Monday, August 4, 2008

Corner-Turning Weekend, Part I

Nice little weekend, though the week ended badly enough, with Ryan Zimmerman taking another injury and the Post gracefully declaring the season had plunged to “unrecoverable depths”. There was also that little bit earlier in the day about a couple of maligned Nats named Lo Duca and Lopez finally being given the boot. Seemed the team was completely imploding, ready to sit down, lose their 100+ games and mail it in for the next couple of months. Not quite.

New blood in the form of Emilio Bonifacio and Alberto Gonzalez, plus sort-of new blood in the form of an (at least temporarily) healthy Elijah Dukes gave the team basically a new image overnight (Nationals Journal even quoted one anonymous player saying it was like being dealt to a different team the atmosphere was so rejuvenated). The now-youngest team in the Majors (finally, numerically certifiable evidence of a true youth movement) responded with an authoritative sweep of the Reds. Newbee Gonzalez chipped in mostly with his bat, Bonifacio mostly with his ridiculous glove.

Before poo-pooing such a sweep with rancid “evidence” that the Reds stink, so the Nats “should” be able to beat them (didn’t this exact sort of thing set Manny off last year?), consider that the Nats sweeping anyone has been a rare occurrence, and that a team so laden with newcomers and injury-fillers, one so derided as a “non-Major-league team”, one so lampooned by hacks, should be allowed celebration at this accomplishment, regardless of the opponent. So let’s celebrate. Let’s also look at some encouraging numbers helped along by a three-game winning streak.

The Nats now need only to win 23 of their last 51 games to avoid triple-digit loss indignity. It might seem a small feat, but given the well-publicized long-term injuries to all nine opening day starters We do include C. Guzman in that category, since he’s not yet fully back despite being “day to day” from the beginning of his injury stint. Let’s just be glad he hasn’t taken the 2008 Nats’ progression from day-to-day to 15-day to out-for-season. Staying below 100 might also just be enough to keep the hungry dog critics and expert analysts at bay. You know, the ones still burned from last year’s lack of 121 losses and hoping for something a little closer to that from this year’s Nats to redeem their lack of foresight. This weekend must have been crushing for such embracers of the negative.

So, two corners turned for the Nats this weekend. First, the long-term corner with the true move to youth and the release of never-panned-out Lopez and Lo Duca. This also means an extra $10 million for the team next year. Perhaps it’s a foreshadowing of some sort of Ted-Leonsis-like release of team money this coming offseason. Second, we see a shorter-term turn within this single season. With a younger, more enthusiastic lineup to compliment the young, enthusiastic manager, days of nine-game non-winning streaks could be behind us. The landmark of .500 may be but a dream this year, but something approaching last season’s late summer/early fall respectability can yet be achieved.

More later on the Redskins and their fine weekend.

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