Archives for category: Uncategorized

It’s been well-documented that I watched the show Beverly Hills, 90210 when it aired. Sometimes I’d watch both re-runs from 4 to 6 p.m. on FX as I worked mornings at the time.  If you watch a show often enough over an extended period off time, you can’t help but make up lyrics to it’s instrumental theme song (I crushed it in the early 80’s with “Dallas”, “Falcon Crest” and “Magnum PI”).  So without further ado, the lyrics to 90210.  Much more amusing if you watch the credits with music while reading…:

 

Beverly Hills, 90210 (clap-clap)

Beverly Hills, 90210 (2x)

This is the show–this is the school where they go. We call this Beverly Hills, 90210.

First there’s Brandon-he is the coolest.

Then there is Brenda-she is never wrong.

Kelly is a blonde they say she’s hot.

Steve thinks he’s cool but he’s not.

And Andrea is smarter than all the rest!

Dylan is real cool, he’s on the edge…

David is a fool, he likes to dance…

And then there’s Donna-she is a daughter…

Then there’s the parents Cindy and then there’s Jim…

That is our show…90210.

The first four seasons rolled like this before Shannen Doherty left;  then you had to make up lyrics for Jesse (Andrea’s husband), Nat, Ray Pruit, and Claire Arnold.  Hold on–how did Kathleen Robertson receive lower billing than Joe E. Tata?  The final year was especially tough to stomach;  Matt Durning and Janet did not merit nor receive personalized lyrics.

 

Who wants to hear my “Magnum PI” lyrics?

Advertisements

Welcome back!  Who’s ready for another season of Skinsanity?  The only team that plays games in one state, practices in another commonwealth and takes its name from a different district is back for more fun and games!  Will the sixth year of the Jay Gruden regime result in the second double-digit win season this century?  Or will this be the fourth straight third place finish for the Burgundy and Gold?  Say what you will about Gruden; he’s the first coach since Steve Spurrier (a pair of thirds) not to have multiple last-place finishes on his resume.  No matter what happens, the Skins will provide theater from Labor Day to New Year’s on a weekly basis (minus the bye week November 10).

Hot Topics in Richmond- the Redskins close the books on another summer in the commonwealth’s capital.  Entering training camp there were questions about the status of left tackle Trent Williams, the quarterback competition and of course which color pants the team would wear.  For the record, I wish they’d stick with gold pants at home with burgundy jerseys and red pants with white tops on the road.

The first preseason game (don’t you dare call it an exhibition) saw a few answers in the 30-10 defeat at Cleveland.  First, the Skins are wearing white pants with the burgundy jerseys-I’m just thankful they don’t have the team name on their pants like the Browns do. 

Second, Case Keenum emerges as the leading quarterback candidate after completing 4 of 9 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown.  The oft-injured Colt McCoy did not play (twisted ankle suffered in practice a few days before) while first round pick Dwayne Haskins completed 8 of 14 passes for 117 yards but was intercepted twice.  Fourth stringer Josh Woodrum?  Already on Injured Reserve with a torn pec.

Lastly, Trent Williams did not practice one snap at Training Camp as the veteran continues his holdout. Reports are that Williams never wants to play another down for the Burgundy and Gold, and even though things can turn on a dime in the NFL this impasse feels Grand Canyonesque.  His absence won’t just affect the left tackle spot, but likely will bleed over into the center of the offensive line.  Prepare for a drawn out finish that will make nobody happy.

Banner Season- last August was the first Preseason in nine years where the Redskins finished with a losing record. If there’s one thing we’ve become accustomed to this decade, it’s dominating the dress rehearsals: now 24-13 (12-9 under Gruden) with a 14-4 (7-3 under Gruden) home mark.  We’ll take last Thursday as an aberration…

Award Season- while the Redskins hopes for an August championship may be dimmed, there is the annual excitement surrounding the “Babe Laufenberg Trophy”- named after the former quarterback who shined in the Preseason during three stints yet never actually appeared in a game for the Skins.  Previous winners under the Gruden regime:

2018- running back Kapri Bibbs: 106 yards rushing plus 119 receiving.  Linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton finished a close second with 26 tackles.

2017- linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons: 15 tackles plus an interception returned for a TD.

2016- running back Mack Brown: 39 carries for 227 yards and a touchdown.

2015- wide receiver Rashad Ross: 25 catches for 266 yards and four touchdowns, although LB Jackson Jeffcoat notched 4 sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception.

