Results tagged ‘ Mark Lerner ’
Greetings from sunny Space Coast Stadium, where the weather started so-so, but spring suddenly arrived on Sunday. We are currently enjoying a gentle breeze and temperatures in the high 70’s. Perfect. I am also glad to read that things are warming up back in DC after a prolonged spate of snowy and cold weather. Sounds like spring is genuinely in the air!
Matt Williams’ first spring camp is already well underway. Pitchers have already been through two or three bullpen sessions and, yes, everyone looks great. I’ll get to that in a moment.
What has impressed me the most is just how many position players reported for duty early. With few exceptions, we have enjoyed full position-player batting practice sessions each of the last three days. So many that we have had to split the BP session over two fields.
Ryan Zimmerman in the cage. Adam LaRoche scooping balls at first base. Ian Desmond working the pivot with Anthony Rendon, Danny Espinosa, Jamey Carroll and Mike Fontenot. Nate McLouth working on his jumps in the outfield. All sights to behold.
- Camp Williams is crisp, precise, upbeat and full of hustle. With that said, there have been a good number of competitive moments built in that have seized the pitchers’ attention. For example, every team has pitcher-bunting drills. However, here in Viera, pitchers and fans alike have enjoyed a competitive tweak as the pitcher attempt to bunt balls into a pair of strategically-placed ball bags. These competitive drills have resulted in good-natured hooting, hollering and trash talking. But they also demand concentration that at least partially mimics a real game.
Nothing new here, but Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann all look fantastic. And I have a suspicion that Doug Fister is really going to have a positive influence on the others. First of all, Fister is an accomplished pitcher in his own right. He won 32 games in two-plus seasons with the Tigers. And, he’s been a part of another vaunted pitching staff. Doug has pitched in a World Series. He watched the likes of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer win Cy Young awards. There is value in that, and I doubt that it is a coincidence that his locker is located next to/near Stephen, Gio and Jordan.
- Lots of emphasis on defense and defensive fundamentals. It was also interesting to see that Matt has some of his pitchers moonlighting at different positions during some bunt plays. There is a belief that the multi-position perspective will help fine tune the execution. At the very least, it’ll give our pitcher’s some perspective they may not have experienced since their days playing prep baseball.
- Incidentally, Livan Hernandez used to work out almost daily at shortstop and he was the best fielding pitcher I have ever seen. I cannot express how fantastic it is to have Livan on hand as a coach. The players are really enjoying his presence and he is a heck of a teacher. Livan is a true gem who has a fantastic feel for our fans and for baseball in DC.
- I was talking to some of our player development folks and there is great enthusiasm for the projected rosters/lineups/rotations in Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg. It is too early to know where various players will be assigned, but there are very real layers of talent in the upper reaches of our system that will be inevitably be called upon as the season progresses. The Opening Day 25 is important, but it is really only a fleeting glimpse of the talent assembled.
- There are ex-Expos everywhere you look around camp: Luis Ayala, Jamey Carroll, Ian Desmond (last player left who was drafted by the Expos), Randy Knorr and Bob Henley. Ayala and Carroll were inaugural-season Nationals.
- Matt Williams’ coaching staff is filled with a lot of former catchers, which is never a bad thing. Randy Knorr, Bob Henley and Matt LeCroy. Those catchers understand the game from all angles.
- Rafael Soriano looks good. And so do his pitches. I think there is a certain comfort that comes with a second season.
- Be sure to follow the Nationals (@nationals) and Amanda Comak on Twitter. She has done a fantastic job sharing the sights and sounds of Nationals’ 2014 Spring Training on a seemingly minute-by-minute basis. Last week, Amanda shared some of the unique images that were captured by our quadcopter, which was equipped with a tiny high-resolution camera, on our various social-media platforms. For 24-48 hours there, the quadcopter was the talk of camp.
