Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nats Begin Home Losing Streak
Yesterday was the Nats home opener, and, overall, kind of a strange day.

As we made our way to the stadium, we heard that legendary Phillies announcer and voice of NFL Films Harry Kalas died, as he was preparing for the game. After the game, I read that legendary pitcher and character Mark "Bird" Fidrych died during the day. I remember the days of Fidrych Fever; if you saw him pitch, you'd never forget him, he was the closest thing in baseball to a real-life Sid Finch.

The game was strange, too. Daniel Cabrera was on and off, and certainly not helped by his defense. Anderson Hernandez, who appears to the be latest in a long list of lousy second basemen for the Nats, didn't help by commiting two errors. Adam Dunn didn't field very well either, but that is to be expected.

The good news for the Nats, though, is that their offense appears much impoved. Guys in the heart of the order -- Zimmerman, Dunn, Dukes -- all have the ability to crush the ball, which they each displayed by homering yesterday. Nick Johnson hasn't done much yet, but he'll either warm up or get injured soon. Hopefully, he'll get heated. Christian Guzman is a singles machine. Unfortunately, yesterday he became the third Nat this year to hurt himself running to first base (along with Willie Harris, and Hernandez). Hopefully he'll be back soon.

There were a lot of home runs, a lot of errors, some actual good catches by Milledge and Dukes, a lot of hit batsman in a row (well, two, but you never really see that), and some questionable managing decisions by Manny Acta, who I expect to be fired any moment.

For me, though, the bottom line was that it was fun. The stadium was packed. I didn't notice a higher percentage of Phillies fans than at any other Phillies/Nats games. I actually was amused by the people that criticized Stan Kasten for inviting, last week, Phillies fans to the game. Kasten can't win. Anybody who's ever been to previous Nats/Phillies games, or Skins/Eagles games, or Caps/Flyers games knows that people in Philadelphia know how to get to Washington, and always make their presence known. Believe me, these folks had bought their tickets and made their plans long ago; I'd be surprised if even one person bought tickets because of Kasten's remarks.

Metro, unsurprisingly, let me down yesterday; we got to L'Enfant Plaza to make the transfer to the green line, and it didn't look like there were any more trains than on a usual weekday afternoon. So we caught a cab. There were long lines in some of the concessions, and I'm sure all of the city's great Nats fans have chimed in on that in various forums. But you could find shorter lines if you walked a little bit, or, you know, just try to go a few hours without eating junk food. Nats' management finally caught on to what every other stadium does, and gave their beer vendors bright yellow shirts so that they could be picked out in the crowd.

I'm not sure that it adds anything to the gameday experience to have two crappy bands playing in the stadium. Both played so loudly that you couldn't have a conversation if you were close to them, which resulted in the band by the Porch not having anyone within 30 feet of them. I guess that and the fact that at one point they were playing the theme from Cheers. (I think they were being ironic -- kids these days.) People standing in various food lines just kind of looked at them and looked at their watches, with a "Isn't it about time for them to break?," look in their eyes. I'd lean to bagging bands at the stadium altogether, although it would be awful cool if a band like the Nighthawks were playing as you walked into the stadium.

On the field, I think the Nats need to make some moves. They need to fire Acta, who doesn't even really seem like he'd mind. They need to do something with Lastings Milledge, I'm not sure that sending him to the minors is going to help his fielding. See if someone will take him in a trade, and hope he doesn't become the next Emilio Bonifacio. Get rid of Kearns. I was encouraged by the massive home run he hit last week, but he was back to his old self by Sunday, grounding into two double plays ("Kearnsies," as I like to call them). Put Dukes in center, give poor Josh Willingham a chance in right, and keep it that way for a while. Keep Willie Harris out of the infield. And see what happens.

I'm hoping that this stretch of poor pitching will end soon. Maybe call up Bergmann and Zimmermann and anybody else with two n's at the end of their name that seems like they may be able to help. Give them a shot, if they can't do the job, get someone else. I hear Nick Swisher may be available.

What I hope, is that at the end of the season, we'll be saying, "Well, it was a decent year, and it would have been even better if not for our poor start." But that will only happen if they win soon. Tomorrow would be nice.


cleavers44 said...

It'll be interesting to see how Milledge handles the demotion to AAA. What do you think about Dukes leading off? He seems to be willing to take the walks (OBP around .385 last season).

Looks like I'll get to see Zimmermann's first start on Sunday.

tadcranky said...

Looks like you're going to get screwed with NN. I wonder if it's ever going to stop raining? I guess this is preparation for softball season...

cleavers44 said...

Yeah, I jinxed myself there with NN, didn't I? At least I saw Martis have a nice start last night.