I've only done this once before and I apologize in advance for doing it again. We already did our Top 5 Storylines of 2011, of course we did those in October before the trade for Gio Gonzalez and before the Wilson Ramos kidnapping ordeal. Both of those stories would probably end up on a new Top 5 Stories of 2011 if we did one, but both really happened after the season and were covered extensively already. We already did our Top 5 Images of 2011, but why stop there? (ed. note - "Hey. Stop listing reasons to stop there!!!") Year-end best-of lists are awesome! How about the Top 5 Movies we watched when we weren't watching baseball this year? (And no Moneyball is not on my list.) The Top 5 things we listened to this year when we were writing or following the Nats? The Top 5 Things from 2011 In NatsTown we'd rather forget? The Top 5 Games of 2011? Top 5 Top 5 Lists? Lists and lots of 'em coming right up...
• Federal Baseball.com's Top 5 Movies Of 2011: (w/ One Line Reviews)
5. Cave of Forgotten Dreams - Directed by Werner Herzog: German cinema legend Werner Herzog takes custom-built 3-D cameras into the Chauvet Cave in France and brings the oldest known cave paintings, which date back some 30,000 years, to life in an unexpectedly moving masterpiece of a documentary.
4. Hugo - Directed by Martin Scorsese: Martin Scorsese makes the first must-see 3-D movie and argues for the preservation of film history while breaking ground with an immersive film which explores the possibilities that 3-D provides for stunningly beautiful cinematography that exploits the depth of field that can be achieved rather than trying to make things jump off the screen.
3. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Directed by Tomas Alfredson: The brilliant Gary Oldman is worth the price of admission alone, but Swedish director Tomas Alfredson makes a brilliant spy movie out of John Le Carre's brilliant 1974 spy novel set in 1970's London, brilliant.
2. The Artist - Directed by Michel Hazanavicius: A silent (mostly) black-and-white movie set in the late 1920's and early 1930's that tells the story of a stubborn silent movie star's rise, fall and redemption with the help of a woman who becomes the first star of so-called "talkies."
1. Tree of Life - Directed by Terrence Malick: Terrence Malick's (Badlands, The Thin Red Line) fifth feature film tells the story of a Texas family in the 1950's and the history of the universe, in one sprawling epic.
• Federal Baseball.com's Top 5 Albums, Songs, Performances:
5. Jeff Mangum at OWS in NYC (Performance): Neutral Milk Hotel's reportedly reclusive lead singer Jeff Mangum shows up at Occupy Wall Street with a guitar and performs a set of the band's songs solo for an appreciative audience that sings along, fills in for instruments on the album and otherwise embraces one of the great lesser-known songwriters of the last few decades. Sorry for coming close to something political, but it's all about the music in this instance. LINK: Jeff Mangum in NYC.
4. High Llamas - Talahomi Way (Album): Continuing a tradition that stretches from Nelson Riddle to George Martin, Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, Sean O'Hagan of the High Llamas returns with a new album of meticulously crafted and arranged chamber pop which pays homage to his musical forefathers while always adding something new to the mix. Not my favorite High Llamas album, but any time the band releases an album it's going to end up on my year-end best of list...LINK: High Llamas - "To the Abbey."
3. Olivia Tremor Control - "The Game You Play Is In Your Head Pts. 1, 2, 3" (Song): Athens, Georgia's own Olivia Tremor Control hasn't released a new album since 1999's Black Foliage, which followed up on their psych-pop masterpiece Dusk at Cubist Castle. After reforming and touring a few years back, the band led by the two-headed harmonizing duo of The Bill Doss and Will Cullen Hart returned in 2011 with the first single (which is really 4-5-6 songs strung together) off their first album in over a decade which is supposed to be released at some time in 2012. LINK: Olivia Tremor Control - "The Game You Play Is In Your Head Pts. 1, 2, 3"
2. Panda Bear - Tomboy (Album): Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear of Animal Collective released his fourth solo album Tomboy in 2011 following-up on 2007's some-kind-of-brilliant Person Pitch. Tomboy is a droning, multi-tracked harmony drenched, guitar-and-synthesizer-instead-of-sample-based collection of songs that were mixed by Sonic Boom (aka Pete Kember of Spaceman 3 and Experimental Audio Research). LINK: Panda Bear - "Slow Motion" Video:
1. The Beach Boys - SMiLE (Re-issue/Box Set): 5 discs of Beach Boys harmonies (+2 LP's, 2 45s, books, a poster and more in the box set.) Brian Wilson writing what he described as "teenage symphonies to God" in 1966 and '67, and at his creative peak right before the fall that followed the decision to shelve his follow-up to Pet Sounds and the single Good Vibrations. Wilson and Van Dyke Parks trying to tell the story of America and westward expansion in song, and succeeding though the album wouldn't ever see its release in the 60's. Wilson revisited SMiLE with his new band a few years back and now he and the remaining Beach Boys dig into the vaults, unleashing all the material recorded in '66 and '67 in one large box of harmonies. LINK: The Beach Boys - "Our Prayer."
