Monday, September 06, 2010

New Nationals Idol

Danny Espinosa just smiled.

He had no other choice.

While the majority in the 20,224 stood and cheered for Our Washington Nationals latest star--Adam Dunn, Michael Morse and Roger Bernadina turned their backs on The Long Beach State Product. The cold shoulder given to a young man who had just hit a grand slam capping off a two home run, six rbi performance. A rookie that sniffed a whiff of the Major Leagues only six days ago.

Instant celebrity. Instant Star.

New Nationals Idol.

Once again in the Nation's Capital--a phenomenon in the making for a D.C. Team still hurting over the loss of Stephen Strasburg for at least 12 months.

Ryan Zimmerman was Washington's First True Idol.

Strasburg the Second Coming.

Espinosa now officially Idol Number 3 on the whirlwind tour. The introduction and night show circuit that only comes for a player that displays all the proper tools.

Danny Espinosa's performance today at Nationals Park will be talked about for years to come. Especially, if he continues to show the five tool skills seen by every single fan, scout and front office personnel watching since his call up on September 1st. If you've paid any attention to Our Number 18 closely over the past few years progressing in the minors, it's been clear, the talent in there.

He only needed to be developed.

A great arm.

Good range--solid fielding skills.

The ability to bat from both sides of the plate--with power.

This is a middle infielder here folks we are talking about. Not a 3rd baseman or right fielder.

That's significant, impressive, and needed by any team that wants to compete for the title.

Realize what was seen on South Capitol Street today. A growing team, with talent up the middle. Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa have the ability to range far to pick up baseballs. Ryan Zimmerman is already in a league of his own defensively. That makes Adam Dunn's capabilities at 1st base, less important, but his power a significant need.

Look: take Pudge Rodriguez, Wilson Ramos or Jesus Flores (God-Willing he can get over his injury issues) behind the plate and add in either Nyjer Morgan or Roger Bernadina in centerfield and Our Washington Nationals have one of the best fielding teams in baseball up the middle. That's talent not to be laughed at.

Put together an eventual starting rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann (yeah, we know he struggled today), Yunesky Maya, John Lannan, Jason Marquis, Ross Detwiler, etc--and you can pick and choose who you like the most--and you have a competitive franchise. Maybe not a championship team just yet, but the next step necessary to compete.

Every team essentially goes from here (the bottom) to there (the top) by manipulating their roster gradually. It doesn't come overnight. And certainly not over a fortnight. But significant pieces are finally in place in Washington's System. Just think about it and take an honest look.

If everyone remains healthy--this is Our Washington Nationals lineup come 2012:

Catcher: Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores
1st Base: Adam Dunn
2nd Base & Shortstop: Danny Espinosa & Ian Desmond (final positions to be determined)
3rd Base: Ryan Zimmerman
Rightfield: Bryce Harper
Centerfield: Roger Bernadina
Leftfield: Josh Willingham (at 33 years of age--Josh would be the oldest starter wearing the Curly "W")

Washington's starting rotation: Strasburg, Zimmermann, Maya, Lannan & Detwiler--maybe A.J. Cole or Sammy Solis.

Closer--Drew Storen.

Folks--that's a good team, more than competitive.

Seriously, how many better lineups could another MLB Team field?

At some point, Our Washington Nationals need to make a run with what they got. Danny Espinosa proved today the future is not far off at all. In fact, it's just around the corner, if you are really paying attention to the ability being put on the field of play. Strasburg's Tommy John Surgery wasn't the end of the world--only a delay to the inevitable--a contending team.

Yeah, The African Queen and I understand, we've sort of put aside the remainder of today's game details with New York because another Curly "W" wasn't as important of an aspect as Washington's future was this Labor Day Monday. Plus due to injuries, The Mets fielded an incredibly poor Junior Varsity lineup (except for David Wright). Yet that didn't matter as well.

If you can play Big League Ball--you can play. And Danny Espinosa more than proved that this afternoon on South Capitol Street--while nearly causing a frenzy over the delight in what many veteran players would call their career performance. Six days into his Major League Career, Our Number 18 became D.C.'s Newest Nationals Idol. He won the hearts of the fan base and in doing so gave an indication of what's to come over the next two seasons in a city DYING for a winner.