2014- quarterback Colt McCoy: 73% completion rate for 496 yards and 4 TD (111.6 rating). McCoy came close to winning the first two-time winner of the award in 2017.

This year’s early candidates include cornerback Jimmy Moreland (a team-high six tackles), linebacker Cassanova McKinzy (a fumble recovery and one sweet name) plus wide receivers Darvin Kidsy (5 catches for 86 yards) and Robert Davis (a 46-yard TD reception for the team’s lone score).  Best of luck, gentlemen…

The Nats almost went from the ridiculous high of sweeping San Francisco behind the oh so unpredictable arms of Joe Ross and Erick Fedde (plus Anibal Sanchez) to a nightmare weekend in New York.  Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin both pitched well enough, but the bullpen blew up both Friday and Saturday nights and the team was fortunate on Sunday to beat the Mets 7-4.  Juan Soto’s strained ankle is day to day and Max Scherzer remains on the long road back, but for the moment the Nats are still trending upward: 4-2 for the week, 5-4 for the month and 15-13 since the All Star Game.  They won’t go back inside the division until August 30 but will play 21 of their final 30 games against NL East foes.

Digesting the Division- Atlanta remains atop the NL East thanks to a 4-3 week; they’re 70-50 mark is two games better than where last year’s division champs were at this point.  The Nats (62-55) inch to within six and a half games of the lead while the streaking New York Mets (61-57 after a 6-1 week) are eight behind the Braves.  Philadelphia (60-58) drops nine games back after a 2-5 week; they’re 4-7 this month and 13-15 since the All Star Game.  Thank goodness the basement is a few levels down as Miami (44-73) is zeroing in on a tenth straight losing season (after five winning years the previous decade).

The Wild Wildcard Race- Sunday’s win over the Mets kept the Nats a half game ahead of St. Louis for the Wildcard lead; a loss would have dropped the team into a tie with Milwaukee a half game behind the Cardinals and Mets.  Of the five teams in the mix (Philadelphia is just two and a half games behind the Nationals), the Nats own the worst record in one-run decisions (12-18).  The best?  The Brewers are 20-13 in such games.

O’s Woes- the Birds beat back the brooms by outslugging Houston 8-7 thanks to a Rio Ruiz walkoff homer.  The victory ends a five-game losing streak that included a 23-2 rout at the hands of the Astros the night before.  The home run coughed up Sunday was the 241st allowed this year by the Orioles-tying the American League record set by the 1996 Detroit pitching staff.  They’re also 17 homers shy of Cincinnati’s major league record of 258 set three years ago.  This week the Birds battle the New York Yankees- as the current elimination number is eight the O’s could be eliminated from the AL East by Thursday night.

Harper’s Weekly- the former face of the franchise hit .286 with three homers and seven RBI, putting him back on pace to hit .250 with 30 HR and 110 RBI.  He’s also on track to strike out 188 times (he’s currently tied for the  league  lead at 137).  All while the Phillies sink into the Wildcard quicksand.

Last Week’s Heroes- Juan Soto hit .368 with three homers and six RBI while Trea Tuner (.304) and Adam Eaton (.400) each scored seven runs. Erick Fedde and Joe Ross may be the back end of this rotation, but each tossed six scoreless innings at San Francisco.

Last Week’s Humbled- Sean Doolittle and Fernando Rodney had late-inning hiccups Friday and Saturday against the Mets. Brian Dozier went 0-for-14 at the plate while Matt Adams went 5-for-21 with nine strikeouts.

Game to Watch- Wednesday the Nats wrap up their series with Cincinnati as Stephen Strasburg (14-5, 3.72 ERA) faces midseason pickup Trevor Bauer (10-8, 3.74).  It’s also the final game for the Reds in DC, meaning Marty Brennaman will say one last time, “So long, everybody” as he closes the broadcast.  The longtime announcer is calling it a career after 46 years with the team.

Game to Miss- Marty’s final tour distracts the faithful from another disappointing campaign;  the Reds haven’t had a winning record or made the playoffs since 2013 (a Wildcard loss to Pittsburgh).  In his first 23 years at the mic, Cincinnati posted 16 winning records and finished first or second in the division 15 times while winning three World Series (two via sweep).  Over the last 22 and a half years (including this season’s 56-60 start) the Reds have finished over .500 just five times.  Tuesday they pitch Alex Wood, who won 16 games two years ago for the Dodgers but has a 5.65 ERA over three starts.  Watch old videos of the Big Red Machine instead.

