Nationals Review

Monday, June 06, 2005

Bang! Zoom! How 'Bout Those Nats!

I don't know if I can take these one-run wins anymore. Tonight, the Nats win yet again, 2-1 over Oakland, with my favorite Nat Nick Johnson driving in all the runs and showing off his glove again. I haven't followed or been as passionate about a team since the 1997 Orioles. Ever since Armando Benitez choked up an AL championship against the Tribe, I've followed the O's with their mindless management and enjoyed the progress that Moneyball-style teams, like the A's and Red Sox have made.

But now I'm really into the Nationals: their players, the city, the battle for first place. I've long been a cynic, but it's been thrilling following the Nats in their inaugural season. I always argued they were the ultimate Moneyball-type team: lots of solid, underrated players that get little attention. The team was universally picked in the cellar by nearly all the pundits; I had them around .500. When Linda Cropp almost scuttled the deal moving the Expos to Washington, I had many sleepless nights anxiously awaiting the resolution. And when ESPN profiled me as the Ultimate Nats fan, the evolution from critic to fan was complete.

Now I'm as anxious as ever as the Nats try to hold onto their notorious one-run leads. They did it last night against the A's. There's more of this to come, I'm sure.

Other Nats notes:

-- So, Patch can hit the lefties, eh? In only 18 at-bats, Church has hit lefties just swell: a .276 average and .444 slugging average. And the only reason he came to the plate against lefty Matt Perisho on Sunday is there was no one left on the bench. If his game-winning three-run blast wasn't enough to convince Frank he's an everyday player, I don't think anything will. Of course, he was benched again Tuesday, but at least Marlon Byrd is a fine replacement.

-- The 12-year-old "Alex the Phenom" on AOL Sports Bloggers radio show might be an enthusiastic guest, but he's no phenom and he still has a lot to learn. I can empathize: when I was 14 in the early days of the Internet, I once penned a letter to Orioles GM Pat Gillick after he signed Luis "She Looked 18" Polonia, an overrated hitter. For my age, I was a decent writer but my letter was nasty, unprofessional and I'm sure Gillick wouldn't even have glanced at it. It was full of snarky lines about how smart I was and how "idiotic" he was for signing guys like Ozzie Guillen and Joe Carter. I sent it out to one of those Orioles e-mail lists, and a few gave the standard, "Wow, that's impressive for a 14-year-old!" But the few wise members of the message board knew the letter was inappropriately written and immature.

Alex still has a lot to learn, and the sooner he realizes it, the better off he'll be. (And there, that's the cynic in me!)

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