Final Score from Nationals Park where Danny Espinosa proved--When Its Your Day, It's YOUR DAY!! Our Washington Nationals 13 and The New York Mets 3. Curly "W" Number 60 of 2010 was a significant achievement for a franchise that's never reached that win total each of the past two seasons. But as the Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! exploded overhead, all any D.C. Fan could think about was a young rookie, starting at shortstop on Labor Day Monday that invigorated the fan base much like Stephen Strasburg did on June 8th. The crowd watching wasn't as large or vocal as was the case for Our Number 37's early summer performance--neither was the media throng that accompanied The Pied Piper's first start.

But the home debut of Danny Espinosa enthralled Washington's fans just as Strasburg did--captivating folks that had never heard of him. Probably, drawing some lingering eyes from the reporters that cover the game. And truly had us wondering: are Our Washington Nationals really not that far off after all? The latest Nationals Idol reigniting every hope to D.C.'s Franchise today.

That's what September call-ups are for.

Finding the keepers, looking to the future--finding a fresh new hero to help take you to the promised land.

Stephen Strasburg became a deity in his very first Major League home start. Danny Espinosa became simply beloved.

Game Notes & Highlights

If Ryan Zimmerman had let the first pitch of this game bunted by New York's Angel Pagan to roll foul and Espinosa had not juggled a hard hit baseball off the bat of Chris Carter in the very top of the first inning moments later, maybe Jordan Zimmermann would not have struggled so badly. But J-Z unfortunately did. His release point for all his pitches was clearly off. Scott Olsen and Craig Stammen were warming up in Washington's bullpen before two outs were recorded. Eventually, J-Zimm left with the lead after four innings of three hit, four walk, three run baseball. He just didn't pitch the required five innings to get the personal win.

People need to understand, this is the nature of coming back from Tommy John surgery. One year after recovery, you have your good days, you have your bad days. This is a part of the recovery. The elbow has been reconstructed. It might be more stable than before, but the body still needs to adjust to the new ligaments. Time is important to complete recovery. What's important to Jordan Zimmermann is realizing what he can do right now--55 weeks after the operation. And what he will be capable of doing better come April, 2011--18 months from the moment he couldn't even bend his right arm anymore.

It's all about future for Jordan Zimmermann now--not just one difficult day.

Banished to the bullpen, Scott Olsen pitched four innings of no hit, two walk baseball. He threw well and received the vulture win thanks to Our Washington Nationals scoring the go-ahead and eventual winning runs with a five run bottom of the 4th inning. The very frame that J-Z was batted for by Kevin Mench.

OK--here are the numbers for Espinosa: solo home run batting lefthanded to the opposite field--just over the left field corner wall in the 3rd inning off Mike Pelfrey. RBI single up the middle in the 5th off Sean Green scoring Michael Morse. Grand slam to right off Ryota Igarashi that bounced off the facing of the Scoreboard Walk seats in right in the 6th. He also doubled on a blooper just over 3rd base in the 8th. The man can flat out run. 4 hits in five at-bats, six rbi's today. Nine hits in 16 at-bats over five games played with three total home runs, three doubles and 10 rbi's. The Santa Ana, California native sporting a slugging percentage well over 1.000.

Espinosa receiving the customary rookie shaving cream pie in the face from John Lannan while being interviewed by MASN's Debbi Taylor after the game.

Clearly, Espinosa is unlikely to continue this trend. But a simple defensive play in the top of the 8th inning showed his all-around skills. The Mets Lucas Duda grounded a hot smash at Danny. Washington's shortstop was tricked by an odd hop as the ball bounced off the turf and infield dirt. As Espinosa actually stumbled getting his glove down to short hop the baseball--he somehow righted himself and with Duda less than 10 feet from 1st base--FIRED A ROCKET ACROSS THE INFIELD--to retire the New York leftfielder by five feet. The Defensive Play Of This Game wasn't even close. Danny Espinosa had taken care of that as well. That Defensive Gem maybe better than his offensive performance. Not many infielders make that play.