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

I come here not to praise Beverly Hills, 90210.  Nor bury it.  The show gave me endless hours of entertainment during the 1990’s as I went from socially awkward college student to underachieving professional over a ten-year span.  The program gave me plenty of laughs, with some of the humor actually being intentional and served as an interesting bookend to a decade where I learned, made mistakes, grew and didn’t grow from those mistakes, and developed the legendary Big Bob’s Buffalo Burrito while working for Shorty’s Mexican Roadhouse in Litchfield, NH. (for those who aren’t curious:  fajita chicken, buffalo wing sauce and bleu cheese on the inside, wing sauce on the outside, fries with a ramekin of bleu cheese on the side).

It’s been a long time since “Nine-Oh” (what a few of us called it back in the day when it was airing new shows on FOX while simultaneously re-running from 4 to 6 p.m. on FX) was on.  And now it’s back. Kind of. In a way. This summer’s reboot isn’t just about the further adventures of Brandon Walsh (last we heard he was working in Washington reporting on everything for a paper like the Post) and Kelly Taylor (I’m bracing for the trauma the character will endure this time).  There was the reboot on FOX last decade that had a few appearances from original cast members (Jennie Garth, Shannen Doherty and Tori Spelling each made appearances) but dealt with new characters for the most part.  This edition will feature the original cast, like “Dallas” on TNT earlier this decade.   Only it‘s going to pull the curtain back and let the audience reconnect with the actors as actors.  Because not only have I not cared for the last 20 years wondering about how Steve Sanders turned out, but I also have given little or no thought in to what Ian Ziering is up to.  I’m sure he’s a great guy;  I’ve just moved on.

I guess you could say that when “Nine-Oh” was on, I loved watching it not because it was good (and there were more than a few ambitious attempts at quality drama), but I enjoyed watching it because it could be unbelievably bad.  There were plenty of highs and lows and I enjoyed every minute of it, even when show was running on fumes over the last few seasons (some say the final year and a half while others claim the last four seasons were unwatchable).  When I find a TV show to lock into, I’m there until the bitter end.  And the end is usually bitter, from “How I Met Your Mother” to “24” to “Dallas” to “Happy Days”.  But for a while it was fun to escape from my troubles and trials at the time to slip into a booth at the Peach Pit and see what the cool kids of West Beverly (later California University and beyond) were up to.  Am I excited for this reboot?  Certainly not. Will I watch it?  Probably, while simultaneously laughing at myself for doing so.

 

Nine Ohs: Five Must See Episodes-

“Spring Dance”- Season One.  After being rebranded from “Beverly Hills High School” in the pilot stage (the guy who played Ferris Bueller’s dad was the original Jim Walsh) and a message-heavy first season that included very special episodes about teen suicide (Matthew Perry in a guest spot), bulimia, teen alcoholism, and having a pool party in Palm Springs, the kids go all-out for the Prom.  Breakout star Dylan McKay (played by the late Luke Perry-who was truly the straw that stirred the drink on this show) and goody-two-shoes Brenda Walsh decide to have sex in the hotel where the Prom is being held.  Characters squabble over teen stuff while Andrea imagines going on a killing spree.  David Silver dances up a storm and at the end everybody’s happy to be friends.  I think this was repeated at the end of “Mean Girls”-although I could be wrong.

“The Next 50 Years”- Season Two.  Rumor has it actor Douglas Emerson (who played awkward freshman Scott Scanlon) had just purchased a Saab when he was told his character was going to be “transitioned” from main to recurring cast.  While the show caught fire by airing a summer season, Scott was shipped off to Oklahoma where he returned wearing a cowboy hat and had a gun fixation.  During a “very special” episode that fall, Scanlon shot himself while twirling a gun after his birthday party (yes- that was the script).  The kids deal with grief as only a TV show clique can.  Major props to Brian Austin Green in this episode as David Silver, who ditched his best friend to hang out with the cool kids that fall.

