Thursday, April 30, 2009
Surprised, Troubled, Enchanted & Humbled
Last night during President Barack Obama's Prime Time Press Conference in the East Room of The White House, The New York Times White House Correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, got off a zinger of a four part question: (Paraphrasing) "Mr. President, in your first 100 Days, what has surprised you the most, troubled you the most, enchanted you and humbled you about being The President Of The United States?"
In his typical relaxed style, The President laughed, chuckled, took the question and made the effort to answer the four parter thoughtfully--to everyone's enjoyment listening carefully inside East Room. While pondering what President Obama's response would be, thoughts entered my mind as to how those four questions would be answered after the first 20 Games of 2009 for Our Washington Nationals.
Having the night to sleep on it, not responding instantly as The President must most always do, these would be our answers to what has surprised us, troubled us, enchanted and humbled us during this first month of regular season baseball in The Nation's Capital.
Surprised to actually realize Our Offense is really potent. At times, Washington hasn't been able to plate runners in scoring position--an issue that has been a consistent problem since baseball returned to Washington, but clearly--when healthy--from the leadoff spot to the seven hitter, Our Manager Manny Acta has players that can get on base, smash the baseball and score some runs. Anderson Hernandez is no leadoff man, but batting 8th--he's a good complimentary fit for the moment. Hernandez also has some speed. It's always worth noting another pleasant surprise--some of our pitchers can actually bunt this year. John Lannan, Scott Olsen and Jordan Zimmermann can square around and let the ball hit their bat. All three have been able to help themselves at the plate. Sacrificing a runner up, because as we have all come to know, every single run counts when Our Washington Nationals are on the field of play.
Troubled to know Our Bullpen has been worse than advertised. The World Baseball Classic may be good for the long term prospects of baseball throughout the world, but when it's played during Spring Training, who really believes Joel Hanrahan and Saul Rivera got in their proper training-preparing for The Major League Season, not a three week exhibition. How can any pitcher, not ready to go full throttle for Opening Day, not expect to hurt themselves in a pressure situation pitching for their country--in March-- knowing all their countrymen WANT THEM TO RECORD THAT OUT. Not a good thing, and Hanrahan's & Rivera's struggles are just the beginning of Washington's early season problems. Except for Joel Beimel and the rubber armed Julian Tavarez, Washington's Bullpen is in shambles. Combined, Our Relievers have played so poorly, their efforts have setback The Curly "W"'s decisively this April. That, and the very fact, some shoddy fielding hasn't helped either.
Both needs are solvable, especially if some of our players show better confidence in their abilities.
Enchanted to know that Ryan Zimmerman can relax, be himself, and maybe become the quality all-around performer so many expect. Humble, Hard Working and just a Decent Young Man-who wouldn't want to see Zimmy truly become The Face Of Our Franchise? Now locked in for Five Guaranteed Years. No going to arbitration where the team needs to knock him down. No misconceptions where The Franchise and Ryan both feel about his self-worth. Already a terrific fielder and clutch hitter, Our Number 11 can take his game to the next level--without fear of a contract looming. Off the field business, getting in the way of his professional play and approach on the diamond. That my friends, is enchanting to know--along with the other Zimmermann--named Jordan--The Unofficial New Mayor Of NatsTown--according to "The Boys Of Summer"--Charlie Slowes & Dave Jageler. Ryan Zimmerman will man third base, barring injuring, until 2013. And Our New Number 27 with "NN" at the end of his name will be throwing his confident stuff alongside him. Enchanting to know, two Zimmy's are even better than one.
Humbled to know that Our Washington Nationals haven't put it all together on the field of play. For the first three years in DC, Washington's Bullpen was Our Strength, now it's Our Biggest Weakness. When we couldn't score runs from 2005 to 2007, Gary Majewski, Luis Ayala, Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero were many times there to shut the door and record that Curly "W" In The Books. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! that had many a Washingtonian, Virginian and Marylander excited about Major League Baseball in Washington. Now--when we can score runs--we can't hold many leads. And it's humbling to witness a poor 2008 season, followed by an equally unimpressive 2009 start knowing Our Fans are turning away from Our Washington Nationals--disappointed over the current failures.
Yes, that's humbling, but when Our Washington Nationals turn the corner, which may be nearer than some believe, and begin to win more consistently, these rougher times will be looked back on in fondness by The African Queen and I, knowing we have been there every step of the way.
Remember, this is a journey, not a sprint. Adventure filled with twists & turns, mountains to climb and valleys to traverse, highs and lows. In many respects, baseball is soul searching, the only sport were every little aspect is scrutinized, taken so seriously, rehashed to the nth degree. No doubt, baseball is where solutions are found to problems and experience leads to success.
Like life itself--baseball reflects a mirror image of the daily grind. And The President Of The United States understood that during his elongated answer to Mr. Zeleny's four pronged question last night in The White House.
Yes, April 2009 for Our Washington Nationals has been surprising, troubling, enchanting and humbling--frustrating and enlightening might also be included. President Obama believing his first 100 Days in office were just as much the same. But no one should lose sight of the very fact that those varied feelings are similar to what most everyone deals with every single day of our lives.
So Let's Play Ball! Go Nats!!
Photo--Gerald Herbert (AP)