March 1, 2015

Hagerstown Suns Announce 2015 Promotional Schedule

The Hagerstown Suns have been a minor league affiliate for several different teams, including the Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets and Washington Nationals, over the last thirty-five years so the anniversary promotional schedule will feature a variety of giveaways.

The first bobblehead will be handed out on Saturday, June 13, and will feature former Suns pitcher Mike Mussina. See press release below for the full promotional schedule.

suns-35th-logo

Suns Announce 2015 promotional schedule

HAGERSTOWN, MD – The Hagerstown Suns announced today their promotional schedule for the 2015 season, which is the team’s 35th anniversary season. Many of the events highlighting the promotional schedule are part of a season-long anniversary celebration, and will bring some important parts of Suns history back to life, including the highlighting of some former Suns players who have made their mark in Hagerstown over the years.

Fittingly, the promotional schedule kicks off on the night of the home opener on Thursday, April 16. Dane Anthony, who threw the first pitch in Hagerstown Suns history back in 1981, will be on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Also that night there will be a ceremony in the beer garden as Antietam Brewery will be unveiling a special 35th anniversary brew and tap, which will be sold throughout the season. 2015 Magnet Schedules will be handed out to fans on opening night and throughout opening weekend, and on Friday and Saturday April 17 & 18, the first 500 fans will receive a Suns specialty beer mug that they will be able to use throughout the season to receive discounts on beer.

Also, on Saturday, April 18, the Suns players will debut their special 35th anniversary throwback jerseys sponsored by the Hagerstown Suns Fan Club, as well as throwback hats that were both designed to combine several looks of the past. These will be worn each Saturday home game, and live auctions will be held for both later in the season (hats – July 11, jerseys – August 29).

Another alternate jersey the Suns will wear this season will be a camouflage jersey. This jersey will be worn for most Friday home games, as well as some of the military appreciation games. On Friday, August 21, the jersey will be auctioned off following the game with all proceeds going to “Folds of Honor”, which is an organization that provides annual educational scholarships to the military families of those who have been killed or disabled while in active duty.

In total there will be three bobbleheads given away during the 2015 season. The first bobblehead will be handed out on Saturday, June 13, and will feature former Suns pitcher Mike Mussina. A little more than a month later, on Saturday, July 25, a Dane Anthony bobblehead will be handed out to the first 1,000 fans. The final bobblehead giveaway of the year will take place on Saturday, August 22, and is presented by the Hagerstown – Washington County CVB. That bobblehead will be revealed at a later date.

Bobbleheads aren’t the only items that fans will get to take home from a game at Municipal Stadium this season. Other giveaway items include a poster with various program covers from previous seasons (May 2), a special 35th anniversary logo hat (May 30), a pink mini-bat key chain as part of pink weekend (June 12), a poster with various baseball cards of Suns players from previous years (June 20), and a Suns logo baseball (August 8).

Many of the Suns traditional weekly promotions will be back this season as well, including “Thirsty Thursday”, “Eats for Seats Tuesday”, and “Sunday Funday”. In addition, there will be new weekly promotions on Monday and Wednesday. Every Monday home game in 2015 will be a “Mega Monday”, when fans will have the opportunity to purchase four GA tickets loaded with $5.00 each to be used in the stadium for a total of $40.00 (a $16.00 savings). Or, fans on Mondays can purchase a single loaded GA ticket for a discounted price. The majority of Wednesday home games this season will be “Guaranteed WinsDay”, which means if the Suns don’t win on that particular Wednesday all fans in attendance will receive a free ticket to the next Wednesday home game.

As is custom at Municipal Stadium, there will be a bunch of Fireworks shows throughout the season as well. The first Fireworks show will take place following the game on Friday, May 15. In total there will be nine Fireworks shows throughout the season, and all of them will be on Friday nights.

Once again this year there will be happy hour pricing on 16-ounce cans of select domestic beers prior to every home game. The happy hour pricing will begin as soon as the gates open and will last until the first pitch is thrown. There are four games this season (May 29, June 12, July 3, and August 7) when there will be an extended happy hour, meaning the gates will open earlier than normal (4:30pm) and there will be live entertainment prior to the start of the game.