Pudge Rodriguez knocked in three runs on a two-run double and sacrifice fly. Ryan Zimmerman continued his push for the 100 RBI mark with two more today--giving him 82 for the season. Adam Dunn was absolutely robbed of a possible multi-run rbi single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 4th when The Mets overshifted to the right and Dunn laced a fierce liner toward New York 2nd Baseman Luis Hernandez playing short rightfield. The ball was hit so hard, Hernandez actually had to dive to make the catch. Adam was pissed, and rightfully so. He deserved a couple RBI's for that smash.

Speaking of the shift, earlier in the game, The Mets had FIVE GUYS (not the burger joint) playing in right field defensively for Dunn. Sometimes, Adam should plunk a few baseballs down the 3rd base line to even the odds up a little more. With two umpires also on the right side of the diamond--it looked more like a cricket match than baseball.

"The Mets Must Hate" Willie Harris got his bell rung trying to make a backhanded catch against the "Out Of Town" Scoreboard in the top of the 3rd. New York's Chris Carter drove a Zimmermann pitch off the chicken wired wall and Harris smacked right into the barrier attempting to make another circus catch against his biggest foe. This time, the wall won and Willie was taken out of the game for precautionary measures--nothing serious. Michael Morse replaced him in Washington's lineup.

Funny sight today, watching Batting Coach, and Temporary 3rd Base Coach, Rick Eckstein running back and forth to his needed positions. With Coach Pat Listach serving the final game of his two-game suspension for The Melee In Miami (H/T to Dave Jageler), Eckstein was seen running back and forth to the dugout each time New York changed their pitcher. Eckstein wanting to talk to his hitters about the scouting reports. Doing double duty, Rick Eckstein was hustling today. Sohna perfectly stating: "He looks like a player." And he does, Eck is in such good shape.

Now tell us--does The New York Mets Ruben Tejada look 15 years old or what? Has he ever shaved in his lifetime? Inquiring minds want to know.

The Mets lineup in the 9th inning--pretty uninspiring. What in the world is Omar doing in Queens? Injuries yeah, but that lineup?

Today was the first day of a week-long Season Ticket Holder Event at Nationals Park. Included in the back of every season ticket booklet is a coupon for redemption to receive one free promo item from Our Washington Nationals. Bobbleheads, tee-shirts, coolers, Kids items, caps--an assortment of goodies located just outside Nationals Park on 1st Street, SE--just below the Kids Zone. Sohna and I redeemed ours today for two Bobbleheads--Adam Dunn from 2009 and Ryan Zimmerman from 2010. Pudge Rodriguez and Nyjer Morgan Bobbleheads were available as well when we went to the venue for redemption.

Abe won the 4th inning Presidents Race. Teddy, probably invigorated over The Rushmores races against The Pittsburgh Pirate Pirogues this weekend at PNC Park, raced hard to the finish--just missing out as Abe waltzed in backwards for his 27th win of the season.

Labor Day Monday could not have been better weather-wise. A beautiful low humidity day which meant picture taking time around Nationals Park.

And actually set up one of the best moments of the day. While standing on the Gallery Level, just below the Press Box, Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler can be heard broadcasting the game. As New York's Lucas Duda steps to the plate in the 3rd inning, clearly heard was Charlie singing "Camptown races sing this song, Du Da!! Du Da!!" Hilarious. Later, upon Duda striking out on three pitches, Slowes tongue in cheek states: "He struck out on three pitches--that would be Zippidy Duda!!"

That's funny and that's how Nats320 finally ends today's post.

All Photo Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Chris said...

SBF, I want to thank you for the incredible effort you put into each post. I clicked over here from furiously watching tonight's games in Pennsylvania, and I admit that I snickered a little at the extra drama you lead off with - but only a little. Appreciating great moments in what baseball is all about, and the way you hang with those moments teaches all of us something about being good fans.

So thank you.

paul said...

I'm glad I saw Espinosa field tonight. He made two very good plays, one of which I don't think any past or present Nats' 2B was/is capable of. Shading toward 2B, he raced over to cover first on Tejada's bunt. Superb anticipation, recognition, speed, and hustle.