach) Dan (Warthen) had talked about with him, a couple of little pitch-location stuff that he’s just got to be able to make. He’s got to make some pitches.

“He’s got a great arm and he’s got really great stuff. But the bases on balls hurt him. Getting behind in the count hurts him. You saw the first hitter, he went right at him with good fastballs, got ahead of him in the count, and throws him a slider and it’s a mismatch. But you’ve got to be able to get ahead.

It has got to be deflating  to the team to have Parnell blow as many saves as he has and Collins made be sensing some frustration in the clubhouse so why not take Parnell out of this roll and let him work on getting his mind as well as his pitches back to where he can be effective. There is too much talent in that right arm to give up on Parnell, but Terry Collins wants to end this season on a winning note as well as evaluating players who have a future with the Mets and who doesn’t.  Using a committee of Manny Acosta, Jason Isringhausen  and the neophyte Josh Stinson looks to be the way to go for these final weeks of the season.

As for Nick Evans, how can you not root for him? He’s been tossed on the scrap heap time and again but never gets discouraged and when he gets opportunities, as he is now playing 1st base on a nightly basis, he is producing with his bat and his glove. From trolling around the team you can tell the players hold Evans in high regard as they know how hard he works to stay in the big leagues and if he can continue to produce like he has, and impress the manager like he has, he will have a spot on the 2012 Mets 25 man roster.

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SURE IT WASN’T PRETTY BUT WHAT A NICE NIGHT FOR A BALLGAME

The “paid” attendance for last night’s Mets-Padres game was 39,589. Many of those who paid to attend the game for one reason or another did not “attend” the game. In fact I’d say between 13, 000 to 14,000 of the paid folks found something to do other than attend a baseball game they “paid” to attend. If you are one of those paid attendees who didn’t bother showing up last night, can you let me know what big event was so great that you passed on this game?

I knew this would not be a well-attended game since tickets were discounted 50%  but when I arrived at Citi Field parking lot that was so sparse I wondered if an inexperienced airline pilot might mistake the lot for a LaGuardia runway? This was a 6PM as well. There were no lines to enter the ball park and as I headed to the Promenade I saw many of the concession stands closed. That’s not good in September, but it’s downright depressing to see in August.  The Shake Shack though still had a huge snaking line, I get the feeling they could open Citi Field in the middle of a winter snowstorm and there would be a line at the Shake Shack.

I never tell people how to spend their money but if you’re a Mets fan and can afford the time and money (50 % off tickets has to be an incentive) why not go out to the ball park and watch this team?

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OUT THE DOOR POST

Yesterday was a triple header day of baseball for me.  First my Babe Ruth League played a double header, yes that’s right a DOUBLE HEADER during a heat wave. We started at 8:30 AM and we finished up at 1PM winning the first game 7-6 and playing the second game to a 4-4 tie that was called due the heat after 7 innings the regulation amount of innings for Babe Ruth baseball. After a nice cool shower and lounging in air conditioning while watching the Highlanders-A’s contest from the Bronx (I muted the TV as it was Michael Kay and Paul O’Neil  doing the game and radio for Highlander games is not a option and besides I think I have a pretty good handle on the game of baseball that I really don’t need to hear the commentators unless of course it’s our own GK & R) I headed to St George for the SI Highlanders v. Tri City Cats of the Houston Astro organization. It was Boy Scout night so this was more a social call than an actual sitting and critiquing a baseball game .

So even with that I still woke up early enough to watch a replay of last nights Mets-Fish game . I think it safe to say Terry Collins went a bit to far with Chris Capuano. It looks like once you get to the third time around the lineup for Capuano, he falls apart. It will be interesting to see how Collins handles Cap in his next start as he he gets to the third at bats in the opposing line up.

Jason Bay looks like a boxer who looks toward his corner during a fight he knows he doesn’t want any more of. It’s like he wants Terry Collins to throw the towel on the field to end his season of futility. Making things worse for Bay is Lucas Duda is on fire and really needs to get into the lineup.

Maybe all this farewell to Beltran is a bit premature. What if Alderson doesn’t like the prospects offered to him for trade and says “Fuck it” and keeps Beltran for the rest of the season? Who you be surprised?

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WORST….GAME…EEEVVVVVEEEERRRRR………….