New in 2015 will be theme nights to go along with each “Thirsty Thursday” game. The themes this season include college night (April 30), country night (May 14), ladies night (May 28 and August 20), golf night (July 9), 80’s night (July 23), and 90’s night (August 6). For some of the theme nights, fans who dress up in that night’s theme will receive a discounted GA ticket. Details on all of the specific theme nights can be found on the promotions page of the Suns website.

Another new promotion in 2015 will be the “Weekday Matinee”. The Suns will have four weekday games (May 4, June 3, August 5, September 2) begin at 1:05pm. Fans can get tickets to these matinee games for just $5.00 (GA ticket) or $7.00 (Reserved ticket). Once inside the stadium, fans can grab a hot dog for $2.00 and/or a domestic draft beer for $3.00, making these games the perfect lunch break entertainment (and no one will tell your boss if you decide to stay for the whole game).

Additional special events taking place this season will include two Education Days (April 22 and May 20), four Antietam Cable Date Nights (April 28, May 17, June 30, and August 18), a college fair (May 1), four Nora Roberts Reading Challenge games (May 2, May 3, May 16, and May 17), five military appreciation games (May 16, May 29 – 31, July 3), Craft Brew night (July 2), Kids night (July 22), two movie nights (July 12 and August 28), Christmas in July (July 25), Camp Day (July 28), First Responders night (August 7), and Teacher and School Staff Appreciation night (June 12).

Lastly, the Suns organization will be hosting an inaugural Beer Tasting Festival, which will take place on Saturday, June 27 from 3:00pm – 7:00pm. There is no game that day as the Suns will be away on the road. Tickets are already on sale.

For more information on all of the promotions and giveaways throughout the 2015 season and to reserve your seats at Municipal Stadium, call 301-791-6266, or go to www.hagerstownsuns.com.

Washington Nationals Spring Training: Pitchers and catchers report

For baseball fans all around the country, it’s time for those four words that — despite how much snow they might be under — signal spring is just around the corner.

Pitcher and catchers report.

For the Washington Nationals, reporting day for the players that will make up the battery is Thursday. With all the excitement of the offseason signing of Max Scherzer, Nats fans will finally see him in a uniform, albeit in snips and clips, throwing bullpen sessions and glad-handing with the privileged media members enjoying the warmer weather from Viera, Florida while most of us are still digging out from under snow.

There’s plenty of excitement to go around, though. Scherzer is just one of many aces the Nats have in the starting rotation. It’s been the common theme around baseball hot stove this winter: the Nats rotation is the best in baseball, and could be historically great. At the onset, they’ll have to banish 15-game winner Tanner Roark to long relief.

It’s a glut of riches.

Still, it guarantees nothing. Baseball is a notoriously funny game, and just when you think you have it figured out, it changes the rules on you again.

I usually take a more measured approach to my analysis. I like to have stats and figures to back up my opinions and viewpoints. It’s easier to defend a position armed with the proper ammunition.

But reporting day, and opening day mere weeks behind it now, is more for the romantic side of baseball fandom. These days mark significant milestones to the long winter fans must endure without their pastime. If that’s not a time for waxing poetic, I’m not sure what it.

So for now, I won’t bog you down in numbers or analysis. I won’t issue my standard caveats about regression, small sample sizes or hidden injuries. I will not purvey gloom and doom on one of the simple pleasures of being a baseball fan. There’s plenty of time for that during the long, hot summer.

For today is reporting day. And spring is right around the corner.

Washington Nationals laundry list short for spring training

As the Washington Nationals expect pitchers and catchers to report next week, this season — as opposed to years in the past — the Nats have relatively little to figure out with regards to the big league roster.

The team is celebrating its 10th anniversary in D.C. (in its 11th season), and there have been multiple years in the past where they’ve held open tryouts for the starting rotation and batting order, let alone bullpen and bench help.

Shoot, they signed 2008 opening day starter Odalis Perez on Feb. 23 that season, after pitchers reported in Viera.

Things have come a long way. [Read more…]

Nationals host season ticket holder fan forum; Rizzo & Camillo face the fans

NATS TO HOLD “FRANK ROBINSON NIGHT” IN MAY

Nationals Park was under construction on Saturday morning, as season ticket holders and their guests came to the stadium for a team-hosted fan forum with key members of the front office. The area immediately outside the center field gate was torn up, receiving electrical hookups for league-mandated magnetometers, and the field itself was undergoing significant maintenance after New Year’s Day’s Winter Classic hockey game did a number on the turf.