The local DC television media has descended upon Viera, so be sure to tune into all the local channels for in-depth interviews with Matt Williams and all of your favorite Nationals. Earlier today, we hosted ESPN and the Baseball Tonight Bus at Space Coast Stadium. Karl Ravech and Tim Kurkjian were on hand. Both are great ambassadors for their network and the game of baseball. Matt Williams and Bryce Harper were their main guests, so you will be seeing both on SportsCenter tonight.
- Little more than a week until our Grapefruit League opener (Fri., Feb. 28 at Mets) and our Grapefruit League home opener (Sat., March 1 vs. Braves). There is still plenty of time to plan a great family trip for Spring Training baseball in Viera. At the risk of dating myself, I still remember childhood trips to Pompano Beach to see the likes of Mike Epstein, Frank Howard, Eddie Brinkman and all of the old Senators. Great memories.
- If you do make it down to Space Coast Stadium for a visit, please don’t hesitate to stop me and say ‘Hello.’ Our fans’ enthusiasm and spirit are infectious and I am always impressed with everyone’s knowledge of not only the Nationals, but baseball in general. Isn’t this the best time of year? Well, outside of a busy October I suppose.
Until next time …
There were more than 8,400 Nationals fans who packed the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on Saturday afternoon.
And because of them, it was an unforgettable day.
We can’t say “Thank you” enough to those of you who were able to join us, and share in our excitement for the 2014 season.
Here is a small glimpse into the day that was, and with just 17 days remaining until pitchers and catchers report, hopefully this will warm your baseball-loving souls for just a little bit longer.
Greetings from the Swan and Dolphin Hotel in Orlando, where I am on the ground at Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings.
I understand everyone back home is dealing with the aftermath of yesterday ice/frozen rain/hail storm and that more snow accumulation could be on the way.
The rumor here is that Central Florida is drenched in bright sunshine with temperatures in the low 80s, but I’d never know it, if not for passing a hotel window every so often. Our work here keeps us inside and the hotel’s layout on the Disney Campus does not present many opportunities to enjoy the warm weather.
Congratulations to Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre on their election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Could there be any more baseball symmetry than these three gentlemen being inducted together this July in Cooperstown?
Together, Cox, La Russa and Torre combined on 7,558 regular-season victories, eight World Championships and infinite respect from both inside and outside the game.
The trio set the standard for baseball’s modern manager in the dugout and cultivated lasting relationships with the likes of Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine, Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera in the clubhouse.
Sure, they had great players, but they established programs and team cultures that have lived on well past their departures from the Braves, Cardinals and Yankees. This is truly a fantastic moment for the game of baseball.
- Speaking of managers, I flew down to Florida with Matt Williams over the weekend. We had another in a long line of fantastic chats. Some dealt with baseball. Some did not. If it is possible, I am even more convinced that Matt was the right hire for our club at the right time.
- For those who followed his career, preparedness was a big part of Matt’s game. No detail is too small. Well, he seems to have carried this over to his managerial career. For instance, Matt and his staff are in the late stages of scheduling Spring Training workouts. But before Matt signs off on the final schedules, he is driving an hour over to Viera, Fla., so he can lay his own eyes on Space Coast Stadium and the layout at the Washington Nationals Training Complex. In Matt’s 25 or so years in baseball (he was drafted in ’87), he has experienced only one spring in the Grapefruit League. In 1997, Matt spent Spring Training with the Indians in Winter Haven, FL. To the best of Matt’s recollection, he did not travel east that spring to Viera. So, rather than leave workout schedules to chance, Matt will visit Viera for himself on Thursday.
- Mike Rizzo held his first staff meeting this morning in the team suite. He went over the roster, handed out staff assignments and talked about some of the team’s needs. Matt Williams had his turn at bat and spoke too. This was our scouting staff’s prime opportunity to pick Mike’s mind, compare notes on various players and offer names (internal and external) to keep an eye on. Mike seems pleased with the offseason’s progress to date, but he verbalized that there was more work to be done.
