Wednesday, March 26, 2008


It's staying light longer, the Leafs are all-but-eliminated ... that can mean only one thing: We'll soon see the first halter dress of the season! OK, two things: It's time for baseball, the timeless game that involves committing to a team for six months after reading all winter about why they won't win jack squat. Here's a "starting nine" for the Washington Nationals.
  1. Wow, what a nice park: By all accounts, the new Nationals Park is baseball exactly as you've pictured it in your most fevered dreams -- at least until the Nationals take their positions.
  2. Ask again in 2042: There's no equivocation, no all-things-considered. I would rather have a jam session with Jann Arden than see the Nationals make the playoffs. There's no forgiving how Bud Selig and the boys had their knives out for Montreal and were all too eager to deliever a franchise to Washington.
  3. Just putting this out there: Nationals closer Chad Cordero is a fly-ball pitcher moving from a hitters' graveyard, RFK Stadium, to a new park that is supposed to be more home run friendly. An ERA in the 5.00s is very likely.
  4. If you want to talk fishing, I guess that'll be OK: On Sunday, President George W. Bush is set to throw out the first ball at Nationals Park. Washington catcher Paul Lo Duca is mentioned 37 times in the Mitchell Report on the use of drugs in baseball, which is probably why the Washington Times makes no mention of who'll be the ceremonial catcher.

    Someone named Elliott Yamin will sing God Bless America at the seventh-inning stretch. If he does well, the Nats might let him pinch-hit in the bottom of the inning.
  5. H-I-double-hockey-sticks: Right-hander Shawn Hill, from Mississauga, has run into all sorts of complications since having Tommy John surgery in 2005. He finally pitched in a game for the first time this spring on Monday. He came up big for Canada at the 2004 Olympics and he got his first major-league win in an Expos-Jays game (a feat not even dampened by the fact the game was played in San Juan, Puerto Rico, thanks again, Bud), so yes, you should cheer for him to make it back.
  6. Wright-ly or wrongly: Nats third baseman Ryan Zimmerman might be the best at his position in the NL, but playing in the same division as the Mets' David Wright, will anyone ever notice?
  7. Anyone else to get excited about? Well, there's outfielder Lastings Milledge and left-hander Russ Detwiler, who probably won't be in the majors for good until 2009. That's about it, really.
  8. Messages on the P.A. system you'll never hear: "Greetings, baseball fans. While the District of Columbia was building this $611-million US stadium, a nearby non-profit agency which helps abused and troubled children had to contemplate closing its doors since all the gentrification in its neighbourhood caused its property taxes to jump almost tenfold in a single year. Keep an eye out for foul balls and encountering any of those children in dark alley in the not-too-distant future, and enjoy today's game."

    That said, it's a really nice stadium:

  9. Need-to-know: Finishing 73-89 last season was a neat little trick of rolling with fundamentally flawed one-trick ponies such as Dmitri Young and Felipe Lopez, who as Bill James has said, who "is no more a shortstop than he is an aircraft designer, a Chinese diplomat or the president of the Teamsters' Union."

    The Nationals are essentially a second-year expansion team and they got everything they could out of a crew of castoffs last season. The one parallel to them is the mid-'70s Expos, who approached respectability for a few years before bottoming out with a 107-loss season in 1976. A season like that might be in the Nats' future, but at least they're not the Orioles.

That's all for now. Send your thoughts to

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