Back to 500, Harper vs Strickland, Signs of Life
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Benjamin: Hello Giants fans and welcome back to the San Francisco Giants addition of For The Fans By The Fans, a podcast where we bring you your weekly dose of all things, San Francisco Giants baseball from the fan's perspective. I'm a lifelong Giants fan and your host, Benjamin Shapiro. As the Giants and their revitalized pitching staff show signs of life, and the team has crawled back to the 500 mark, we welcome my first boss, Mike Adams. Mike is now a vice president of IRS programs at MicroPact and he is based in Fairfax, Virginia. He's also a Washington Nationals Fan, but before Mike tells us who won the fight between Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you on behalf of our friends at Fanatics. Fanatics is the global leader in licensed sports merchandise. They have the world's largest collection of official sports apparel from the leagues, teams and players you love. So if you're looking for your Bryce Harper or Jeff Samardzija wig, the best place to possibly look forward is ftfbtf.com/fanatics. When you go to that link, fanatics will kick as a couple of bucks when you buy your Giants or your Nationals gear, you can also go to ftfbtf.com/fanatics.com. So Mike, that said, welcome to the pod. It's great to catch up. It's an honor to have both the first person who hired me in sales and marketing and a good friend.
Mike: Well thank you Ben. Thanks for having me. Excited to be on. So I have to apologize for getting you on this road to ruin that is sales and marketing, but you seem to have done pretty well for yourself, so congratulations. Despite my best efforts.
Benjamin: Somehow you teaching me to knock on doors and getting thrown out of businesses and I don't know, wooster Massachusetts has led to us being on a podcast to talk about baseball. It's funny. The road life leads you down. Yup. That's it. I want to talk to you a little bit about your experience as a nationals fan. First off, how did you become a nationals fan and what's it like to root for the team that used to be the Montreal Expos?
Mike: Right. It's been a few years now since they became the national sense of the learners, brought them over and as a city we're all really excited to get a baseball team. We've had to cheer for the Baltimore Orioles for a piece of our lives here, so it was great to actually have a hometown team and being someone who grew up in this area. I kind of feel like if you grow up in an area, you support the teams that represent that area, so the whole cadre of DC sports, whether it be the nationals, the wizards, the redskins or the capitals and recording this tonight, the capitals are about to play game five hopefully for a Stanley Cup tonight and if we win, that'll be the first championship that any of our major sports teams have brought back to the DC area and about the last 20 to 25 years. So that's really exciting. We hope some of that rubs off on our nationals, but what's the nationals moved to Washington. It was a no brainer. Kind of go adopt the club and become a lifelong fan.
Benjamin: So Baltimore Orioles, great color scheme, bad baseball team where you orioles fans first or were you just really without a baseball team and then decided to adopt the nationals?
Mike: Well, I personally wasn't oriels fan first. My family is from Baltimore, so I grew up during the cow rick and era and saw a lot of the Iron Mans Games and watch on TV when he broke that record of the most consecutive games. So I was always a Baltimore Fan, but it was nice to get our own team and not have to drive living in the northern Virginia suburbs two and a half hour. So baseball game anymore. Being able to just drive 40 minutes into the city and be able to catch a game was a lot more attractive. Plus we put together a pretty good package over the years. We've been able to make the playoffs more often than not over the last five to 10 years and a lot of young, exciting player. So it's just a fun team to be a fan for.
Benjamin: So tell me a little bit more about DC sports. You mentioned that the capitals are on the precipice. You're close to the mountain top and might actually get over this year, but what's it been like being a nationals fan, making the playoffs a couple times, but not quite getting over the hump. Tell me what life is like as a DC sports fan these days.
Mike: Yeah, it's been tough. Let's speaking to it as if we are not in the Stanley Cup tonight and hopefully our fortunes change here, but it has been tough to beat DC sports fan. I mean in the early nineties, the Redskins, we were pretty spoiled by some of their success. Has that petered out and dance night or bought the team and basically ruined the city for all sports. We haven't really been able to regain that kind of success, so when it comes to the nationals, I always look at it as I'm really excited for the team being able to make the playoffs every year, but it does seem like they play their worst baseball two times out of the year. April and October is when we play the worst, so it does get disappointed and you get all this buildup for postseason run and then usually we'll hit a strong team with an ace pitcher more often than not. That means we were playing against you guys and the postseason and I've been to several of your games only to see us lose are you losing five, that kind of thing. So it's been disappointing, but every year we got the hope of the next year behind us. So that's not so bad.