- I have to think the primary reason for Mike’s upbeat meeting was last week’s acquisition of Doug Fister. From what I’ve gathered, Doug is a Grade-A individual who just so happens to be 6-foot-8 and throw a heavy 89-90 mph sinker, from an arm angle that gives opposing batters fits. And Fister, unlike recent offseason rotation additions such as Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson, will be here for a while. We control his rights for two seasons. Doug’s repertoire should benefit when contrasted with the 95+ mph fastballs of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann.
Well, that’s it for today. For those battling the elements back in DC, please stay safe, warm and dry.
Hello everyone. Happy autumn.
November 11 is always a special day on the calendar. Veterans Day provides a solemn opportunity to reflect upon, and honor this nation’s true heroes and their lasting legacy of sacrifice. The Nationals organization is proud of our strong relationship with Veterans, and of our lasting commitment to the military as a whole.
Well, another fantastic World Series ended almost two weeks ago and we are now officially in the midst of the offseason. But the good news is that as the chillier temps roll in, we are also two weeks closer to Spring Training and Opening Day, 2014!
I’d like to congratulate the Red Sox on their remarkable season and third championship in 10 years. To ascend from last place in the AL East to World Champs in 13 short months is no small feat.
Boston’s “worst-to-first” narrative should serve as offseason fuel for every owner, general manager, executive, player and fan. We are reminded that baseball is never stagnant, and anything is possible.
Of course, while the game’s collective eyes were on three-plus riveting rounds of October baseball, Mike Rizzo was hard at work putting the finishing touches on our list of managerial candidates.
What was noteworthy, as Mike told us later, was that he had much more trouble whittling the list down to a manageable number than compiling the original list, which contained 50-plus names.
And while I don’t think it is appropriate to comment on any individual candidacies, I do feel comfortable saying that our game is flush with distinctive managerial talent.
I enjoyed meeting, talking with and asking questions of these gentlemen. I learned something from each, and was inspired by their progressive views, enthusiasm for the game and, specifically, this job in the Nation’s Capital.
As you know, we officially named Matt Williams the Nationals’ fifth field manager on October 31. We are ecstatic to have Matt on board. Perhaps it is cliché, but Matt is the right man, at the right time, to lead this team to greater heights.
Matt’s distinguished playing career speaks for itself. A five-time All-Star who claimed four Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers. Matt played in three World Series and owns a ring from arguably the best Fall Classic (2001) of the last 20 years.
In talking to Randy Knorr, Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond and Tanner Roark at the Williams press conference, all four were excited for both Matt and the organization.
Ian and Tanner knew a lot about his career, but what was interesting was that they gained this knowledge as young baseball fans. All four mentioned Matt’s work as a coach on Kirk Gibson’s dynamic coaching staff in Arizona.
Matt did not wait long to integrate his family locally. In all, he spent more than four days in DC with his wife, Erika, and daughter, Madison. They even joined some friends for Halloween trick-or-treating on Capitol Hill. It was fantastic to see the Williams family so eager to explore everything that DC has to offer.
I think everyone agrees that Matt made a terrific first impression at the press conference. He worked in a few brief meetings with Mike, but Matt and his beautiful family also investigated places to live and schools for his young daughter.
- Congratulations to Ian, who won his second consecutive Silver Slugger representing NL shortstops on Wednesday evening. I know Ian values this award because it is voted on by National League managers and coaches. As Nationals fans who watch him every day, we are all aware that Ian plays the game “the right way.” So, it nice to see that his leadership and passion for the game are admired throughout our league. Incidentally, Ian was the only infielder in baseball this season to achieve 20-homer, 20-stolen base status. Each of baseball’s other eight 20-20 players were outfielders. Ian should be very proud. Is there any doubt that he has been the best shortstop in baseball the last two seasons?
- I was, however, disappointed to learn recently that Denard Span was denied what would have been his first Gold Glove. I just don’t see how a center fielder, who played in 153 defensive games and committed exactly ZERO errors does not break through. Denard made all the plays he had to, and more. Anyone else remember our 6-5 home win on August 14 against the Giants? With the potential tying and winning runs on base, Denard made spectacular game-ending, snow-cone catch to deny Hunter Pence of a go-ahead double. Remember, this is a defensive award and offensive production should not have influence. There really is no other way to say it other than … Denard was truly robbed!
