The hot Nationals, winners of nine in a row, still have plenty of tests to pass as they aim to return to the postseason.
So here's a tip: If they can follow ace student Drew Storen with the No. 2 pencil, consider them October favorites.
Storen, you see, is the latest graduate from my summer-long seminar, Better Know Your Organization. Torii Hunter took the Tigers Test in April. I popped a Cubs Quiz to Anthony Rizzo in May. Yes, that's me, chipping in to improve our country's educational system. I do what I can.
It all started this spring when noted scholar Dr. Professor Buck Showalter assigned Orioles prospect Josh Hart, 19, to write a one-page report on Frank Robinson after the Hall of Famer spent a day in camp and Hart wasn't sure who he was.
It wasn't a punishment. Showalter, to his credit, simply believes that players in an organization should know who came before them. And being that Dr. Showalter can't make it much to class these days as he's busy positioning the Orioles to win the AL East, I've dusted off my teaching credentials.
Mr. Storen, did you pack your lunch?
Scott Miller: True or false: The Washington Nationals play their home games in the state of Washington, somewhere near Bellingham.
Drew Storen: False.
Miller: I was just up there on vacation last week. No wonder I couldn't find you guys. The correct answer is?
Storen: Nationals Park, in southeast D.C.
Miller: The Nationals moved to D.C. from Montreal in April, 2005, and played in RFK Stadium until Nationals Park opened in 2008. Why haven't you guys changed your offensive nickname?
Storen: (Chuckling) That's a good question. We still continue to use the Walgreens' curly W logo, though. We still haven't had any issues with that, which is surprising. We pretty much have the same logo.
Miller: In 2012, which team had the best record in major league baseball and what was that record?
Storen: We did. I don't know how many wins, though. I know it was close to 100. It was more than anybody else.
Miller: It was 98-64. On Oct. 7, 2012, the Nats won the first postseason baseball game by a D.C. team since 1933, edging St. Louis 3-2 in Game 1 of an NL Division Series. The man who collected the save that night was __________.
Storen: The guy you're talking with right now.
Miller: Bingo. OK, name the player who hit a 500-foot home run for the old Washington Senators in RFK Stadium in 1970. Hint No. 1: He was one of only four players, along with Harmon Killebrew, Cecil Fielder and Mark McGwire, to hit a ball onto the left-field roof at old Tiger Stadium. Hint No. 2: His nickname was Hondo.
Storen: Wow, you got me on that one.
Miller: Frank Howard.
Storen: He's usually a pretty good go-to answer for any old Senators.
Miller: Where did the Nationals move from, and name your all-time favorite player from that city.
Storen: Moved from Montreal. And my all-time favorite player, that's a tough one. I was a big Vlad [Vladimir Guerrero] fan back in the day. Pedro [Martinez] obviously was unbelievable when he was there. I gotta go with Pedro.
Miller: The Expos, named after the Expo 67 World's Fair, came into the National League in 1969 as an expansion team and played their home games initially at Jarry Park. It was named for: (A) Jerry, the mouse from Tom and Jerry; (B) Jerry White, the old Expos outfielder, or (C) Raoul Jarry, a former member of Montreal’s City Council?
Storen: I'm gonna go with with "C" because it sounds like the most legit answer.
Miller: Correct. Next, Blue Monday, known as one of the most painful days in Montreal baseball, refers to what?
Storen: Oooh, do I get choices there? Is it the day they went on strike in 1994?
Miller: No, it was Game 5 of the NL Championship Series in 1981 when Rick Monday slammed a two-out, ninth-inning home run against Steve Rogers in Olympic Stadium to send the Dodgers instead of the Expos to the World Series. Rain postponed the game on Sunday, and it was played on Monday.
Storen: Now I've learned something.
Miller: The next year, according to Jonah Keri's book Up Up and Away, a history of the Expos, the Dodgers arrived in town for a series, Monday went to dinner with Steve Yeager. What happened when they entered the restaurant?
Storen: They probably refused to seat them.
Miller: You're good. Monday and Yeager were kicked out because the owner was worried about a fight. Montreal fans were still emotional from the year before.
Storen: Wow, that's funny. That’s really good stuff right there.
Miller: By 2004, the Expos' final summer in Montreal, Monday was a Dodgers broadcaster. His wife was with him on the trip and they decided to take Rick's stepdaughter, Ashley, to the same restaurant and give her a history lesson. They finished telling her the story about that restaurant and then took her to dinner there. What happened?
Storen: Somebody threw something at them.
Miller: Close. They were kicked out again. Monday, in Keri's book, said, "…this hostess runs toward us. 'You can't come in! You can't come in!' I turn to Ashley and say, 'See?! They really don't like me here.' It turned out they had an electrical fire in the kitchen and that's why we couldn't come in. But at the moment it was like, 'See?' So we had a good laugh about that."
Storen: That's really awesome.
Miller: Le Grand Orange was the famous nickname of which extraordinarily popular Expos outfielder?
Storen: I got nothing on that. No idea.
Miller: Rusty Staub.
Storen: I know Rusty Staub. I didn't know that was his nickname.