Benjamin: We have crossed paths a few times, most recently in 2014, which was the Nfl des and the giants took the series in four games, so three to one three game series and that was also early on in Hunter Strickland's career. So tell me a little bit about what you remember about that series. And to me one of the things that sticks out is that was really a formative time for hunter striction. What do you remember about that series?
Mike: I don't think anyone will forget that series featured the longest game in major league baseball history of the 18 inning marathon between our two clubs where it was one to one going into the 18th belt, hit that home run at the end to win the game for you guys. Now what's funny is I was actually at my cousin's wedding the night of that game and I think I spent more time at the lobby bar watching the game thinking, oh, it's almost over. It's the ninth. It's the 11th, it's the 14th. I'll be in there to dance with you in a minute, honey, but busy watching this marathon. So I remember that game and I just remembered the crushing defeat of that home run in the 18th. That's probably what I remember most about that series.
Benjamin: What's interesting to me and what I remember about that series is Bryce Harper hitting two of the most towering home runs I've ever seen off of hunter strickland in Hunter Strickland's rookie year, and that's actually one of the things that led to them not exactly having the best relationship. Obviously boiling over in the brawl in the middle of the field at Pack Bell Park last year from a nationalist perspective, what happened last year with Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland?
Mike: I don't really remember the fight between Bryce Harper and hunter straight line until you reminded me out and then I looked it up a little bit later. I think that's too young. Alpha males. Well, early in his career, like he said, that must have been what in his second season at that point. I think it was the third, but yeah, Bryce Harper in his early twenties. Even then it's hard to believe that he's only 26 at this point and it's been in the league six or seven seasons. Know that's just too often. Males. Yeah. One doesn't like the throw home bronze and one likes to show you when he does so it's Kinda how that works out.
Benjamin: From what I remember the playoff series that hunter didn't necessarily appreciate. Bryce Harper, hot dog and it around and he was obviously upset giving up a home run the plants. I think he actually gave up two and a game and he started yelling at Bryce Harper on his way around third. I think that animosity hung over for a little while.
Mike: Yeah, and I guess there's a couple ways to look at that. One is hunter got the last laugh by winning the series and that's really what counts. Well about St Louis and you're being hot dogs by arguably one of the best batters in the league. Definitely within this generation.
Benjamin: Maybe one of the most memorable parts of the fight from last year was as Mike Morris who's playing at first base and Jeff Samardzija coming out of the bullpen, tried to break up the fight. They collided and it was like a 1980 [inaudible] hairband reunion where there's just long hair flying everywhere and Mike Morris actually got a concussion, went on the dl and I don't think he ever played another game. I think they released him, so that was Mike Morris. Giant, Great First Baseman, playoff hero actually hit the home run before Travis Ishikawa hit a homerun to send us to the world series to tie the game. That was the end of his career. Wow. That fight and that concussion.
Mike: There you go. Mike Morris played for the nationals at one point beforehand. We had a nice little run where we're sending former nationals out that way to round out their career.
Benjamin: You know, we appreciate everybody you sent to us and a couple of them worked out in. A couple of them didn't, and let's talk about somebody else that's been on both teams. Tell me what the national fans think about former giants manager. Dusty Baker.
Mike: You know what? We really liked? Dusty Baker. He was very popular here in the city. He would call into one of our more popular sports radio talk shows. I had a weekly segment there and he's an affable guy and really good in front of the press. We thought he made a lot of good decisions over the course of the season. Maybe some questionable lineup decisions during the post season there, but it was really surprising when they decided not to bring dusty back, but kind of all thought that he had earned a second shot at this, but we appreciated what he did. As a manager and thought he was a good choice when they brought him in.
Benjamin: It's interesting, so to me, dusty Baker who's an ex outfielder was great in terms of coaching hitters, right? Everybody, every team he went to, they hit the giants in the nineties, the Cincinnati teams that he was on the nationals, they can always just mash the ball, questionable about how he could handle a pitching staff and to me the thing that sticks out in terms of decision making is dusty Baker Pulls Russ or tease out of the game six of the world series against the angels and then decides to hand Russell Ortiz the ball as if we've won the game and it's over. Unfortunately the angels came back winning game six despite having a five run lead and then coming back and winning the whole series, the next game in game seven and that was the end of dusty Baker in San Francisco. So to me his demise has always been his use of the bullpen and pitching staff and I kind of get the feeling that that's probably what happened in DC as well.