- Mike is currently at the General Manager’s meetings in Orlando. I suppose we can now officially declare that the Hot Stove Season is upon us. What else is remarkable is that the Winter Meetings (also in Orlando, Dec. 9-12) are now less than a month away. Rumors, trades, signings, Rule 5 Draft … let the baseball talk begin!
My optimism remains on ‘high’ for 2014! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Until we blog again from the Winter Meetings next month…
Another summer of Nationals baseball is in the books.
Eighty-six wins and a late-season charge that both captivated and frustrated fans and players alike.
I have been asked by friends and fans how a team with such a talented roster could play sub-.500 baseball for four months – breaking our hearts – and then come back and play so well during the season’s final six weeks?
All I know is there is no ‘sure thing’ in our game and we were certainly reminded of that in 2013. Some might answer that baseball’s true beauty is rooted in its humility. I’m proud of the way this team struggled back to finish the season, going 32-16 in the last seven-plus weeks – giving us back our hope for 2014.
Here are a few of my final thoughts on this season:
- Congratulations to Ian Desmond on his second consecutive 20-homer, 20-stolen base season. It is a joy to watch a true professional play at his level, day-in and day-out. From my seat, I see that he’s quickly becoming the best shortstop in baseball.
Jayson Werth’s stellar season should put him on a short, short list for National League Comeback Player of the Year. His return from last year’s gruesome left wrist injury is simply remarkable. I know from personal experience how seriously and with what care he treats his health – intense rehab and workouts, and near fanatical nutrition.
- Wilson Ramos is a difference-maker in our lineup. His ironman streak of 24 consecutive starts behind the plate with seven home runs and 24 RBI was one of the major factors in bringing this team up in the standings.
- It was disappointing that Jordan Zimmermann was not able to capture his 20th win last week at Busch Stadium, but that takes nothing away from a terrific ‘13 season. I would expect Jordan to capture some votes in the National League Cy Young Award voting.
- While Denard Span’s 29-game hitting streak was memorable, I also think it meant he finally found his comfort level in D.C. and the National League. If you remember, Jayson coped with some of his own transition issues when he joined us in 2011 after a long tenure with the Phillies, but found his groove and became the team contributor that we see today.
- We had our fair share of injuries and adversity in 2013. I would have loved to see one more month out of Werth, 130 total starts from Ramos, and for Bryce Harper to have avoided that right field wall at Dodger Stadium at the beginning of the season, but those were the cards we were dealt. That said, those injuries afforded Anthony Rendon, Taylor Jordan, Ian Krol and Tanner Roark the opportunity to showcase their talents over the long stretch. Both the team and the players will benefit from those innings on the field.
- I’d be remiss if I did not thank Davey Johnson for an historic run as our manager. Who will ever forget the summer of 2012, when postseason baseball returned to The Nation’s Capital for the first time since 1933? I know I won’t. Thanks Davey for helping to author memories that will never fade.
- Lastly, I want to thank not only those reading this blog, but all of our fans that stand behind this team on a daily basis. Attendance was up over 9% this season. TV ratings were fantastic. Your passion for Nats baseball is felt all the way to the clubhouse – I’ve even heard our players talk about it. Your enthusiasm reminds us all why this game matters. Thank you!
Mike Rizzo will soon begin interviews to find our next manager. With most of our young talent in place for the next several years, and a strong pitching foundation built around an accomplished rotation, I have to think we have an attractive position to offer. I know Mike has a working list of candidates in mind, but he’s also talking to executives from around the game that he respects. This search will be extensive and we expect he’ll deliver the right man for the job.
It’s my hope that many of you will be able to meet our new skipper at NatsFest in January. We will be rolling out the specifics on our signature offseason event shortly. And MLB’s Winter Meetings (December 9-12 in Orlando, FL) will be here in short time too. Almost time to fire up the Hot Stove.
