KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 10: National League All-Star Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals at bat in the seventh inning during the 83rd MLB All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium on July 10, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
In this week's "Chain Reactions" the Nats are no longer a Vegas underdog, Ian Desmond makes a sacrifice, and a retirement plan for Wizards.
The Nationals could be hosting Game 1 of the World Series come October thanks to the NL's 8-0 whipping of the AL in Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game. Not many outside the Selig family like that homefield advantage in the World Series is being tied to an exhibition, but to quote Roger Clemens' arch enemy Brian McNamee, "It is what it is."
In this case what it is is homefield advantage for the National League no matter who wins the pennant, even our beloved Nats. How signficant is homefield? CSN Washington Nats Insider Mark Zuckerman shared this nugget yesterday.
As for the Nats that contributed to the win, both Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg pitched scoreless innings. The youngest All-Star, Bryce Harper, went 0-for-1 with a walk and lost a ball in the lights playing left field. HE warned us he didn't have a good history in these games.
But in the end, nothing could dampen an great night for the NL and potentially for the Nationals come October.
In this week's edition of "Chain Reactions," we hit on the Nats' sudden turn as NL front runners, Ian Desmond's sacrifice, and a growing Wizards Retirement Community.
Nats No Longer Under the Radar
The second half odds are out and the folks in Las Vegas think the Nationals are a real contender. Washington is now listed at 9-2 to win the NL along with the San Francisco Giants, who the Nats recently swept out of DC.
As mentioned in this space last week, the Nationals still have plenty of questions to answer the next few months. However, there are valid reasons to bet on the Nats to finish what they have started.
In this post-steriod era of baseball, pitching has become more important than hitting, and the Nationals have plenty of the former. The staff should be aided by the return of Drew Storen, who will return in a matter of weeks.
The big challenge will be how the rotation performs once Stephen Strasburg is shut down, likely sometime in September. Even without Strasburg, the Nats will have Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, and Ross Detwiler as their top 4.
Washington also has John Lananan in the minors and they are still hopeful they will get something from the rehabbing Chien-Ming Wang.
The offense has been coming together with a suddenly-revitalized Ryan Zimmerman, and Michael Morse should keep getting better. The Nats will also be helped by the return of Jayson Werth sometime in the next month.
How the team will react to the pressure is a million dollar question, as is whether they will have any more injuries to overcome. One thing is for certain: they have a more than able leader in Davey Johnson to help them navigate the potential hiccups down the stretch.
Ian Desmond Takes One For Team
No one would have blamed Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond if he had taken his first trip to the All-Star Game and played through the pain of a sore oblique muscle. The All-Star game could be a once in a lifetime opportunity and Desmond's been playing well for the Nationals through the injury, hitting home runs in 4 of his last 7 games.
Instead, the Nationals best offensive player and first half MVP (in my opinion) opted to take one for the team.
"It was definitely a tough decision, one that we spent quite a few days mulling over," Desmond said. "In the end, I think it's best for the team and best for myself to take a rest. I would hate to be two, three weeks down the road and something happened and I didn't take the four days to rest my body and put the team first."
There have been plenty of Desmond highlights this season, both at the plate and in the field. Add this one to that highlight reel. The Nationals offense will need him to continue to do what he has been doing if they are going to finish this thing.
It has been a great season for Desmond thus far as he has silenced his many critics (my hand is raised) and let his play do the talking. Now, with a rested body, hopefully he can pick up where he left off.
I'm sure it was bittersweet for him to watch Tuesday night, but with his approach, it's hard to imagine the honor won't come his way once again.
The Wizards New Retirement Community
For those Seinfeld fans, Del Boca Vista Phase III should ring a bell. If not, watch this.
Anyway, that comes to mind as yet another former Wizard is set to sign with the Miami Heat. Rashard Lewis will join the ride along program in a quest for an NBA Title. I get it, the Heat are good and South Florida is a hot spot for the elderly.
However, this is somewhat ridiculous when you look at the number of former Wizards that end up taking their talents to South Beach. On this year's title team, there were 3 former Wizards.
There was Juwan Howard, who won it for the Fab 5 (and by won it we mean sat in his warmups). There was Mike Miller, who was in the ZONE in the clinching Game 5 win over OKC. Frankly, Miller actually does look ready for a retirement home the way he walks these days. Ask ESPN play-by-play man Mike Breen about Miller's health if you have an hour to kill. Plus Ronnie Turiaf (who was barely a Wizard) got a ring on the ride along program too.
The guy that seemed to make this the go-to move is Mike Bibby. He gave up $6.2 million shortly after being dealt to D.C. in the Jordan Crawford deal so that he could chase a ring with the Heat. So maybe they should name the next Phase at Del Boca Vista after Bibby.
I just hope the Heat's TV network stays away from Phil Chenier, Dagger!