Mike: Yeah, but he wasn't for a lack of talent when it came to starting rotation between Max Scherzer and Steven Strausberg, 10 row, our Geo Gonzalez. They had great years last year. I think he was helped by how they might maddox as his pitching coach, so maddox obviously Atlanta fame worked mostly with the bullpen and with the pictures there, so I think somebody is inability to manage a pitching staff was offset by Mike being there, but one of our big challenges is our relief pitching and our closing. It was nuclear. We did not have a good relief staff, a good setup guy, and we couldn't really find that strong closer to be able to shut down games. We seem to have solved some of that this season. It remains to be seen. I mean we're only a little more than a third way through the season, but we seem to have solved some of those back in relief pitching woes that we had last year.
Benjamin: Yeah. I can sympathize with your lack of a closer because the giants have signed Mark Melanzane who played for the nationals and since he's been in San Francisco, he's just been one dl stint after another or a blown save mixed in every once in a while and he is back on the team now and hopefully going to be a little bit more productive. Looks like he has some good stuff, but we've seem to have inherited some of the trouble at the back end of the bullpen from you.
Mike: That's a shame.
Benjamin: So tell me a little bit about this year's team. The giants and the nationals are facing off for the first time this year and what a giants fans need to know about the 2018 version of the Washington nationals.
Mike: Well, it's pretty interesting. We're battling for first place right now with the braves were neck and neck, basically tied with the brace for first right now, and we're missing a lot of our starting lineup or missing. Daniel Murphy were missing like Ryan Zimmerman. We're missing Adam Eaton, you know, these are three big bats and three all star players on our team that have had extended stance on the DL. Luckily we've got some guys that we brought in Juan Soto as 19 year old Vietnam. See, apparently, I'm not sure if you've heard of them yet, if he's really made the national mutually baseball news yet, but wait til you see him this weekend.
Benjamin: One Soda, a batting
Mike: 3:46. He's got two home runs, six rbis. So not a huge sample size, but looks to be a promising prospect. You also mentioned Adam Eaton. He's batting 3:45. So the definitely some high average guys at the top of your lineup. Um, talk to me about who's hitting the ball, who's getting the rbis? Where's the power coming from? Well, the power is really coming from Bryce Harper. He's got 13 home runs on a year. 18, 18 at this point. Sorry. 18. So yeah, the power's coming from Bryce Harper. And for Matt Adams. Actually, Matt Adams is one of our bench players. He's filling in for Ryan Zimmerman. So we're going to have some really interesting decisions probably in July and definitely as we go into the later part of the summer and we get some of those big names back, you know, what are we going to do with Mike Reynolds and Matt Adams and more importantly, what are we going to do in the outfield because Michael Taylor has been on a real hot streak the last few games.
Mike: I think he's always struck out three times in the last 22 at bats. So he's given us a real quality at bats there. Obviously Trey Turner, anytime he gets on base, he's a threat to steal and a threat to get an extra base out of it. So these guys have been really good. You look at our outfield, Michael Taylor and Bryce Harper and Juan Soto now. So it was only 19 years old and he's making a case for staying on the team. Even when Adam Eaton comes back. So when that happens, we've got some tough decisions to make. It's gonna be pretty interesting.
Benjamin: Yeah. You mentioned Matt Adams, formerly known as fat Adams. He's the same player that was push to 60 to 70 when he was playing for the St Louis Cardinals and we ran into him a few times in the playoffs and now he's down to a lien to 30 to 35, so we dropped 30 or 40 pounds. There you go. And revitalized career. Which begs the question is the food and DC no good. What's going on there?
Mike: Got a lot of fried stuff outta there, you know, I guess he's
Benjamin: at home before he gets to work. So you mentioned that you have some young hitters and you've had some injuries in the lineup. Tell me little bit about the pitching staff. Obviously headlined by sure Strasburg. What are the giants fans need to know about who they're seeing coming out of the pen?
Mike: Well, I think you guys are familiar with Scherzer. I mean he's just an all world talent. He's second in the league and era as leading the league and batting for pitchers, which is pretty funny, but he does everything. We're talking about the capital earlier. So it gained for shares. Her and Ryan Zimmerman actually went to the caps game. We're fully decked out the uniforms and and doing the whole thing, getting the crowd into it and metro until midnight, getting the crowd all rowdy the next day he goes out and pitches eight innings and I think it has like 11 strikeouts next day. So he's Mr everything.
