Thursday, April 02, 2009

Batter up: Washington Nationals

It's that mystical, wonderful time of year where you commit to a baseball team who you know fully well won't win. This season, in honour of an popular Internet meme, we'll present 25 things about each team. At bat: The Washington Nationals.
  1. The Nationals owners actually paid their rent on time, automatically making this the best season in team history.

  2. There were no limits to what John Lennon could imagine, but there are limits to what Nats fans can imagine when John Lannan is the Opening Day starter. Lannan is the only holdover from last season's starting rotation.

  3. It might take a $50-million commitment for the Nationals to get Scott Boras to deliver pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg (pictured), whom everyone has known would be going No. 1 overall since about last July. The Nats' pursuit of Mark Teixeira last winter might as well have been a foot-in-the-door technique with the Dark Lord. Strasburg will sign, but the cost is going to be pro-hib-i-tive.

  4. The Lerner family, which owns the Nats, makes its money in real estate, so squash any thought of a big free agent signing in Washington any time soon.

  5. The Nationals are having trouble selling out their Opening Day game. A pig with lipstick on it is still a pig, in the parlance of our time.

  6. Rookies Shairon Martis and Jordan Zimmerman might as well open the season in the starting rotation. Remember, this is Washington, where the unofficial motto, "What's the worst that can happen?"

  7. The team's PECOTA projection is for a 77-85 record, a huge improvement from 59-102 in 2008. A team almost has to try to lose 102 games, so some evenout is to be expected. Their over/under is 71½ wins, so you might be able to cash in.

  8. The Nationals are the Juno Awards of baseball teams, so far gone that they're spoof-proof. Joking that Adam Dunn signed with the Nats because he doesn't like baseball that much, just like almost everyone who lives in Washington is instantly stale, like Russell Peters promising to skewer Nickelback.

  9. A lineup which includes has shortstop Cristian Guzmán setting the table for hitters such as Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman and Elijah Dukes, not to mention Josh Willingham as one of the approximately 11 outfielders on the Opening Day roster, should be able to score some runs, hence the mild optimism.

  10. Josh Towers' failure to make the Nationals is a good burn on the people who run the Syracuse Chiefs. They decided to pair up with Washington after 32 seasons with Toronto because they were tired of the Blue Jays giving them lousy players and they end up getting Josh Towers.

    If only there was an opinionated Jays fan who is relocating to Syracuse and could heckle Towers later this summer. If only.

  11. Austin Kearns hit .217/.311/.316 last season, meaning he'll probably be the the odd outfielder out in Washington. Those kind of stats, when combined with scrappy grit, would make him a first-ballot inductee into the Reed Johnson Hall of Fame, which is slated to be built in a particularly rundown section of Brantford, Ontario.

  12. Dunn could join Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa as the only players to have six 40-home run seasons in a row. That's like the story about the time a little old lady gave Stormin' Gorman Thomas a ball to sign that already had the signatures of several baseball immortals: "There's no telling what that ball was worth before I signed it."

  13. Short synopsis of Jim Bowden being forced out as general manager: It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

  14. Former Expo Randy St. Claire is the pitching coach, while Marquis Grissom is also on the coaching staff. Both could play on the Bobby Hebert All-Stars, American pro athletes with French names.

  15. 2007 first-round pick Ross Detwiler was 35th in The Baseball Prospectus Top 100 Prospects in 2008. This year he's 81st.

  16. Nationals Park will soon be graced by white bronze sculptures of D.C. baseball greats Josh Gibson, Walter Johnson and Frank Howard. The Howard sculpture might be some time in the outfield as a late-inning defensive replacement for Adam Dunn.

  17. People who only have interest in crazy or obscure wagers should see what the lines are for who will be the Nationals' all-star representative. Dunn or Guzmán, who's a .300 hitter, are good bets, but the darkhorse would be closer Joel Hanrahan. He'll get his fair share of save opportunities and taking a reliever off a bad team allows more flexibility with filling out the rest of the lineup. You heard it here first (and if you Hanrahan has a 13.50 ERA at the end of April, you didn't hear it here at all).

  18. Former Nationals closer Chad Cordero was great when they somehow went 81-81 in 2005. Now he's probably available for about the same price as a house in Detroit. That's not meant to be mean, it's a metaphor for where the U.S. has gone in four years.

  19. First baseman Nick Johnson's Baseball Prospectus 2009 entry reads: "Like the crystal egg in Risky Business, the leg lamp from A Christmas Story, the tablets in The Ten Commandments or wind in a Kevin Smith movie, Nick Johnson always gets broken ... it's appropriate that Johnson came up as a Yankee — he's the Ron Blomberg of the goyim."

  20. As if it's not hard to forget the Bush era, the Nationals have an infielder named Alberto Gonzalez in their farm system.

  21. Kind of lame April Fools Day joke that almost worked: Having Dmitri Young on the roster has forced the Nationals to petition for a move to the American League. Johnson, Young, Dunn and Dukes give the Nats four DH types.

  22. No one needs another reminder that Andre Dawson and Tim Raines both should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, right?

  23. The Baseball Prospectus 2009 chapter on manager Manny Acta actually puts him in the same sentence with Casey Stengel. Acta's .409 winning percentage in his first two seasons is about on par with how Stengel fared when he was managing the Boston Bees and Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1930s and '40s.

  24. Despite all the new outfielders coming in, Willie Harris, is still on the roster, which is a welcome sight. For about 24 hours last summer Harris, who wears a double-flap batting helmet like some journeyman fourth outfielder left over from the late 1980s, actually had more home runs than any Blue Jays hitter. He also has his fun side when he tries to play second base:
    "There was a pop hit by Detroit's first batter of the sixth. It was just beyond the second base bag. Cristian Guzman yielded ground to Harris... and as the ball plunged toward Harris's mitt, you could hear the crowd at Space Coast murmur.


    "Harris snagged the pop.

    "The stadium roared.

    "He gripped his glove with his right hand, as if holding a treasure, and then pumped his fist into the air.

    "The applause continued.

    "Harris took a bow.

    "There won't be a funnier P-4 all year."
  25. Five years is almost enough time to let bygones be bygones in terms of the Expos being bogarted. On second thought, nahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

    There's still somefibre of one's being that hopes to wake up one morning in September and see the Nats sporting a 7-138 record.

1 comment:

Real Baseball Intelligence said...

Real Baseball Intelligence (RBI), a leading resource in the evaluation of amateur baseball talent and draft coverage, has ranked Stephen Strasburg the #1 prospect for the 2009 MLB Draft. View his free scouting report (with video) at