When it’s 87 degrees at 5AM you just know it’s going to be a day when putting a complete thought together is going to rough (or rougher than usual) so as I wipe the svitz off my forehead he are some thought’s for a Friday where my fingers and toes are crossed that Con Edison doesn’t fuck us over today.

Last night, I attended maybe the worst baseball game I have ever seen . It was a tilt between the Staten Island Highlanders against the Tamp Bay Rays NY-Penn League affiliate the Hudson Valley Renegades . It wasn’t bad enough that the heat and humidity in the soulless Richmond County Ballpark was suffocating, the play on the field was atrocious. Both teams combined for NINE ERRORS, the baby Highlanders account for six of them. The home plate ump Brain Miller made the night even more unbearable, allowing both teams to conducted marathon visits to the mound to the point I had to scream out to him “Blue com’on move it along” which could be heard clearly by the umpire as the stands were inhabited by about 1,000 or so sweaty ass’s in the seats and I was right behind home plate. Umpire Miller glared at me and I gave him an “are you fucking kidding me look” when he used his best judgment of the night and put his mask back on and continued the game. Asshole.

Oh by the way, the baby Highlanders won 8-7 and have an incredible 25-8 record that no one on Staten Island gives a rat’s ass about. This is one of the biggest head scratchers for me, Staten Island is Highlander country, you see about 10 Highlanders t-shirts/jersey’s to every Mets piece of apparel but for some reason the Baby Highlanders can’t draw anyone to the downtown ball park except when the Brooklyn Cyclones make the trip over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.  I get a few different reasons from Highlander friends and acquaintances on why they don’t patronize the minor league team. Some tell me they’d rather see the “real” Highlanders, some live on the South Shore of the Island and hate making the trek downtown. Some will go on the weekends when the club draws a bit better but the biggest segment of the fan base comes by ferry from Manhattan.  Manny of the fans at last night’s game were Manhattanites who live in Tribeca or SoHo and love taking the ferry over watching the game and then head back to the city.  

Give me MCU Park and the  Coney Island Boardwalk anytime.

David Wright is back tonight (as is Kevin Burkhardt on SNY) so it will be interesting to see how the offense works with Reyes lighting the fuse at the top and Beltran, Wright and Murph in the middle of the lineup. How long Beltran will be a Met is an ongoing saga. It seems from what you read Alderson is more than willing to trade your team Carlos Beltran and about $6 mil to cover his paychecks for the rest of the year for one of your prized farm hands. If you feel Beltran is the missing piece to your post season run you can have him, but he’s not coming cheap. Seems most of the GM’s who are in position to deal suffer from irritable bowel syndrome when Sandy Alderson rings the phone.  Bottom line, one of these contenders will cave as the bat of Beltran is too powerful to pass up and the Mets will get a top prospect in return.

I can’t stand the NJ Devils but I am very sad that Doc Emrick is leaving MSG and Devils play by play to be the exclusive voice of the NHL on NBC/Versus. I’m sure most of you have read the articles on Emrick on what a great guy he is and his play by play of hockey is unmatched and having met Doc I can tell it’s all true.

About 5 or so years ago, my wife and I were Christmas shopping at the Paramus Mall. As usual I had  enough of shopping and Christmas, so I told my wife to continue her spending spree while I hit the bench with a Starbucks Latte for a while.  A few minutes after I took a load off, a gentleman sat next to me, it was none other than Doc Emrick. I sat and talked hockey and baseball l with him for about a half hour when he had to leave. When he got up, he put out his hand and said to me “thank you for making this trip to the mall worthwhile for me, I enjoyed our conversation” I was like, “are you kidding, thank you for making me  glad I came here” we both laughed  and shook hands. Great guy that Doc.

(Sorry the link button is not working)

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BRING ON THE HIGHLANDERS!!!!!!!!!!!

A quick note before I get rolling here, posting will be sporadic the next four days as I head off to a mini family vacation in Pennsylvania, after an 8:30AM baseball game tomorrow I’ll be off to the Pocono’s where I may or may not have a lot of internet access. I will try to fit in some posts in the mornings if I do since I get up with the roosters even on days off if not here I may just throw some stuff out on Twitter (follow me there @ kranepool )

My heartfelt condolences go out to Willie Harris and his wife on the loss of their child. I cannot think of anything more heartbreaking than what the Harris’ are going through. My prayers and thoughts are with them.