The cold didn’t keep the fans away, though, and a crowd of well over 1,000 gathered in the Norfolk Southern Club to hear from Nationals General Manager and President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo and newly-appointed Chief Revenue Officer Valerie Camillo. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals announce 2015 Spring Training broadcast schedule

From the press release:

Washington Nationals ANNOUNCE 2015 SPRING TRAINING BROADCAST SCHEDULE 

Washington Nationals broadcast partners Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) and 106.7 The Fan will broadcast a total of 14 Nationals Spring Training matchups throughout the weeks leading up to the start of the 2015 regular season. The Nationals 2015 Grapefruit League schedule features seven games televised by MASN and a combined 10 games airing on 106.7 The Fan and partner station CBS Sports Radio 1580 AM. 106.7 The Fan will also offer regular reports from Florida throughout Nationals Spring Training.

NATIONALS 2015 SPRING TRAINING BROADCAST SCHEDULE*

Date Opponent Time Location Broadcast
3/7 STL 1:05 p.m. VIERA, FL MASN / 1580AM
3/8 @ NYY 1:05 p.m. Tampa, FL 106.7 The Fan
3/9 ATL 1:05 p.m. VIERA, FL MASN
3/10 @ MIA 1:05 p.m. Jupiter, FL 1580AM
3/11 DET 1:05 p.m. VIERA, FL MASN
3/16 HOU 1:05 p.m. VIERA, FL MASN
3/19 DET 1:05 p.m. VIERA, FL 1580 AM
3/21 MIA 1:05 p.m. VIERA, FL 1580AM
3/22 @ DET 1:05 p.m. Lakeland, FL 1580AM
3/23 NYY 1:05 p.m. VIERA, FL MASN / 1580AM
3/25 @STL 1:05 p.m. Jupiter, FL 1580AM
3/26 NYM 5:05 p.m. VIERA, FL MASN
3/27 STL 1:05 p.m. VIERA, FL 1580AM
4/4 NYY 1:05 p.m. WASHINGTON, DC MASN/  106.7 The Fan

Nats take flier, add Casey Janssen to bullpen

From MLB.com:

Two weeks after trading dependable setup man Tyler Clippard, the Nationals filled a hole in their bullpen by agreeing to a one-year contract with free agent Casey Janssen on Wednesday, a source confirmed to MLB.com. The deal, which the club has not confirmed, guarantees Janssen $5 million, including a buyout for a 2016 mutual option, according to FOXSports.com.

Janssen, a 33-year old right-hander, has experience closing, with 90 career saves to his credit. He probably won’t be asked to do that in DC with Drew Storen the incumbent. But what Janssen could do is take up some of the innings that Tyler Clippard used to eat.

I say could on purpose. Janssen had some big problems last season, as his velocity, K rate and ground ball rates all dropped precipitously in the middle of the season. Some think that might have to do with the severe food poisoning he contracted during last year’s All-Star break.

If that’s all it was and it just took him the better part of the summer to regain his full strength, that’s one thing and he can be a valuable arm in the back of the Nats bullpen for a relative bargain price and little long-term investment.

However, if that’s just narrative and he was a) injured and hiding it; or b) is washed up, he’ll be just another in the long line of veteran bullpen arms Mike Rizzo has brought into DC on the cheap hoping to strike gold.

Statistically Speaking: You Can’t Do That – Home Run Tracker Edition

The dearly departed (for the Pittsburgh Pirates, not the afterlife) Stuart Wallace has left a hole here at DSP. And I’m here to attempt to fill it. During the regular season I will address a situation or issue from a statistical point of view. The focus will still be the Nationals, but I plan to head out beyond the Nats from time to time. I may also veer into the fantasy sports world a bit more than Stuart did, but that’s where my knowledge is stronger. And some weeks I may just bring other important research to bear and comment on its potential effects.

Just a reminder that Stuart and I are not the same person. I’m not a neuroscientist. I’ve been to Nevada for about a total of one hour though I’ve probably spent more time in Las Vegas with Charlie Sheen than Stuart has anywhere in the world. I haven’t ever moonlighted though I have seen several episodes of Moonlighting. The one thing we do have in common is we are both former pitchers though my highlight is hitting the same left hander batter four times in the same game.