Yes, I know we all just completed a grueling 162-game season, but my optimism is already on ‘high’ for 2014.
The first week of the 2013 season is in the books.
Let’s start with what was a truly ideal Opening Day. Great weather, a regular-season record crowd of 45,274 and we beat the Marlins, 2-0. Bryce went deep in his first two plate appearances of the season! Considering Bryce was experiencing his first Opening Day in the big leagues, this was a truly memorable performance that will be talked about for years to come.
Stephen dominated on Opening Day, Gio dominated like it was 2012, Jordan more than held his own and Rafael Soriano earned a pair of saves during the season-opening, three-game sweep of the Marlins.
We did not play nearly as well during the first road trip of the season, dropping two-of-three to the hot-hitting Reds. But Saturday’s gutty win in 11 innings did feature five home runs and a stellar effort from Ross Detwiler, who was touched for just one unearned run in 6.0 innings. Ross’ performance might have been the best-pitched game of the week considering the opponent, the venue and the stakes.
- The feel good story of the week had to have been Wilson Ramos’ two-homer game on Saturday in his first game at Great American Ball Park since injuring his knee there last May. We all know that the last few years have been remarkably trying for Wilson. That said, his boyish smile is back and he is easily in the best shape of his professional life. Wilson worked so diligently during his rehab process and it is rewarding to see him reap the benefits of that labor.
- When the ‘13 schedule was released, this is one of the homestands that really stood out to me. The White Sox (Tuesday-Thursday) and Braves (Friday-Sunday) visit for three games apiece.
- First, we get a rare interleague visit from the White Sox as our friend Adam Dunn returns to Nationals Park for the first time since 2010. It will be great to catch up with Adam and reminisce about his time here. Remember, he twice hit 38 home runs and drove in more than 100 runs here, so it is worth remembering just how fun it was watching Adam hit in a Nationals uniform. And on top of that, he has a beautiful family and is a class act off the field.
- Then the Braves come to town over the weekend for three games. This NL East matchup should provide great theater, not only this weekend, but for all 18 matchups this season. We will get our first glance at the “Chipper-less” Braves, who restocked themselves by acquiring B.J. and Justin Upton during the offseason. This will be a homecoming of sorts for the Upton brothers, who likely have not played together near their home of Norfolk, Virginia since their high school days. Beyond the Uptons, I am especially looking forward to Saturday’s Strasburg-Tim Hudson matchup at Nationals Park.
- Kudos to Denard Span (.444 on-base percentage), Kurt Suzuki (two doubles and a homer in three starts) and Tyler Clippard (has retired nine of 10 batters faced in three appearances to date) on their strong starts.
I hope to see you all at the ballpark wearing your red.
Until we blog again …
If you are reading this blog, chances are that I don’t have to remind you that Opening Day is less than a week away. I’m pumped up for the season to get started, and I know all of you Nats fans are also. During my nearly month-long stay in Viera, I spoke with hundreds of our fans. The common theme down there was unbridled enthusiasm.
Now I am back here in D.C. and the messaging is identical.
Is this is the most anticipated season in D.C. sports history? While this is not for me to say, I have to think it is at the very least on a short list.
- Friday’s 2:05 p.m. exhibition game against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park will feature a Jordan Zimmermann-Andy Pettitte pitching matchup. And here’s hoping that future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter’s ankle allows him to play, not only Friday, but all season.
- Interesting to hear that Davey plans to really split time behind the plate between Wilson Ramos and Kurt Suzuki. Both are wildly popular in the clubhouse and among the pitching staffs. I think Davey’s direction here tells us that he is quite confident in Wilson’s knee and overall fitness.
- Tyler Moore, Chad Tracy, Steve Lombardozzi and Roger Bernadina represent perhaps the finest bench in MLB. I know that Davey views all four as talents capable of starting. And this does not include the backup catcher, Ramos or Suzuki.