Benjamin: He's always taken it a little easy in the playoffs.
Mike: Yeah, exactly. So this time of year, he's everything you wanted to be. Strasburg's obviously been a star. He's having a great season this year. Some ups and downs, but between insurers or Geo Tarot, arc and Strauss, all four of those are in the top 20, top 30 for era. So they're just having a great year. Yes.
Benjamin: Solid starting pitching and the pen. You mentioned that there was potentially some issues at the back of the bullpen.
Mike: There have been, but sean has come in and he's given us some good quality relief. Setting up our clothes or do little has been doing a great job as our closer this season. He's really shutting guys down in the ninth inning. Former Oakland, a former Oakland a, so you know, it's good to have him out here this season hearkens back to Mike Rizzo. Rgm just making some really quality moves in the off season. Really quality decisions on who he pulls up from our farm system at different points in the season because as the stars are going down we're able to fill in the gaps and keep this train going. So you got to give it up to them.
Benjamin: So it sounds like you're optimistic about this team. You think you're headed for the playoffs. What's the outlook for the season?
Mike: Yeah, you know, I don't want to do the cliche world series or bust, but I have to believe that the nationals have the same trajectory that we had last year. There was no reason why they shouldn't be in the playoffs except for the fact that the other teams and nos are picking up their games. You know, you're seeing better play from the braves and what we've seen the last few years better play from the phillies and we've seen for the last year. So that might actually be helpful for them to have to fight all the way to the very end and earn their trip into the playoffs instead of being, you know, a dozen games off midway through September and coast into the playoffs and maybe lose that edge. And it's funny because we saw the same thing again with the capitals not in their normal cat bird seat in their division having to fight all the way through and you see what that did to the team and the kind of iron that that build on this team. So like I said in the beginning of hopefully that rubs off a little bit on the nationals and having to fight for a hundred 62 games to get into the playoffs, turn their fortunes around a little bit this year. So you're pretty optimistic on their chances.
Benjamin: So I think that there is a sentiment that this could be the year in DC. That makes sense. And it's also something that might need to be the year because next year you're looking at Bryce Harper's impending free agency. What's the feeling in Washington about whether he's staying or going?
Mike: I mean, if you ask around the feeling is that is likely going, I have to feel that we've enjoyed his career thus far, but there's going to be a team out there that offers him the kind of contract that no one's ever seen before and that we would certainly have a hard time matching Albert pool halls money. Yeah, exactly. Probably why he could probably hire Albert pools to work for him for the amount of money that he's going to be making. So.
Benjamin: And if there's anybody who's going to take $300 million and not have it affect his ego, God knows it's going to be bright.
Mike: Yeah. Nothing can penetrate that ego.
Benjamin: All right, well we're excited to see the nationals at the park this week and before we let you go, any parting shots or any good fun giants related baseball stories?
Mike: Well, I'm assuming you share my despise the dodgers, so we do get good threatened sigh. A nationals, dodgers playoff game last year and unfortunately the dodgers, he does just like the giants beat us. We don't fair well against California teams in the playoffs, but we're right down on the first base line and their pitcher whenever he would go to his wind up and I was wearing one of those rubber Unicorn horse masks. So here I am standing right over the, dug out with my Unicorn horse mask, just making all kinds of faces and getting into his head and got a reaction out and welcome back to the dug out a couple of times. So unfortunately it wasn't enough to turn the tides on them, but it's always good fun given this dodge a hard time
Benjamin: any harassment of the dodgers, you a friend of ours, and even if we are not necessarily the biggest fan of Bryce Harper or the nationals, I appreciate the effort in trying to slow the dodgers. And that's a wrap for this week's show. Uh, we plan to do this every week or even a couple times a week. So if you want more giants baseball on your podcast feed, click that subscribe button. And since we're just ramping up, we'd love for you to give us a rating in the apple itunes store. You can learn more about the firstname.lastname@example.org, the short version of that. You can also just go to FTF BTF.com, or you can find us on twitter, instagram, facebook, just search FTF btf. Thanks again to our friends at fanatics. If you're going to go buy your giants gear, click the link in our show notes or go to FTF BTF.com/fanatics, and our friends at fanatics will kick us a couple of bucks to help produce this show when you buy your giants or even your nationals gear. Until next time, swing and a miss, and that's it.