Thursday, April 26, 2007
Our Washington Nationals
Obviously, I struck a cord. A Nerve that many Nats Naysayers were not expecting from me. Screech'sBestFriend is not blind, but I always attempt to be fair in my assessments. Not unexpected on many levels, Our Washington Nationals are off to a terrible start. Still, this poor April does not take away from my enjoyment of the game of baseball in my Hometown. Disappointing, yes, but the End Of The World has not arrived, at least not yet (I am actually chuckling while writing that phrase).
Previously, I stated how Our Washington Nationals of April, will not be Our Washington Nationals of May. And come September 1, Our Washington Nationals will be a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TEAM. Right before our eyes, Our Washington Nationals are changing. Collectively, those growing pains are excruciatingly difficult to swallow right now--especially in light of a 6-15 start to 2007.
As Our Washington Nationals have dug a deeper hole, their play on the field has brought back memories of the New York Mets of the early 1960's. No ground ball, no fly ball, is considered an out until said ball is cleanly fielded, thrown, or clenched within a fielder's glove. Every swing of an opponents bat makes me flinch seeing the baseball roll on the ground or lofted into the air, not sure if a Washington Fielder will complete the play. My Anxiety Level rising, just to view a routine play, sort of-laughable. It is funny. Really. And, VERY SAD.
At the plate, Our Washington Nationals DO NOT SHOW PATIENCE. When the bases are loaded and no one is out, the opposing pitcher in trouble--WHY ARE WE SWINGING AT THAT PITCHERS VERY FIRST NERVOUS OFFERING, usually his out pitch, taking a hack, grounding into a double play. How many baseball games does someone need to play to understand this game?
Is Baseball a DIFFICULT GAME? YES--MAYBE THE MOST DIFFICULT SPORT TO MASTER. Yet, as a game played DAILY, Baseball allows the player to experience, time and time again, hundreds, if not thousands, of IN GAME possibilities. That collective knowledge should be stored away, ready for retrieval in a moments notice to deal with an upcoming situation. So, why a veteran player of 29 years old can not hold back at the very first pitch with a pitcher in trouble is a quandary to me. I don't understand it. I would bet Our Manager, Manny Acta does not understand it, either.
Like Manny was quoted saying: "We're learning as a team. Like I said yesterday, preach, teach and be patient."
Manny's right, but it also helps if your talent WANTS TO LEARN AND BE PATIENT. Unfortunately, personally, I am not seeing that effort from some but, certainly no where near, all of our players. Our Washington Nationals have some talent. Just not enough of it, right now.
Our General Manager Jim Bowden has a history of breaking up a team by sending large groups of players to the minors for replacements or a huge trade. We are not going to be seeing that play out here in DC, but changes are on the way.
It has not helped that both Cristian Guzman and Nook Logan injured themselves on Opening Day and have not returned since. As much as Guzman is maligned by fans in Washington, DC, "The GUZ" is a far better choice as our shortstop. Felipe Lopez is a far better choice as our second baseman. Ronnie Belliard is a far better player off the bench. I can quibble with Belliard's two pop up fielding errors this season. But, quite frankly, he has been a decent substitute player. Off the bench, Ronnie would be an God Send--As Manny HAS NO BENCH. D'Angelo Jimenez and Josh Wilson are just taking up space. They can not play the field. Both are smaller versions of Matt LeCroy. DH's and nothing more. Personally, I like Michael Restovich (He of The Frank Howard Body), he's got some pop and is a well needed right handed hitter off the bench. A bench that will improve once Logan also returns. Robert Fick is a emergency fielder only. Sorry, but that's the truth. The stars have not aligned for Our Team this April, but things might actually be changing right now.
Within a matter of days, Our Washington Nationals will begin their May Metamorphosis. Guzman, Logan and Jason Simontacchi are coming back. Jason to the mound, Jerome Williams to the waiver wire or Matt Chico to Columbus. Later in May, Luis Ayala will suit up in his customary Number 56 after missing all of 2006. Not sure how hot he will be out of the gate, but I do know, he wants to make up for his lost season. More than any Original Washington National, Ayala feels he let down the Franchise and The FANS. If Luis is anything close to his 2005 form, we are in for some fun.
Mark Zuckerman at The Washington Times reports that Nick Johnson is now running at full speed, taking batting practice from his knees, but still well behind in his baseball skills. Nick is going to be rusty for the remainder of the season, at whatever point he returns. But, with Number 24 either at first or on the bench playing--Our WASHINGTON NATIONALS ARE A MUCH BETTER TEAM.
And, most importantly, if there is ONE PLAYER on Our Washington Nationals that is a LEADER BY EXAMPLE, its Nick Johnson. How badly this teams misses his everyday presence on the baseball diamond is extraordinary. Teammates play better when Nick Johnson, not the most graceful of athletes, gives his all, NO MATTER WHAT THE SCORE. Every SINGLE WASHINGTON NATIONAL should be showed that awful video reply of how Number 24 broke his femur last September, in a meaningless game, well out of hand, during the last week of a forgotten season. That's LEADERSHIP!! Our Washington Nationals need NICK JOHNSON, more than Nick Johnson needs Our Washington Nationals. Our Fans Need Him, TOO.
Then, once Jimenez and Wilson are gone, Our Bullpen will be next for the makeover. Ray King is only here until July. "The Chief" will get straightened out. If Simontacchi can be an innings eater and relieve some pressure off the relief corp, Our Nationals have a shot at decency. Jon Rauch, Ryan Wagner, Saul Rivera, Micah Bowie, and even Levale Speigner are decent. Not sure about Jesus Colome.
Many, MANY, more changes are in store. No doubt, Jim Bowden is wheeling and dealing behind the scenes as I write this. He is looking for now, next week, next month and this winter. Come August and the trading deadline, Our Washington Nationals may have 6-7 players on the roster not currently with the team. And, Jesus Flores is going to get the call, more and more, behind the plate. We have nothing to lose. For me, that a fascinating prospect. Flores has a CANNON ARM, good skills behind the plate with some pop. He just does not have experience or knowledge of the facing batters.
That being said, come May--Brian Schneider is the catcher, Dimtri Young at first, FLop at Second, "The GUZ" at Short, Ryan Zimmerman at 3rd, Ryan Church, Logan, Austin Kearns across the outfield, with Chris Snelling getting alot of playing time. Even with Young's poor defense at first, its a far better defensive lineup. Once Johnson comes back, say August, the "D" is even better. Our Pitching will constantly evolve throughout the summer, no one should be surprised. When it comes to pitching, everyone was well warned.
But, that still doesn't speak to CARING. No matter how bad Our Washington Nationals are, four things are all am asking for 2007--hustle, desire, thoughtfulness and spark. Even if the talent is not there, players need to make an honest effort. Nothing less is ever expected.
As I always do, I cheer for OUR WASHINGTON NATIONALS. For the remainder of my lifetime, I will continue to do so, through all the BAD and EVENTUALLY, ALL THE GOOD. You can criticize all you want, but that's HOW I FEEL about Our Washington Nationals.