“Something in the Air”- Season Three.  Wouldn’t you know it, Donna Martin (played by Tori Spelling) didn’t anything the day of the Senior Prom so she could fit into her dress.  And wouldn’t you know she was given champagne at a pregame party hosted by David Silver’s dad (more on that later).  And wouldn’t you know she’d get caught drunk by the Principal and suspended from school.  Thank goodness for Brandon Walsh and the gang who staged a walkout from final exams and chanted “Donna Martin Graduates” at Donna’s hearing with the School Board.  And wouldn’t you know it, Donna gets reinstated and all is back to normal.  I want to say something just like this happened in Bethesda a few years ago.

“What I Did on My Summer Vacation and Other Stories”- Season Five.  How do you replace one of your lead actors?  After a freshman year at “California University” where the entire gang attended yet dealt with different storylines (from Steve Sanders joining the KEG house to Andrea becoming a mother), Shannen Doherty left the show and the producers replaced the actress with Tiffani-Amber Thiessen as Valerie Malone, a seemingly sweet girl from Buffalo but deep down a schemer extraordinaire.  Valerie’s addition gave the show a much-needed shot in the arm.  She’d provide a great counterpoint to Kelly Taylor and the rest of the gang over the next three seasons.  Much better than Ted McGinley.

“One Wedding and a Funeral”- Season Six.  Luke Perry had one foot out the door after five years at the Peach Pit, and he brought it in his final storyline where Dylan pursued the man who seemingly killed his father (in a twist nobody asked for Jack McKay turned up alive in season ten) only to fall in love for the mobster’s daughter.  They get married after a whirlwind courtship.  Daddy mobster orders a hit on the groom and in a twist you could see coming two episodes away it’s Dylan’s wife who gets shot instead.  Regardless, a gripping exit for Dylan and Perry.  Sadly the spotlight distracted one from multiple  developments on the show:  from abusive boyfriend Ray Pruit sticking around to somehow we’re supposed to buy Steve and Clare as a couple, Kelly’s new bad-news boyfriend, Valerie’s latest schemes backfiring, and how does Brandon basically walk on the school paper and become editor within a week?  Once the sideburns left the zip code, Nine-Oh! became Nine…oh.

 

And there were still three and a half seasons remaining!  This is when I would skip weeks at a time and watch again only to grimace.  But never fear, there were other “standard” shows:

Walsh Open House for the Holidays- poor Jim and Cindy Walsh.  In the early seasons, it always seemed like their home became a gathering for Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations;  you know, the kind of things you want to share with your immediate family and not a homeless guy your son met on the beach (actual episode).  Lessons were learned, and hugs were handed out after at least one explosion at the table (not to mention David Silver’s mom cooking the turkey upside-down).  We laughed, cried and left the episode thankful our real-life friends observed holiday boundaries.

Recycled Roadtrips- nothing like leaving town to find yourself during a tough time at the holidays.  In season two, Steve bolted to find his real mother and while the ending was bittersweet the episode “A Walsh Family Christmas” (Steve was I think the only one who didn’t crash Jim and Cindy’s) served its purpose.  Cue up season three’s “Wild Horses”, where Dylan departs after being accused of cheating on his SAT’s only to learn some life lesson.  Naturally as the first-billed actor, Jason Priestley’s Brandon Walsh gets TWO episodes in season four (“Radar Love”/”Emily”) after he’s blackmailed into helping a college basketball cheat because it appears as though he’s having an affair with a professor’s wife.

Breaking Bad in Beverly- 90210 was notorious for adding characters who would seem nice at first, only to have them go off the rails at the end of the actor’s contract.  Emily Valentine going from “cool biker girl” to “the kid who almost lit a homecoming float on fire” set the standard, followed by:  Ray Pruit’s arc from sensitive blue-collar guitarist to abusive boyfriend, Joe Bradley (sensitive quarterback wasn’t a fan of Donna showing skin in a music video), Colin (artistic boyfriend of Kelly gets her hooked on drugs), Susan Keats (Andrea 2.0 dates Brandon and leaves him to work in the White House), Mark Reese (TV station manager loses it after not getting a Fellowship and Kelly), etc.

Redundant Recasts- what made the addition of Valerie Malone awesome was that she wasn’t a carbon copy of Brenda Walsh.  Not so in future recasts.  Dylan leaves?  Let’s add Vincent Young as trust fund-rebel Noah.  Valerie departs?  Cue up Vanessa Marcil as Gina Kincaid, Donna’s cousin (eventual half-sister) who’s sweet figure skating front is betrayed by, yes, deviousness scheming.  Brandon bolts for a newspaper job in DC? Let’s cast Daniel Cosgrove and make him Brandonesque nice-guy lawyer Matt Durning.  Durning also had a season ten flameout after a roadtrip while crashing at least one holiday celebration so he could check most of the boxes.