Miller: Youppi! was: (A) A dancer at Chez Paree, (B) A priest at Saint Joseph's Oratory, (C) Pedro Martinez's all-time favorite closer, (D) The Expos mascot.
Storen: I would say the mascot.
Miller: Correct. On Aug. 12, 1994, the Expos had the best record in the majors at 74-40. What happened next?
Storen: The players went on strike.
Miller: You're rolling now. Had the season been played out, would a team led by Felipe Alou, the first Dominican-born manager in major-league history, and featuring Pedro Martinez, Larry Walker, Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom and Rondell White have ended the Atlanta Braves' run of three consecutive NL East titles (they were seven games back at the time)?
Storen: Hopefully. They were unbelievable. But you never know. The Braves at the time were the Braves. Both teams were pretty unbelievable. Looking back, that's a pretty good team.
Miller: Now on to perhaps the most difficult question in this quiz: Who was the best bat boy in Expos history?
Storen: There's no question about that. That would be Drew Storen. I probably only got a couple of games in, but the impact lasted a long time.
Storen: I did it in Cincinnati a couple of times. And in St Louis. My dad, through high school, was a clubby for the [Triple-A] Indianapolis Indians. The trainer was Ron McClain, and then he was the trainer for Expos. Dad always kept in touch, and Ron said I could do that. I got to go shag balls during batting practice, crush the free Slushies in the clubhouse. I was living the dream.
Miller: Who was your favorite player as a bat boy?
Storen: Chad Cordero. The last time I did it, I think I was 14. He had just gotten to the big leagues. It was the last year of the Expos, we were talking College World Series and he told me what a great experience it was because I had just gone out there. When I was college, I thought of him because he made it to the big leagues really quickly. Interesting foreshadowing. He was really nice, treated me really well and it's something I'll never forget.
Miller: True or false: The Expos really did have a catcher named John Boccabella?
Storen: True. That’s a good name right there.
Miller: Now for a test of your road trip/packing skills: When MLB owned the Expos, they played many of their home games in Puerto Rico, which set up ludicrous road trips that sometimes lasted three weeks. In 2003, former shortstop Orlando Cabrera said that packing for a three-week trip was easy, because he packs 21 pairs of this item, and when they're gone he knows it's time to come home. What item was it?
Storen: Underwear. I usually give myself a couple extra just in case you leave one in the hotel room. I'm very bad at packing. It ends up being a circus, throwing everything in there. You never want to come up short.
Miller: Bartolo Colon (Mets), Bruce Chen (Royals), Scott Downs (Royals) and Maicer Izturis (Blue Jays) have what in common?
Storen: All played for the Expos.
Miller: Yes, they are the last four active players who once played for Montreal Expos. [Editor's note: It's actually five. Current Mariner Endy Chavez played for the Expos from 2002 to 2004.] Now, when baseball returned to Washington, D.C., on April 14, 2005, what was the name of the president who threw the ceremonial first pitch? (A) George H.W. Bush, (B) George W. Bush (C) George W.H. Bush (D) Donald Rumsfeld.
Storen: I'm gonna go with 43, George W.
Miller: Bush continued a long tradition in which, in every incarnation of baseball in D.C., every president since William Taft has attended at least one opening day and thrown a ceremonial first pitch. President Taft did cancel in 1912, however, because of the sinking of this famous ship.
Storen: The Titanic?
Miller: Bingo. Now, really, how big of a challenge is it to play baseball when you are surrounded by so many politicians?
Storen: Oh, not at all. It's great. That's the one place where both the parties can meet. Everybody loves baseball regardless of what they think about politics. That's the cool thing. You see all of the politicians and the military interaction. It's special. It cracks me up that politicians are such big baseball fans. You don't realize that. You just assume they wouldn't have time. That's the cool thing about D.C.—we can be people's escape.
Miller: Spring training, 1970, and the Senators are training in Pompano Beach, Fla., and managed by Ted Williams. Coaches Joe Camacho and Nellie Fox get into a heated argument over rundowns. Rick Stelmaszek, a catcher at the time, said the argument was so bad he thought they were going to come to blows. The pitchers, the catchers, the infielders, everyone was frozen watching this develop when Williams comes over and demands to know what was going on. What did he say to break up the fight?
Storen: I've never heard this story, but I'm excited to hear.
Miller: Williams says, "F--K IT, LET'S HIT!" And according to Stelmaszek, the Senators never did another fundamentals drill the rest of the spring.
Storen: That’s perfect. That’s awesome.
Miller: Name the No. 1 overall draft picks in the majors in 2009 and 2010.
Storen: Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. I'm on a roll now.
Miller: Exactly how much money in eye black does Bryce Harper go through in a season?
Storen: (Chuckling) Oooh, it's gone down. He doesn't use eye black nearly as much now. Eye black is not as much of a staple as it used to be.
Miller: What does Jayson Werth store in his beard?
Miller: The last time the World Series was staged in D.C. was 1933, when John McGraw's New York Giants beat Joe Cronin's Washington Senators in five games. When will the next World Series be held in Washington, D.C.?
Storen: Hopefully in 2014. That would be pretty unbelievable. Especially seeing how things were in 2012. It would be quite the place.
Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at CBSSports.com.
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