Thursday, June 17, 2010
This Fork In The Road
With an extremely heavy workload this week, there hasn't been much time for baseball watching for Sohna and I. But here are some thoughts after The Detroit Tigers completed a three game sweep of Our Washington Nationals.
The starting pitching, outside of Stephen Strasburg, has struggled. Washington has been unable to hold many leads of late. More defensive errors have again been costly. And D.C.'s offense was only capable of doing so much against three really good Detroit Starters--Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman. A trio of still young pitchers that most any team in baseball would love to have on their side. And to think, The Tigers have Rick Porcello throwing for them too. Even Mr. Imperfect Game--Armando Galarraga.
That's one impressive starting rotation. A quartet Washington would love to emulate some day.
There always comes a point in every year where a baseball team arrives at this proverbial fork in the road when mounting losses can take any team down. This is where character comes into play. The integrity of pulling yourself out of the doldrums and finding a way to push forward in a positive direction. Stephen Strasburg is not going to be pitching every night. He can't win every single game. So it is the responsibility of the 24 other players on Jim Riggleman's roster to step up now and find a way to win.
Collectively, Washington played well through the first seven weeks of the season--going five games above .500 over 35 games played. They've haven't performed nearly as well since--going 11-20 over their last 31 games. Somewhere in the middle, probably resides Version 6.0 of Our Washington Nationals. Still, better than the 2008 & 2009 teams that each lost over 100 games.
Barring a trade, there is no relief probably coming in the starting pitching department for at least one month. Ross Detwiler is currently on a rehab assignment. Chien Ming Wang and Jordan Zimmermann are still some weeks, if not months, away. The injured Jason Marquis is rarely mentioned by Washington's Baseball Operations Staff. And Scott Olsen might be lost for the season. Few reliable choices are ready and waiting at Harrisburg or Syracuse.
As Gene Hackman so perfectly stated in the movie "Hoosiers" when his high school coached basketball team played shorthanded: "This is my team."
And this is our team for now.
Most likely, the roster is not changing significantly soon because we can't imagine Mike Rizzo trading off whatever good pieces he does possess in his farm system just to salvage a .500 season. That's not how you build a solid foundation for the future. Riz might attempt to trade veterans like Cristian Guzman, Adam Kennedy & Willie Harris to get something back in return--if they are wanted by someone. Or maybe even Adam Dunn, if the right deal came across. But not a top prospect when there is legitimate long term promise in Washington's minor leagues for the first time since well before the Inaugural Season of 2005--when The Nationals were called The Expos.
Another starting pitcher would certainly be nice. So would a power hitting outfielder. But remember, as Our General Manager stated during this past off-season. The guy you really want, might not be available now--so you make do until the next off-season. Our General Manager can't be tearing down his minor league system just to win a few more games in 2010. Not when there is potential in 2011 for the very first competitive Washington Nationals Team.
Understanding losing is never good either, this is why Our Washington Nationals need to pull themselves together for this upcoming six game homestand against The Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals. Pride is on the line. The chance to continue the promise shown in early April & May, well before Stephen Strasburg toed the rubber at Nationals Park for the very first time in a Major League Game on June 8th. There is some good talent on this roster, but the momentum has been lost.
No question, not much good happened for those wearing the Curly "W" in Motown these past three days. Yet players with last names like Strasburg, Storen, Clippard, Hernandez, Zimmerman, Rodriguez, Willingham, Dunn & Desmond--just to name a few--have good character. The know how to win. The mettle needed to fight through any losing streak.
As has been stated many times: you are never as good as you think you are. Or, as bad as you believe. So if Washington is going to find themselves again--it's going to have to be a team effort. There's not much else ready down on the farm and the acquiring of any fresh talent is just a dream at this point--six weeks before the non-waiver trade deadline comes to a close.
After 66 games played, Our Washington Nationals have reached this fork in the road. The path chosen over next week or two, possibly a determining factor on whether the 2010 season for baseball in The Nation's Capital is considered successful, or not. Time for some other folks to step up and show everybody what they got. Stephen Strasburg has shown what he's got. The problem is--the 21-Year Old just can't do it all by himself.
Nor should he.
Today's In Game Photo--Leon Halip (Getty Images)