Poor Parent Appears-  just when you thought the kids had issues (and they did), let’s look at the rogues gallery of parents.  Let’s see;  Dylan’s dad was an embezzling felon, David’s father cheated on each of his wives while his mom cooked turkey upside-down on Thanksgiving, Kelly’s mom was an addict who wound up marrying David’s dad while her father was arrested for embezzlement, Steve’s dad was hilariously obnoxious (played deliciously by the late Jed Allan), and Donna’s mom was snobbily pretentious when not cheating on Dr. Martin (but not after his first heart attack). A parent would show up in the first five minutes of an episode and you’d just know there would be a very bad life decision made by the bottom of the hour.  Poor Jim and Cindy Walsh-they move from Minnesota and suddenly they find themselves in this peer group?

 

We all know that “Beverly Hills, 90210” spun off “Melrose Place” which begat the short-lived “Models, Inc.”…but I’m surprised-especially with FOX TV’s lack of sustainable programming in the 90’s-there weren’t more spinoffs from the mother ship.  Programs I would have definitely watched:

“Duke the Bookie”- remember season three when Brandon developed a gambling problem?  He was about to get his legs broken before Nat stepped in to save the day?  I’m kind of bummed we didn’t learn more about Duke-who could have been repurposed into a widower with three kids who’s trying to raise a family on his own while still meting out punishment and running numbers.

“Valentine’s Days”- after she almost lit the homecoming float on fire, Emily Valentine sought psychiatric care.  And was cured in time to rekindle her romance with Brandon two years later before leaving to study Oceanography.  Wouldn’t you want to follow her further adventures at sea?  The potential romantic entanglements with fellow students, crew members and natives?  It’s like “That Girl”–only on the ocean.

“Teasley’s Times”- one felt for West Beverly Vice Principal Mrs. Teasley.  So much better at her job than Richard Belding at Bayside, yet minimal character development outside of getting to attend David and Donna’s wedding in the series finale.  Why not use that appearance as a springboard to running a school?

“Bradley’s Boys”- Donna’s season six boyfriend Joe Bradley stopped playing football because of his heart condition and became a small-town high school coach to pave the way for Donna and David to reunite.  “Friday Night Lights” proved that clear eyes and full storylines can’t lose.

 

MLB’s Trading Deadline saw the Nationals make multiple moves-each for a bullpen bandage (as opposed to previous bandaids or napkins like Javy Guerra and Dan Jennings).  Dan Hudson, Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland (yes, that guy) come to DC to patch up the worst bullpen in the big leagues.  And while the Nats still need to get solid starting pitching plus continue to produce on offense to make the middle relievers worthwhile pickups, it’s a step in the right direction even in the middle of a week where the team dropped four of six to now lose three straight series.

Digesting the Division- Atlanta (66-47) went 4-3 last week with a huge road series win at the Nationals.  While the Braves aren’t running away with the NL East (they’re 12-10 since the All Star break), they aren’t imploding either (6-4 against division foes since the hiatus).  Philadelphia’s 3-3 week moves Bryce Harper’s Bunch into a second-place tie with the Nats, just in time to visit fellow Wildcard contenders Arizona and San Francisco.  The New York Mets (55-56) had the best week in the division at 5-1, and their trade for Marcus Stroman keeps them in the conversation for some time.  Miami’s irrelevance was underscored at the deadline as Derek Jeter spent all of 2018 getting rid of their servicable players.  Dark days, indeed.

Wild Wildcard Race-  three and a half games separate seven teams competing for two playoff spots.  While St. Louis and Milwaukee are also involved in the NL Central race with the Chicago Cubs, it’s Wildcard or bust for Arizona and San Francisco (barring a collapse of epic proportions by the Los Angeles Dodgers).  While right now it’s the Cardinals followed by the Nats and Phillies, expect weekly and even daily changes to the pecking order over the final 50 games of the season.

O’s Woes- the Birds are 38-73 after a 3-3 week that has them now on pace to win 55 games; while a sub-100 loss campaign remains a possibility they’d have to finish 25-26 to get there.  This week’s bright spot in the Charm City is Trey Mancini, who’s already reached a career high with 26 home runs and is on pace to pass his career mark of 78 RBI while counting down the days to when he’ll eventually sign years from now as a free agent with Atlanta.

