The List: 50 things to look forward to in 2011
Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.
Hey NatsTown. Thanks for again stopping by.
Big weekend down here. Two more wins, including Saturday’s 6-5 comeback win over the Yankees in front of a packed house at Space Coast Stadium. We are now 10-5 on the Spring. Only the Braves (11-5) have a better record in the Grapefruit League. Feels good! We lost today’s home matchup with the Tigers, 4-1, but Jason Marquis continued to pitch very well. I think we are beginning to see the “real” Jason Marquis now.
Want to change things up today. Peek just about anywhere on television or at your favorite newsstand and you’ll quickly notice that our society is fixated on lists.
Honestly, who does not appreciate a good list after all? They are fun, thought provoking and stir debate.
With this in mind, I am going to list 50 “things” I am interested in, excited about or intrigued by entering the 2011 season.
This list is in no particular order, but I hope this spurs some dialogue and/or discussion among your fellow Nationals fans and friends.
Please feel free to send along your own admissions.
Let’s get started …
1. Opening Day. Packed house, a big win over the Braves. I had to list this first, right?
2. Jordan Zimmermann’s evolution in first complete season since having Tommy John surgery.
3. The buzz at Nationals Park when Henry Rodriguez hits triple digits on the radar gun.
4. The number of ways Jim Riggleman can pencil in Zimmerman, Werth, LaRoche in the 3-4-5 slots. Or will it be just one?
5. Witness day-to-day Pudge’s march toward 3000 hits.
6. The new food options opening up during the season at Nationals Park. This won’t be a small list.
7. How much has Screech worked out this offseason? Will he again be svelte Screech?
8. Our outfield defense. You have to think it will be really strong under almost every alignment Rizzo and Riggleman come up with.
9. Ian Desmond’s defense. With a year of maturity and experience under his belt, and LaRoche’s vacuum-like glove at first base, how many fewer errors will he make without compromising his elite range.
10. Will Sean Burnett continue to be as good a left-handed middle reliever as there is in MLB? I bet he will be with continued good health.
11. Jayson Werth’s professionalism and its affect on our clubhouse. And how his presence in the middle of our lineup will positively affect our run production.
12. Roger Bernadina or Nyjer Morgan, who will have more bunt hits.
13. Who will lead the team in hustle hits (aka infield hits)? My bet is on Ian Desmond. But watch out for Danny Espinosa, plus he gets more than half his at-bats from the left side.
14. When will we see Rick Ankiel’s legendary outfield arm pay dividends for the first time. Cannot wait.
15. Will Tyler Clippard stick with “Peaches” as his intro song. Hope so.
16. How will Jim Riggleman use his bench, which is as talented and as deep as we have known here.
17. How many pinch homers will Matt Stairs hit? How many of those will be game-changers.
18. Does Michael Morse put it all together? His prospects look good, don’t they?
19. How noticeable and tangible will our renewed emphasis on baserunning be? Should be really fun seeing a lot of first-to-third, first-to-home on a double, etc.
20. See Livan throw a ‘Bugs Bunny’ changeup that registers in the low 60s on the radar gun?
21. Will Ryan Zimmerman win his 3rd straight Silver Slugger?
22. Can Ryan rightfully reclaim his Gold Glove? I bet “yes.” Having Mr. LaRoche as a target won’t hurt.
23. Interested to see Wilson Ramos’ arm and, for kicks and giggles, ask Bob Boone how it compares to Pudge’s when he was 23 years-old.
24. With his new mechanics in mind, watch Ross Detwiler take the next step in his career (so far, so good this spring)
25. Watch who gets the majority of our saves.
26. Good weather, maybe highs in the 70s with plenty of sun, for Nats Fest on Wed., March 30.
27. Want to watch the Mel Antonen, Tom Davis, Dave Johnson and Phil Wood pre pre-game show on MASN from 5-6:30pm weeknights. Also excited about Charlie and Dave on 106.7-WJFK FM. Good to be back on FM again!
28. Multiple All-Stars for the Nationals for the first time since 2005 (Livan, Chad Cordero).
29. With a small lead in hand, see who will pitch the 9th inning on Opening Day against the Braves.
30. Can Collin Balester clone his Sept. 2010 performance and reproduce it in 2011?
31. How many home runs will Bryce Harper hit in the minor leagues?
32. See who Mike Rizzo and his talented network of scouts pluck with the 6th and 23rd-overall selections in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
33. Excited to experience F.P. Santangelo on MASN 10 times in 10 days during a May road trip.
34. Time (via a stopwatch) how long it takes our fans to fall in love with Jayson Werth and Jerry Hairston, Jr. Oh, and Todd Coffey and his sprint?
35. Further good health and prosperity for Jesus Flores, who deserves both.
36. Fewer trips to the mound for Steve McCatty as our starting pitchers consistently go 7 innings.
37. Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond become the best and most athletic middle infield tandem in the NL. Heck, why stop there. Let’s say best in MLB.
38. Adam LaRoche to be named as one of the sneaky-good signings of the 2010-11 offseason.
39. Perhaps have a young opposing player swing twice when seeing a vintage Tyler Clippard changeup for the first time.
40. With most of Taiwan watching, have Chien-Ming Wang make the first of his 20+ starts for us in May.
41. Read about an opposing player like Chipper Jones, Chase Utley or David Wright lauding the consistent hustle and effort of your 2011 Washington Nationals.
42. Require a calculator to tally the number of errorless games we string together in 2011.
43. Watch to see how we grow as a franchise through the prism of social media.
44. See if Nyjer Morgan can regain his 2009 Mojo.
45. Watch Danny Espinosa homer from both sides of the plate in the same game.
46. Have Livan Hernandez rightfully claim his first Gold Glove.
47. See Tom Gorzelanny make 30 starts and regain his status as a double digit-game winner.
48. See winning records and postseason berths in Syracuse, Harrisburg, Potomac, Hagerstown, Auburn, Viera and the Dominican Republic.
49. Be present as Stephen Strasburg pitches in mid-September, a la Jordan Zimmermann in Sept. 2010.
50. Will Teddy win? I sure hope so! Maybe I’ll ask Todd Coffey if he can work with Teddy on the fine art of sprinting.
Again, please don’t hold back. Send in some of your own ideas.
Thanks so much for your time and continued enthusiasm for the Nationals.
17 more days until the opener…
I will be in touch again soon.