- If you have not picked up on this yet, … Micah Owings can really HIT. I really enjoyed getting to know Micah during spring training.
- Gazing at the schedule, it is still strange to see that we’ll be hosting the Chicago White Sox for three games from April 9-11. I keep reminding myself that this new day and age of interleague play will take some getting used to. It will also be fun to see the Detroit Tigers visit D.C. for a two-game set, May 7-8.
- More than a few fans mentioned they are pumped to see William Howard Taft (Bill) and Teddy interact. This historically fiery relationship is one to keep an eye on all summer. I understand there has been a lot of trash talking already between the two already. Best of luck to Bill on his upcoming racing debut.
- I’d be remiss if I did not thank and wish Kristina Akra, formerly of MASN, all the best on her new career path. For those that do not know, Kristina recently accepted a new job with the MLB Network. She will thrive there, but at the same time, her warm smile and enthusiasm will be missed here with the ballclub.
- Sports Illustrated, one of the preeminent publications in our industry, came out today with their prediction of the Nationals as World Series favorites. While I’m thrilled about their optimism, as well as that of all others (like ESPN The Magazine) who have tabbed us to be successful this year, I know there is much work to be done before we get to any of that. So I’ll just echo Davey’s remarks today: “It’s better than being picked to come in last!”
See you all on Friday…
Things here in camp could not be better. I think that Spring Training has picked up its pace. Everyone is getting their scheduled innings and at-bats. Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson could not be more pleased with what they are seeing.
One National who should be extremely pleased with himself is Ross Detwiler, who tossed 4.0 scoreless innings in Team USA’s win-or-go-home victory on Saturday against Italy in the World Baseball Classic. Just like last October, with his team’s season in the balance, Ross put forth his finest performance and picked up the first save of his career.
I wonder if Ross’s mental preparation for that game included thoughts about all of the brave U.S. service men and women he met during the USO Tour he took with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and teammate Craig Stammen back in December. It would not surprise me, as Ross is that type of individual.
Gio Gonzalez left Viera yesterday and joins Ross and his new teammates for the first time today. He’ll get the starting nod tomorrow night as Team USA faces Puerto Rico in Miami (8 p.m. on MLB Network). Gio will be challenged, as the Puerto Rican lineup will likely include the likes of Yadir Molina, Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan, Mike Aviles and Alex Rios.
Of course, we are equally as proud of Roger Bernadina (Netherlands), Eury Perez (Dominican Republic), Mike Costanzo (Italy), Randolph Oduber (Netherlands), Jimmy Van Ostrand (Canada), Adrian Nieto (Spain) and Matt Torra (Italy) for their contributions for their respective WBC teams/countries. I’d say it is fitting that our organization from Nation’s Capital is well represented in this global event.
Two position players that warrant special notice are a new-look Danny Espinosa (.345 batting average) and Anthony Rendon (.296, three doubles, three home runs). Judging by their Grapefruit League performances, I feel confident that both will enjoy productive seasons.
Last week, I was pleased to be able to share dinner with Astros manager Bo Porter. We are so proud of Bo. Honestly, he was made for this job.
As Bo explained, they are in the midst of implementing a new culture there. His club will face some challenges, not the least of which include Houston’s move to the American League and stiff AL West competition from the A’s, Angels, Mariners and Rangers. I wish Bo and his Astros nothing but the best.
Of course, Bo’s departure created a well-deserved opportunity for first base coach/outfield instructor Tony Tarasco in D.C. Tony’s transition has been seamless as he has preexisting relationships with all of our homegrown players from his days as our outfield/baserunning coordinator. I know he is also thrilled to reunite with Davey, for whom he played for in Baltimore.
As always, I have enjoyed the interaction with fans down here at Space Coast Stadium. For so many reasons, there is genuine optimism in the air among our fan base. And the sheer number of our fans down here is up compared to previous springs. I think this bodes well for a busy and boisterous ’13 campaign at Nationals Park.