Summary

[Read more…]

Nats Nightly: Nationals sign Max Scherzer for 7-year/$210M

Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington of Federal Baseball discuss the big Max Scherzer deal, what the next steps may (or may not) be and the Yunel Escobar trade.

Check Out Baseball Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with District Sports Page Nats Nightly on BlogTalkRadio

Washington Nationals own historic rotation…for now

Once again, we’re in the difficult position of evaluating an off-season move without immediate data, and as far as the Clippard/Escobar trade can be the sort of dejecting move that leans on past data for pessimism, the aquisition of right hander Max Scherzer gives us the sort of situation to be optimistic about and to play with some numbers.

Adding perennial Cy Young candidate to the rotation, the Nationals a shot at a pitching rotation that could be favorably compared to the 1996 and 1997 Braves or the 2011 Phillies.

The Scherzer signing appears to be a massive one in more than just his contract. Scherzer’s 6.0 WAR ranked eighth last year in all of baseball, but his 723 strikeouts over the last three seasons lead the Majors over that period, and outstrip Clayton Kershaw’s 700 and Stephen Strasburg’s 630 by a fair margin.

On paper, the Nationals have now assembled a pitching rotation that joins the 1996 and 1997 Braves, and the 2011 Phillies in terms of quality. We could sit around and talk all day about which of those rotations were the best, but of those four, at least on paper based on this past year’s performance, the 2015 Nationals would likely stack up fourth. The problem here is that we’re getting into that dangerous “predicting the future” part of this job that really isn’t the sort of thing I’m known for doing with any accuracy.

However, we can look at some past data to see the regular season results. I want to focus on three post-strike/post-expansion teams: The 1996 and 1997 Braves, and the 2011 Phillies. I started these comparisons by looking at Cy Young Award Vote-getters, but I decided that data was too subjective, as it was looking for a single best player, and not a best rotation, and that lead me to the Pitching WAR scoreboard over at Baseball-Reference.com.

The 2011 Phillies put together one of the most remarkable pitching staffs we’ve seen in a generation, with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels combining for 24.1 WAR that season. Halladay and Lee hardly walked anyone, and though Clayton Kershaw topped many individual categories, the Phillies’ 1-2-3 punch was substantial. Lee threw six complete game shutouts, and Halladay added eight complete games of his own. It’s hard to imagine a more dominant three-man combination.

When it comes to dominant rotations, though, you have to look at the 1990s Braves. The 1997 Braves combo of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Denny Neagle combined for 22.6 WAR, representing the second, fifth, eighth and ninth positions on the NL board for that season. The 1996 Braves combo of Smoltz, Maddux, Neagle and Glavine put up 26.2 WAR, representing second through fifth positions on the board.

Both of those are just absolutely staggering marks, and there’s a reason that Glavine and Maddux are in the Hall of Fame, and Smoltz was just selected.

I’m not saying that the 2015 Nationals are guaranteed be any of those three, but I am saying that this is their best chance at becoming something unique and wonderful for the fans to watch. I, for one, look forward to seeing how a starting rotation of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, and Doug Fister will handle a year together. There isn’t an “easy” day in there for the opponents.

Hell, there isn’t even a “just medium-hard” day in there.

If you use the 2014 numbers, Scherzer, Roark, Zimmermann, and Fister would have combined for 20.5 WAR, representing the fourth, seventh, eighth and 10th positions on the NL leader board for pitcher WAR. When you consider that Roark is likely the odd man out, the Nationals rotation combined for 15.2 WAR across the other four starters, which goes to 21.2 WAR when Scherzer gets figured in. For comparison’s sake, the reigning World Champion Giants’ rotation in 2014 ended up with about 8.8 WAR.

The biggest question become: What do you do when you have six pitchers for a five-man rotation? How does Tanner Roark handle a move to the long relief slot in the bullpen? Do you execute a trade for more offense now, and if so, whom?

Zimmermann’s name has been mentioned on the hot stove all winter long as a pending free agent at the end of the year. Over the weekend, media reports said the Nats would listen to offers for Strasburg. Roark has the most cost-certain number of years. Fister is an impending free agent himself. And even the almost-forgotten Gio Gonzalez was mentioned early in the offseason as a potential target for some teams.