• The Top 5 Things from 2011 In NatsTown we'd rather forget?:
4. Wilson Ramos' Kidnapping.
3. The Matt Stairs Era (No disrespect to the rest of his impressive career. Honestly.)
2. Jim Riggleman/Caddies references.
1. Philly "Invasions".
• Top 5 Games of 2011:
5. Double-Header Win Over Phillies 9/20/11: I was sitting 20 rows from the field on the first base side in Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday Septemer 20th when the Washington Nationals swept a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Nats would eventually go on to win all four games of that series in Philly, they messed with the lottery sign in the CBP bullpen, Davey Johnson made a late-game pitching change just to give the Phillies and the Philadelphians in attendance the high hat and there was nothing the Phillies, who'd already won the division but were struggling with injury issues or their fans could do about it. Tom-A Milone dominated. Ross Detwiler got an attitude. NatsTown loved it.
CBP? No. NPN!!! Nats Park North. LINKS: Game 1 Game Report; Game 2 Game Report.
4. Jordan Zimmerman vs Dan Haren 6/29/11: All For Naught. Jordan Zimmermann needs just 13 pitches to complete a 1-2-3 eighth in LA, and the Nats' right-hander is at 93 pitches, 60 of them strikes at the end of the inning. Zimmermann's Line: 8.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K's, 10 groundouts, 6 flyouts. Top of the 9th, Ryan Zimmerman goes with a high fastball outside and pushes it to right for a one-out double off Angels' closer Jordan Walden. Matt Stairs grounds to first for out no.2. Zimmerman takes third. Michael Morse gets down 0-2 quickly and ends up swinging through a 100 mph 2-2 four-seamer from the Angels' closer. Ballgame. 1-0 Angels.
Jordan Zimmermann's "quality start" gives him 11 straight quality starts which breaks a franchise record set by Livan Hernandez in 2005. So there's that at least...[Zimmermann] was the story for me," Davey Johnson said in his post game press conference, "I mean, I've seen a lot of good pitched ballgames and I'll tell you that was one of the better ones I've ever seen." LINK: Game Report.
3. Stephen Strasburg's Return To D.C. 9/6/11: Well Done, Strasburg: Wilson Ramos walked to start the Nats' fourth, but Strasburg K'd trying to bunt him over, Ian Desmond grounded out and Jayson Werth flew to right to end a relatively quick frame by Ted Lilly and Strasburg was back out for the 5th with a light rain falling in Nats Park. Aaron Miles popped out to left on a 94 mph two-seamer. One pitch, one out. Rod Barajas grounded out to short on a 95 mph 1-1 fastball after a 79 mph 0-1 curve and Strasburg got up 0-2 on Justin Sellers and popped him up with a 97 mph four-seamer to finish 5.0 scoreless! 56 pitches, 40 strikes, 4 K's, 2 hits allowed, 4 groundouts, 5 flyouts, 3-0 Nationals after four and a half. LINK: Game Report.
2. Wilson Ramos Slow Trots D-Backs 6/5/11: They call him SLOW TROT. Two more strikeouts for Tyler Clippard in the seventh. The Nats' right-handed reliever throws twelve pitches in the seventh, 19 total, 18 strikes in two scoreless innings after Marquis. D-Backs' reliever Esmerling Vasquez gives up a leadoff double to Laynce Nix in the top of the eighth. One out later, the Diamondbacks' reliever hits Danny Espinosa in the back with a fastball and Espinosa's p••••d. Espinosa and the D-Backs' catcher have words, the Nats are on the top step of the dugout sharing their thoughts. Vaszquez and D-Backs' skipper Kirk Gibson are tossed. Aaron Heilman, who'd hit Werth in the elbow earlier in the series comes on, and Wilson Ramos makes Arizona pay. The Nats' catcher crushes an 0-1 fastball. Deep to left and GONE! GONE!! GONE!!! 4-0 Nats. Ramos takes... his... time... rounding the bases, and Diamondbacks' bench coach Matt Williams is steamed. LINK: Game Report (ed. note - "Check out photo of Ramos in this post, between Nix (left) and Ramos (right) is D-Backs' bench coach Matt Williams, yelling toward home.")
1. Ryan Zimmerman's Walk-Off Grand Slam - 8/20/11: RALLY!! Jayson Werth hears boos again as he steps in against Ryan Madson in the ninth, and Werth's down 0-2 quickly, but battles back for a line drive single to left on the 11th pitch of the at bat. Danny Espinosa's down 0-2 too, but he drops a bloop into center on a two-strike change for the second straight single. Jonny Gomes connects for the third straight single, sending an RBI grounder through short that scores Werth from second, 4-3 Philly. Wilson Ramos pops a bunt up that Ryan Madson almost catches, but misses, sac executed. Pinch hitter Jesus Flores is walked intentionally, bases loaded, one out. Ian Desmond hits a blooper to short right, and it falls in! Espinosa scores! 4-4 game. Rick Ankiel K's swinging. Two down. Ryan Zimmerman works the count full and hits it out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HR!! NATS WIN!! NATS WIN!!!! Ryan Zimmerm--THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!! THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!! 8-4 final.
Davey Johnson on Ryan Zimmerman: "He's one of those great players that's totally in control in those tough situations. He's very calm. The rest of us get a little excited, but he doesn't." LINK: Game Report.
Happy New Year, and thanks to everyone for another great year talking and covering the Nats. - Patrick.