Speaking of which, with Opening Day just three weeks away, reports are that everything at Nationals Park is rounding into proper shape. Our dedicated staff is putting the finishing touches on various projects and polishing up the place. Everything will be ready for our final exhibition game on Friday, March 29 against the New York Yankees. The cherry blossoms may even be in bloom in left field.
Until we blog again …
Well, I am on the ground for my seventh spring in Viera, where last week’s cold snap is now a distant memory and sunny and 70+ is the norm. Welcome to Spring Training 2013!
This is the place to be if you are a Nationals fan. I hope that over the next few weeks, I can share some of the sights, sounds and vibe from our camp. If I had to sum up Camp Davey 2013, it would be “professional, but very comfortable.”
And this is the place to be if you are a member of the baseball media. In speaking to our Media Relations folks, they assure me that this team is now officially on the radar. There is not a national baseball writer worth his salt that won’t find our club at some point this spring. MLB Network, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and Fox are all writing about us, not to mention the increased coverage from nationals.com, the Washington Post and The Washington Times. They’ll all find their way to Space Coast Stadium, perhaps even for multiple visits. This has never been the case, even with gradually rising expectations entering last season.
By the way…how about Bryce Harper’s Sports Illustrated cover story last week!?
So, enjoy the extra coverage. Hopefully it helps all of our fans up north escape the cold winter mentally, even if only for a few minutes every day. Thankfully, the exhibition game against the Yankees on Friday, March 29 at Nationals Park and Opening Day on April 1 are just around the corner.
As everyone knows, this is Davey Johnson’s final camp at the helm. He set quite a tone this offseason with his declaration of “World Series or bust.” Has anyone ever carried such overt confidence with the ease that Davey does? That is Davey in a nutshell: he’s unique. How about last year? Remember when he said (paraphrasing) “they should fire me if we don’t make the playoffs?” He and Mike Rizzo obviously knew something about that club earlier than everyone else. It was quite a season.
- Congratulations to Ross Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez, who will represent us on Team USA, and Roger Bernadina who will represent the Netherlands in next month’s World Baseball Classic. What a fantastic honor for them and for our ballclub. Team USA’s pitching staff will feature two of our finest. I suppose this is when nationalism meets NATITUDE?
- Best of luck to our friend Joe Torre, who will manage Team USA in the WBC. From my seat, the WBC gets bigger and better every go around.
- My favorite sight of the young spring was Wilson Ramos in a crouch, catching multiple bullpens. Wilson’s spirits are so much higher right now than they were last summer. And for good reason. He is currently in a good place both mentally and physically.
- Speaking of catchers, I was talking to seven-time Gold Glover Bob Boone and he swears that he has never seen a catching corps with as much depth as ours this spring. Our fourth and fifth catchers will be better than some club’s backup catchers when Opening Day hits. Perhaps even a few front-line backstops. And consider, we have traded away a pair of highly thought of catchers in the last 15 months or so in Derek Norris and David Freitas.
- We are still waiting for his Grapefruit League debut, but Dan Haren has lived up to his billing so far. Davey told me that Dan’s initial bullpens were something to behold. He was painting the corners. It will be a shock if he walks more than two batters in any game.
- Lots of media talk about how 23 of the 25 spots on the Opening Day roster are accounted for. I am not sure this is the case, but let’s not forget that injuries hit and hinder baseball more than any other sport. I just looked this up, but last year’s NL East champs used 43 players. We won the division by 4.0 games (over the Braves) and claimed the best record in baseball by 1.0 game (over the Reds). Think we win the NL East without the contributions of Bryce Harper, Tyler Moore, Sandy Leon, Jhonatan Solano or Christian Garcia? It would have been extremely difficult, considering none of the aforementioned players were on the Opening Day roster.
- Who is going to make lasting first impressions this year? Anthony Rendon sure is off to a hot start. Matt Skole, Nathan Karns and Eury Perez look great also. It is early, but we have a lot of great young talent around here.
Until we blog again…