Sunday, October 14, 2007
When I first met Felipe Lopez during Spring Training, 2007--he seemed relaxed, maybe a little reserved, that's OK--nothing wrong with that. And, after the decent half season he had just completed over the last half of 2006 playing for Our Washington Nationals--you had to figure FLop was about to have a BREAKOUT 2007. Everything pointed to a solid season in the making.
Lopez was HAPPY to be out of Cincinnati. Felipe was excited to be moving to Second Base for Washington. And, Our New Manager Manny Acta had installed Our Number Two to The Number One Spot. "I am just ready to play, Man!!," he told me. "I will do whatever they ask. Just want to play ball." Honestly, he seemed ready.
FLop was set to be The Table Setter. His half season playing in The Nation's Capital after The Big Trade with The Reds--was promising. In 71 Games donning a Nationals Jersey, Flop (who originally wore Number 7 in DC--until Clubhouse Cancer Damian Jackson was released) put up decent--if unspectacular numbers. A .281 average, reaching base 100 times, scoring 43 runs and stealing 21 bases. Hitting Number 2 behind Alfonso Soriano in 2006--Lopez was the obvious choice to move to The Leadoff Spot for 2007.
And, the fact that Felipe was moving to play Second Base--FULL TIME--had to make him more relaxed. FLop has a dynamite arm, but lacks the polish to play shortstop on a regularly basis. His range, and sometimes lack of concentration tends to harm his team--when it counts the most in the field . Ability, the 2nd base bag would help hide. A fact proved over the 43 games Lopez competed at, playing the right side of infield in 2007. Just one error. ONE ERROR. FLop was a GOOD SECOND BASEMAN.
Unfortunately--when Cristian Guzman went down with his freak thumb injury for the season--Felipe was forced back to shortstop. And, he never recovered. Not only with his fielding--20 errors in 111 Games at Short--but also with countless mental lapses. Issues that combined with a SEASON LONG STRUGGLE at the plate. Just a .245 average. Time and Time Again--Felipe Lopez couldn't get on base consistently. Flop wasn't patient at the plate. He didn't draw enough walks. And, Our Number 2 struck out FAR TOO MUCH.
Frustrating to watch--is my best description of Felipe Lopez's 2007 Season. Many times, he had me just shaking my head in wonder. "What are you doing!?"--I would exclaim. My consistent "Come On FLop!!" yell, from Section 320, became a call of disappointment. Never, did Lopez seem to deliver.
A one time Happy & Content Player during Spring Training, Felipe appeared to totally lose focus as the 2007 Season played out. And, he obviously, become unhappy. Many times in 2007, you had wonder whether Lopez's head was EVEN in the game. At times, FLop didn't even run out ground balls. Each and every game as the season progressed--you had to wonder whether Felipe Lopez was going to Hurt Our Washington Nationals--more than Help.
Really, it got that bad.
When Our Washington Nationals needed a bat control artist leading off--their opponents found FLop had no control of that bat. Hanging all year long mostly around the .240 mark--Felipe had a poor season. So bad--he was basically benched over the last month of the 2007 season. And his replacement, D'Angelo Jimenez is an EVEN WORSE FIELDER. How much worse do you thing FLop felt about that punishment?
This after, more than one meeting with Our Number 14--and a Profanity Laced Conversation with The Media directly following one of those get togethers. Eventually, Both Manny and Felipe quoted as saying Lopez was having Personal Problems. But even, with all that hanging over his head-- Rumors swirled that some within Our Washington Nationals Organization were getting tired of FLop's way. Some fans, I am sure--felt the same way as well--even me. One such rumor, even suggested Felipe Lopez would be Designated For Assignment during this coming off season. Although, I could never see that happening. No Way, Our Washington Nationals are going to let him go for nothing. Despite the fact that some feel--that's all he's worth right now.
Earlier this season--I recall a commenter stating here that Felipe Lopez's childhood was very unenjoyable. Family problems have given him long lasting mental scars. Sorrow, which he stills holds close to his chest today. Sorry, I was to hear that. Never, should anyone have to go through such pain. Never do you forget growing up--SAD. A Memory Retained For Life.
Yet, despite all that. Our Number Two needs to reach back and leave it all behind. FLop, Buddy--its time to BUCKLE UP.
Felipe Lopez needs to get a hold of his One Time Promising Baseball Career Again. This One-Time National League All-Star obviously has talent. He just has never been able to put it all together--at the same time. He could be a competent, if above average Second Sacker. Poise that could only help FLop concentrate more on his skills at the plate. For a switch hitter, Lopez has a decent stroke, and the speed to make things happen on the basepath. Unfortunately, his attention span has hurt him--THE MOST. Never, do you really know, whether FLop is in the game.
So, I have wonder--whether Our General Manager Jim Bowden has lost his attention for Felipe Lopez for Our Washington Nationals, this off season. Is he being shopped? At the Major League Level--could FLop actually bring something in return? I don't know. But, even at his best--Felipe Lopez is a complimentary part. Right now, FLop is not a pedestal to build around--for the future. He's just filler. Manning a position--that Felipe Lopez could very likely be replaced at--if he doesn't get his act together over this Winter's Layoff.
"I am very happy to be in Washington, DC," FLop told me last spring. But, will Our Washington Nationals happily welcome him back on South Capitol Street in 2008? Felipe Lopez's career as A Washington Nationals may well be on the line right now. Its not unrealistic to speculate whether--Come Opening Day, 2008--will FLop be wearing The Curly "W"?
Felipe Lopez is one of the most intriguing players this off season for Our Washington Nationals.
PS--And a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY to My Main Man!! Yes, October 14th is Ryan Church's Birthday. After My Best Friend!! Screech--Our Number 19--is the other Birthday, The African Queen and I recognize. Ryan's 29th Today--by the way.