Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April 17- Washington Nationals

I’m finally back in Florida!!! After two months of being away from my girlfriend Angie Kinderman (@sconnieangie) I was finally able to complete my education at the University of Oregon, get down to the Bay Area for Opening Day with the Oakland Athletics and be stably unemployed for the last month. All of those things were definite motivators for me to get out to be with the one lady in my life who I love more than baseball. Hard to believe, right? Thanks to a generous gift from my friend Anthony Curtis (@AnthonyCurtis68) I was able to take a red eye flight on Tuesday night at which I got in around 7 AM. Being in a long distance relationship kind of sucks, but if both parties are happy enough with the other and willing to make it work, then there nothing will stand in your way of making it last until you can be together for the rest of your lives. This, in a nut shell, is how I feel about Angie.

I’ve never much cared for airplanes. In fact, they terrify me. While I totally understand that it is statistically a much safer means of travel, I still hate the idea of being trapped in a compartment 30,000 feet above the ground. I’m not much of a drinker, but in this case I felt it was a necessary tool in helping me fall asleep. I decided to roll the dice with a bottle of Jack Daniels, at which I was hooked up with an extra one because it took the flight attendant a while to be able to get one to me. I did not complain one bit.

I crushed the first one fairly quickly with a Coke Zero on the side as I am a proponent on never mixing anything with whiskey or bourbon. Unfortunately, every time I tried to nod off to sleep the woman next to me rolled over and smacked me with her elbow. I could have said something, but I decided to watch TV shows on my Ipod instead.

The six-and-a-half hour flight went by pretty quick with my TV aid as well touched down in Fort Lauderdale. Now, the one thing I hate more than being stuck in an airplane up in the air is being stuck in an airplane while it’s on the ground. I always have my stuff together and try not to be “that guy” who holds everybody up. The 30-40 old people sitting in the seats ahead of me felt the exact opposite of me however. After about a 15 minute wait I rushed out the door and down to baggage claim where my sweetie was waiting for me. One of the greatest feelings in the world is that first hug and kiss we share whenever we see one another after a long wait. It’s a reassurance that all of the patience and sacrifice the two of you make all becomes worth in that tender moment.

Angie had to be at work at 9:00 AM unfortunately, so we didn’t have that much time to spend together before she changed into her operating room scrubs and headed out the door to the hospital she’s working at as a part of her rotation as she finishes up her education at Nova Southeastern University. We had one last long kiss goodbye before she walked out and I went right to sleep. Angie and I had tickets for tonight’s Miami Marlins game against the Washington Nationals and I had plenty of time to catch a snooze before she got home from work to change and head out. Since I knew in advance we were going to the game I made sure to plan ahead in the apparel department and was ready to roll with my Jayson Werth (WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF!!!) player-T and a brand new Nationals road cap.

The Nationals started using this cap at the start of the 2011 season as a replacement for the all navy blue road cap they wore from their inaugural season in 2005 through the end of the 2010 season. I wrote about that cap on February 8 and it is still hands down one of my favorite caps to wear. It was also one of the best selling caps between 2005 and 2008, and I’ll never understand why they decided to get rid of it. Either way, with a new cap on the shelf, I was quick to scoop it up during the fall of 2011 from the Lids in Eugene, Oregon. Because let’s face it; the more hats a team brings out, the more hats I’ll be adding to my collection.

Since I was wearing it for the first time I hadn’t had a chance to mark it up yet. Some time last week I had an idea of two players I was originally going to add to it, but that was all before I won a rare red “DC” logo cap on Ebay. Not only is that post in the not-too-distant future, I also felt the two guys I had in mind were a better fit for that era. So, I rolled the dice with these knuckleheads.

#20- Ian Desmond was a third round draft pick by the Montreal Expos back in 2004 out of Sarasota High School in Florida. What’s most interesting about this pick is that it was the final year in which the franchise drafted as the Expos. Even more interesting than that, Desmond is one of only two guys drafted by the Expos that year who are currently playing in the Majors. Collin Balester is the other guy. From 2004-2008 Desmond had some mediocre years in the Minors. He hit .26y with the Potomac Nationals in 2007 and never had more than 13 home runs in any of the years he played in the Minors. The 13 home runs also occurred in 2007. In 2009 Desmond hovered between the AA Harrisburg Senators and AAA Syracuse Chiefs, a season in which everything came together for him as a hitter. That season he hit .330 with seven home runs, 32 RBI and 21 stolen bases. With the September call-ups just around the corner, Desmond got the nod.

On September 10, 2009 Desmond made his long-awaited MLB debut against Joe Blanton and the rival Philadelphia Phillies. Every day shortstop Christian Guzman had gotten the day off. Desmond did not let his opportunity go to waste. In the fifth inning, during his second at-bat, Desmond tagged Blanton for his first career home run with two on and two out. Before the day was over Desmond would add a double to his achievements. Desmond also found himself in the driver’s seat as the every day shortstop from that day forward. Guzman converted to a second base role; however, he was traded to Texas Rangers in July of 2010. He has been a free agent ever since. Desmond had decent seasons in 2010 and 2011, but it was in 2012 where Desmond proved his worth.

