Monday, September 08, 2008
Doing My Homework
When Team President Stan Kasten sat down with Sohna and I last month in his office at New Nationals Park, he challenged me to do my homework when it came to choosing players to appear on The 2009 Roster of Our Washington Nationals. Mr. Kasten was not going to speak about next season then, while 2008 was still in full swing.
So, I did my homework. And the one strong point that continues to stand up and above everything else when it comes to Our 2009 Washington Nationals--is Team Defense.
Nick Johnson is coming back. He's under contract for next year. And at this moment, Our Number 24 is Our Best Answer right now. No one else comes close.
If (and I know that is always a "BIG IF") a healthy N.J. returns next season as the Starting First Baseman for Our Washington Nationals, Washington will be in pretty good hands defensively. Following up on my "Defensively Speaking" post of July 23rd--Our Team has now improved itself markedly since that mid-summer date. Not only has Emilio Bonifacio been added to the mix, but so have Alberto Gonzalez and Anderson Hernandez.
All three can field. Gonzalez, who I had never seen play one game before donning a Nationals Jersey, is nothing short of a STELLAR GLOVEMAN and has an ARM to die for. That man can hum the ball. Hernandez is pretty good too.
Depth now exists with quality fielders at positions where Washington had ZERO worthwhile backups this past June. Cristian Guzman was our only truly dependable middle infielder. And FLop was Our Starting Second Baseman. Making matters worse, there was no one coming up the food chain following in either's footsteps.
Those struggling times have changed.
When your infielders can now reach the balls into the holes and up the middle, your pitchers are going to look a whole lot smarter. Their E.R.A.'s are going to improve and they can thank "The Guz", Gonzalez, and Hernandez for their new support. Wing Men that have their backs.
Obviously, Ryan Zimmerman and Nick Johnson are already Gold Glove Caliber Glovemen. Jesus Flores is developing into an excellent backstop. Wil Nieves no slouch behind the plate either.
Just look at our outfield. Elijah Dukes, Austin Kearns, Ryan Langerhans and Willie Harris are all pretty solid defenders. Dukes and Kearns have plus throwing ability. Lastings Milledge, still needing to go a long way, has improved markedly since April, 2008. Our Number 44 no longer the nightmare chasing down every single fly hit his way. He's taking better tracts to balls and appears more comfortable playing centerfield. Although, Milledge's arm is not strong and he is really better suited to play a corner outfield position.
That's a very solid Defensive Team possibly in place for The 2009 Version of Our Washington Nationals.
Catchers--Jesus Flores & Will Nieves
First Base--Nick Johnson
Second Base--Emilio Bonifacio & Anderson Hernandez
Shortstop--Cristian Guzman & Alberto Gonzalez
Third Base--Ryan Zimmerman (Thanks Mr. Optimistic)
Outfield--Elijah Dukes, Austin Kearns, Lastings Milledge, Ryan Langerhans & Willie Harris.
I would go to bat with that team also--if no one else can be signed or traded for. There are three switch hitters, three lefties among those 12 players. Leaving Dmitri Young (Switch Hitter) and Ronnie Belliard (both under contract), Aaron Boone (Righty Swinger) and Kory Casto & Roger Bernadina (Lefties) available to fight it out with others for bench spots--if invited back. And Wily Mo Pena has a $2 Million Player Option for 2009. A contract Pena would be crazy to void.
Really, that's not a bad lineup. And if some of Our Young Pitchers emerge next spring, Washington might surprise a few teams next year. Jordan Zimmermann, Corey Van Allen, Tyler Clippard, maybe Zech Zinicola and a healthy Matt Chico are all going to get their shots. So is Shairon Martis. Washington has Jack McGeary, Ross Detwiler, Adrian Alaniz all coming up behind them. Josh Smoker and Colton Willems still in Low-A Ball. All Pitchers. Our Washington Nationals could be better off, right now, than some may well believe.
Baseball starts with Pitching and Defense--important facets of the game which Washington now has an abundance of in their system. What a difference a few months make. There is actually hope for a decent future as September now winds down. Optimism, that seemed totally lost as this past June turned to July.
My Homeworks tells me Our Washington Nationals are developing a healthy attitude.