Harper’s Weekly- Bryce batted .111 as his average drops to .248.  He’s still on pace to hit 28 homers and 107 RBI while the free-swinger remains on track to strike out 190 times.  He also has seven weeks to prepare for a potential showdown with Hunter Strickland, who hit Harper in the hip on Memorial Day 2017 in retaliation for two homers hit in the 2014 playoffs.  What are the odds they face one another once in the four-game September series?

Last Week’s Heroes- Anthony Rendon hit .304 with a pair of homers and 9 RBI (SIGN HIM IMMEDIATELY) while Howie Kendrick went 5-for-10 at the plate and Juan Soto belted 3 home runs.  Joe Ross (!?!) one week after getting roasted by the Los Angeles Dodgers at home tossed 5.1 scoreless innings at Arizona (an infield single ruining the no-hit bid), while Tony Sipp, Daniel Hudson and Roenis Elias were all sharp out of the bullpen.

Last Week’s Humbled– after being named July’s NL pitcher of the month, Stephen Strasburg hiccuped by allowing nine earned runs over 4.2 innings against the Diamondbacks. Patrick Corbin had a less than ideal start in the rubber game Sunday. Anibal Sanchez allowed four runs over five innings against Atlanta.  And Roenis Elias suffered a strained hamstring running out a grounder.  At the plate, Yan Gomes batted .091 while Victor Robles hit .063.

Game to Watch- Friday the Nats face the New York Mets with Stephen Strasburg attempting to regain his July groove (5-0, 44 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.14) against the Mets deadline-week pickup Marcus Stroman (6-11 but with a 3.07 ERA this year).  Will the Nationals still be in the Wildcard lead?

Game to Miss- Wednesday the team wraps up its series with San Francisco, who starts “Shaun Anderson”. Not to be confused with former Navy scoring machine “Sean Anderson” or current WTOP PM Drive Anchor “Shawn Anderson”.  I’m not ready to have multiple worlds collide…even on a weekday afternoon.

Portions previously appearing in this very space one year ago, as well as two years ago:

The Nationals are 57-49, only five and a half games behind NL East-leading Atlanta while in the Wildcard mix.  Unlike last year’s 52-53 mark on July 31, it’s clear that this team is more contender than pretender.  With only one trading deadline this year what moves will be made and which future possibilities are the Nats willing to part with for the next two (hopefully three) months?  A look at previous July 31 moves:

2014-– infielder Asdrubal Cabrera (more like a stocking stuffer than a gift wrapped under the tree) was brought to DC for reserve Zach Walters.  Cabrera didn’t set the world on fire, but was a decided upgrade over Danny Espinosa at second base (just one error and 20 runs + 21 RBI over 49 games; Espy had 31 runs + 27 RBI over 114 games played).  Walters last saw action in a Major League game during the 2016 season.

2015– closer Jonathan Papelbon was brought to South Capitol Street to shore up the bullpen.  The price tag?  Nick Pivetta (4-4 with a 5.45 ERA this season for the Phillies).  And the team’s mental well-being. Instead, the veteran was ineffective, Drew Storen went on a downward spiral that ended when he broke his hand punching a locker, and Papelbon put his hand on the throat of NL MVP Bryce Harper in a dugout dustup.  Decidedly a bad move.

2016– new year, new closer.  This time it was Pittsburgh’s Marc Melancon…and the price tag was pitchers Felipe Rivero (now referred to as Felipe Vasquez, the reliever is a two-time All Star with 79 saves since the start of 2017 and a 1.87 ERA this year) and Taylor Hearn (made his MLB debut this year for Texas by allowing four runs over one third of an inning).  Melancon delivered 17 saves in 18 chances with an ERA of 1.82 in 30 appearances and almost as important allowed the team to jettison Papelbon.  A definite win for both teams.

2017- bullpen depth was the key with the acquistion of Brandon Kintzler for 20-year-old left-hander Tyler Watson and $500,000 in international bonus pool money.  Watson’s made 17 starts this year at Fort Myers (high-A level) in the Minnesota farm system while Kintzler was the 7th inning man in 2017 (3.46 ERA over 27 appearances) and saw setup work for the most part 2018 before being dealt.