I thought that gesture the Mets make when they reach base when the put their hand over there head was a way to say the spotlight is on you. I thought I read that or heard some place early this season but I guess it’s not. It seems it’s similar to what the Texas Rangers made famous last season as the Antler but the Mets call it the “Claw” which is quite ironic since the owners are involved in a claw back suit against them by the Madoff trustees. If Irv Picard wins this case and wipes out the skill sets I wonder if he will give the “Claw” in the courtroom.

Being that I’ll be away for the Subway Series, I doubt I’ll get to see any of the games live (my  wife decided tonight would be a good night to go see “Catch Me If You Can” on Broadway) unless of course I can get everyone to agree to a late lunch/early dinner at restaurant with a TV, a good possibility, but this should be one of the better Subway Series in a while. Both teams are playing winning baseball; the Highlanders are the hottest team in the game, closing in on the Phuck Phaces for the best record in MLB. They have gone 21-9 in their last 30 games. The Mets though are not that far behind them winning 18 of their last 30. As it is, this series is more important for the Mets as they try to continue to keep pace in the NL Wild Card Race. They come into the series on a high note (Yesterday’s loss the exception as Mike Pelfrey was bad again, more on Pelf in a minute) taking 4 of 6 on the road from the Rangers and Tigers and really needing to keep winning series. We have reached July 1 with the end of the month the trade deadline so if the Mets want to put the pressure on the front office and ownership to decide to buy and not sell at the end of the month they need to continue this string of winning. If the team is in striking distance of a Wild Card spot, no more than 5 games behind, Sandy Alderson will have to make an effort to upgrade the bullpen as it’s the bullpen that will decide if the Mets stay in the post season hunt. As well as the team has played the last two months, the bullpen is a problem and it doesn’t look like there are any candidates in Buffalo or Bingo to help out. Since Jeffey Skill Sets proclaimed that Alderson can add whatever he feels is necessary to make run. We’ll see. Talk is cheap.   

What to do with Big Pelf? Yesterday was his second straight bad start as he proclaimed after the game that just like Arlington, he could not command his fastball for strikes. So his fastball contributed to his walking 5 batters and falling behind in the count and coming in with pitches that were quite hittable, led to Pelf’s downfall. You wonder what the front office makes of Pelfrey? Terry Collins does what any good manager would do, he protects his player, although I don’t think he even believes the positive spin he has put on Pelfrey’s last two starts but I’m sure Alderson already feels like Mike Pelfrey will not be a Met in 2012. Pelfrey makes a shade under $4mil and is arbitration eligible I believe for the last time this off season so what kind of deal do you offer him?  A multi year deal? Hell no! A one year deal at $5mil+ ? Not with the tight budget the club is projecting for next season. So with that it looks like either Big Plef gets dealt or non-tendered. Kinda sad though but deserved.

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A FRIDAY QUICK HIT

I’ve got a ton of work to get to today and if the rain holds off a baseball game to manage tonight so just a few quickies before my nose meets the old grind stone:

Good medical news finally as Davis Wright will head to Port St. Lonesome and engage in baseball activities that hopefully gets him back to the Mets by the All Star break. I love Jose Reyes telling Wright to “Have fun in St. Lucie” then laughing to reporters “There is nothing to do there”

Hopefully all Chris Capuano is suffering from is a cramp in his abdomen from not being sufficiently hydrated and not some oblique-intercostal bullshit muscle pull thingy.

The whole back page of the NY Daily News today is just bunch of sensational bullshit, in fact I just spent more time on it than I should have.

The Jim Riggleman resignation is the talk of baseball today. After reading Ken Rosenthal’s article on Riggleman walking out on the Nats you can say there are two sides to the story and when you start hearing the manager and scouts all agree that GM Mike Rizzo has a problem with communicating with them, you could see that Riggelman’ ultimatum that his contract option for 2012 be picked up or else was a cry to get the GM’s attention. Bottom line is Riggleman quit on his team and what makes it worse is his team is on a roll as they are just 4 ½ games off the Wild Card and they have been winning at home so Riggleman comes off as a real selfish prick with this move. I agree with Rosenthal as I definitely see Davey Johnson being the first choice to take over the Nats for at least the rest of the season as this is the perfect Davey Johnson situation.

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Tickets

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