I had been an avid follower of Desmond’s since his days in the Minors and I always made sure to pick him up for my fantasy baseball teams in 2010 and 2011, knowing that he would be a reliable substitute for my regular starters. It was only a matter of time before Desmond’s potential showed. In the MLB Fan Cave we had our own fantasy league going and Kyle Thompson was the lucky recipient of Mr. Desmond somewhere in the middle of the draft. I was not cool with this; however, I had drafted David Freese, a move he was not cool with as St. Louis Cardinals fan.

By the end of April Freese was one of the best hitter in the game, proving his numbers in the 2011 postseason weren’t a fluke. This made Kyle unhappy. On numerous occasions he asked me if I would be willing to trade him. Every time I responded I reminded him that in the eight previous years I had never made a trade. I had picked up Rafael Furcal off the free agency wire in the second week of May, a move that proved to be very valuable for me. Furcal had gone on a tear and I continually punished my opponents on a daily basis. Because I had another Cardinal on my team, Kyle of course became incredibly jealous. He one again offered a trade, this time for Freese and Furcal. I looked over his roster and told him two players I felt would make for a fair exchange: Desmond and Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre. He immediately declined. Two weeks would go by as Freese and Furcal would continue to light it up offensively. Desmond and Beltre were putting up decent numbers at the time, but not enough that would motivate anyone to make the deal that I was asking, but I knew from past experiences and research on each player that they were due for a power surge. Kyle did not know this. Kyle was thinking more with his heart than with his brain, a surefire mistake when it come to fantasy baseball. On May 14th Kyle sent me a trade request: Beltre and Desmond for Furcal and Freese. I happily accepted his deal. What’s funny about this move is that I wrote a sketch for the Fan Cave about it. The scenario would have been the two of us in a fancy restaurant at which he would slide me over a card with his offer. I would proceed to yell at him and storm out of the restaurant for such a horrible deal. The screen would go black, a message of “30 seconds later” would pop up, come back to scene of me walking back in and accepting his deal. That’s just the Cliff’s Notes version. With Desmond, his season was just about to take off.

Almost immediately after the deal was made Desmond took off offensively. Desmond hit four home runs in the first week-and-a-half. He would then go on to average over .312 every month from June 1 through the end of the season. He finished the year with career highs in average (.292), home runs (25), RBI (73), hits (150), doubles (33) and runs (72) despite only playing in 130 games. His campaign landed him his first of many All-Star Game appearances, a Silver Slugger award and a respectable 16th place finish in the National League MVP vote. Needless to say, I was quite happy with the results.

#48- I had the pleasure of meeting Ross Detwiler in the Fan Cave when he came in, along with Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson, in early April 2012. Due to the fact that Detwiler was making his season debut that evening he kind of kept to himself toward the entrance of the building, away from everyone else. Gonzalez and Jackson ran around the place like it was a Chuck E. Cheese. The sketch that the production crew had set up involved Gonzalez and Jackson taking care of Detwiler’s daily activities so he could concentrate on his start. Jackson walked all of Detwiler’s dogs while Gonzalez had some dental work done in his place. One of the scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor involved the two transporting a body in a black body bag. Still not sure why they cut it. While all of the filming was taking place I took it upon myself to go over and talk to Detwiler as everyone else had ignored him. We chatted about music and a few movies to try and help him relax. I was able to help coax a bit of a smile out of him, and by this time all the other Cave Dwellers decided to finally come over and talk to. From what I recall the others talked about his start, something I didn’t want to touch. He seemed cool with it though. That night he pitched five solid inning of scoreless baseball, only giving up one walk and two hits while striking out six.

Detwiler broke into the Majors in 2007, the same year he was drafted out of Missouri State University. He only made one appearance that season on September 7: one perfect inning. Detwiler wouldn’t be seen again until 2009 where he made spot starts until the 2012 season. His first three full years were a bit rough; however, his 2012 campaign ended with a 10-8 record, a 3.40 ERA and 105 strikeouts. During my travels around the country last season I saw him make a start against the New York Mets at which he pitched six decent innings, giving up three earned runs off of one walk and six hits. The Nationals won the game 6-4 for his seventh win on the season.

Tonight Detwiler made his third start of the season against the Marlins with Angie and me in house. In his previous two starts Detwiler has been pitching near flawlessly. He had only given up three walks, 10 hits and one earned run in 13 innings, good enough for a 2-0 record and a 0.69 ERA. Against the Marlins he was just as good, going seven innings while only giving up one earned run off of seven hits and zero walks. He currently stands at 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA and is currently leading the pace for the NL Cy Young award.

While Angie and I didn’t necessarily have a horse in the race in the game, it was great to get back to the stadium where our relationship first blossomed. As much as people want to knock how gaudy it looks and how poorly assembled the team is, Angie and I will always look at it as our own special place where we first fell in love.

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