2018- minimal movement at the non-waiver trading deadline for the Nationals who opted not to bring in a starting pitcher nor a catcher.  Instead they dealt middle reliever Brandon Kintzler to the Cubs for a minor leaguer.  They’d make other moves (Ryan Madson, Daniel Murphy) after hitting a mid-August wall;  unlike last summer there is no August 31 waiver-wire deadline so this year the team has to stick its landing.

The Nationals are almost two thirds of the way through the regular season, and in two days they’ll learn two important things:  how they stacked against divsion-leading Atlanta and how they’ve addressed their issues at the trading deadline.  Yes this is now  no longer the “non-waiver trading deadline” as in previous summers, but the actual hard-line trading deadline.  Unless you’ve been on vacation since mid-March, you probably realize what the Nats’ needs are this late-July (as has been the case most midseasons during this recent run of contention):  the bullpen.  The relief corps has given little relief (a big league-worst 6.04 ERA is 2.63 runs higher than the starters’, the biggest gap in the majors) and for every Sean Doolittle (6-2 with 23 saves and a 2.72 ERA) there’s a Matt Grace (5.93 ERA over 45 appearances) and Kyle Barraclough (6.66 over 33 outings), with experiments like Trevor Rosenthal (don’t get me started) blowing up in their face.  Who will they bring in and at what cost are two key questions this week- because one of the byproducts of contending for the better part of this decade has been that the Nats have been buyers more often than sellers at the expense of the farm system.

 

Digesting the Division-  NL East-leading Atlanta went 2-3 to slip to 62-44 as their lead over the Nationals shrinks to five and a half games.  The Braves have also lost 7 of their last 11.  The Nats (56-49) lead Philadelphia (55-50) by a game;  the Phillies’ 3-2 week saw them almost get swept by the Braves at home.  The New York Mets (50-55) are coming off of a 5-1 week and seemingly look like buyers (Marcus Stroman?).  Even Miami (40-63 after a 4-2 week) is regressing to the mean.

The Wild Wildcard- while technically there’s a three-way tie for two spots, either St. Louis or the Chicago Cubs (or Milwaukee who’s a game off the pace) would grab the NL Central-meaning there are five teams within three games fighting for two spots.  San Francisco (54-52) brings up the rear but just like the Nats has stormed back from being 12 games under .500 to contend.  The Giants were sellers one month ago at 35-47, but after a 19-5 run now might not have bullpen pieces (Mark Melancon) available for rental.

O’s Woes- don’t look now, but the Birds are 8-8 since the All Star Game and at 35-70 are on pace to finish seven full games better than last year’s disaster.  Hats off to outfielder Stevie Wilkerson, who became the first position player in MLB history to save a game last week.  Bats off as well–as the rookie is hitting .223 this year with 11 walks and 72 strikeouts.

Harper’s Weekly- Bryce batted 3-for-19 with 11 strikeouts as his average drops to .254.  The former face of the franchise is on pace to hit 28 homers with 112 RBI.  While he’s likely going to set a career high for doubles (Harper’s got 30 already–eight shy of the 38 he had during the MVP year of 2015) Bryce is also on track to strike out 195 times.

Last Week’s Heroes- Stephen Strasburg went 2-0 while striking out 17 over 13 innings while driving in a run to help his cause Sunday.  For the record, the Sledgehammer has more RBI (6) this month than earned runs allowed (4).  Sean Doolittle saved a pair of games while Patrick Corbin tossed six scoreless innings in his lone outing.  Gerardo Parra hit .667 with 5 RBI and continues to get the DC area exposed to the “Baby Shark” song. Anthony Rendon hit .320 with 9 RBI while Trea Turner batted .367 and scored 6 runs.

Last Week’s Humbled- Howie Kendrick hit 3-for-17 while Juan Soto hit .192 for the week.  The Nats bullpen remains an occasional disaster with Kyle Barraclough (ERA of 27.00) and Tony Sipp (20.25) coughing up leads and Joe Ross (11.57) making shaky spot appearances. Max Scherzer’s back is still not right and he may miss his scheduled start this week against Atlanta.

Game to Watch- Monday the Nats battle the Braves as Patrick Corbin (8-5, 3.25 ERA) faces Dallas Keuchel (3-3, 3.50 ERA after his midseason signing).  With Max Scherzer a question mark and Strasburg not starting in this series, the opener looms even larger.

Game to Miss- Tuesday if Scherzer can’t go, it will likely be another “opener” or “staff” game.  The 21st century has seen a lot of great advances in sports. This is not one of them.