These are all impossibly weird questions to consider for a team that was, five years ago, losing ninety to a hundred games a year.

The Nationals are a franchise that has now made the commitment to go for broke in the 2015 season, betting that a championship now — where none have existed in the District in almost twenty-five years — would be the sort of generational uplift that a newer team needs to make for an immensely profitable enterprise, and not just the sort that makes several million in profit. This is a commitment to winning a whole generation of young fans and commit them to a club for decades to come, and it’s the sort of thing that a baseball team needs more than ever right now in a football-heavy market in a time when baseball’s popularity has been on the wane.

The structure of Scherzer’s deal suggests that the Nationals are using this as an uplift contract — much as they did with Jayson Werth’s deal, which has largely proved worth its asking price — with some of the money deferred over the 2022-2028 timeframe. It’s impressive to think that my son, who is barely walking at this point, will be in high school before the deal is paid off, but that’s what has me thinking this deal was a statement to the rest of the players, the division foes, and the league. That statement is unequivocal at this point: this is the year the Nationals go the distance.

Is it enough? Can a team with dominant pitching and a good-if-not-world-class offense go on to win it all?

Suffice to say: this is rarified air, and the sort of thing that can get you deep into the playoffs. But none of those three previous teams won all the marbles. The 1997 Braves lost the NLCS to the Florida Marlins, a team with 10 fewer regular season wins. The 2011 Phillies didn’t make it past the Cardinals in the NLDS, who had 12 fewer regular season wins. The 1996 Braves lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series.

Stellar pitching isn’t the entire playoff picture. They’re not going to win it all based on pitching alone, but without that pitching, this isn’t a team that gets anywhere close.

Report: Washington Nationals sign Max Scherzer

According to the Washington Post, the Washington Nationals have completed a deal with free agent starter Max Scherzer. While terms were not revealed, Scherzer rejected a $160 million dollar offer and reports earlier Sunday evening indicated the sides were contemplating a seven-year deal for $180 million.

Barring any other moves (which seems unlikely), the Nats rotation is, in a word, fearsome. Scherzer joins Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark in a deep, talented and expensive rotation.

Even before talk of Scherzer came to light Sunday, the Nats were rumored to be entertaining offers on Zimmermann and Ian Desmond, potential free agents at season’s end. It becomes likely, if not prohibitive, that one of the potential free agents (including Doug Fister and Denard Span), or another expensive player — such as Strasburg — could be moved for prospects or to bolster the roster.

Or, GM Mike Rizzo could very well keep everyone in an effort to capture the World Series for 89-year-old owner Ted Lerner, then deal with the repercussions following the season.

Scherzer, 30, was simply the top free agent on this year’s market and one of the top five pitchers of the past two seasons for the Detroit Tigers. He’s been an All-Star the past two seasons, Cy Young in ’13 and fifth in ballots last year. He’s 91-50 with a 3.58 ERA and 1.219 WHIP in his career, which obviously includes some difficult seasons early as he learned to command his precious fastball.

In ’13, Scherzer was 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and last season went 18-5, 3.15. Scherzer has a lifetime K rate of 9.6 and BB rate of 2.8, and the past two seasons he’s been on the right side of both (above Ks, below BBs).

Additionally, moving back to the N.L. at this stage in his career should be a boon to his strikeout numbers.

There will be plenty more written about this mega-deal, but the fallout — if there is any — will be fascinating to watch. Rizzo had some big decisions even before this happened, and they become even more intriguing.

It’s been no secret around Nats Park that Jordan Zimmermann would test the free agent waters when he became eligible. Scherzer could very well be Rizzo’s idea to replace the stoic right-hander.

There were plenty of rumors and suggestions by national media Sunday evening that Strasburg could be dangled as a trade target, as he’s due for free agency in the very near future.

Or, Rizzo (and potentially more likely, Scott Boras — Scherzer’s agent) got to the Lerners and said ‘You’ve got a chance here to win it all’ and convinced the wealthy but cautious family to go “all-in” and give themselves the best chance at a championship over the next couple of seasons.

Either way, a competitive and interesting team got more so on Sunday, when most of the country was watching the NFL Conference title games. What comes next could make for spectacular drama, adding to this fascinating and intriguing development.

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