One good thing about not getting paid to write a blog is that I don’t feel obligated to look at the world through rose-colored glasses. For analysts and reporters who are assigned to the Washington Nationals, they have to side with the team. When the team plays poorly, they write things like “We need to put this series behind us” and “That 15-0 game is in the past – let’s focus on the next series and the potential that this team has.” In my case, since writing about the Nationals is not my “bread and butter,” I can honestly and sincerely say that the Nationals stunk during their series against the Cincinnati Reds.
There is no sugarcoating it, no trying to sound optimistic, no “glass half full” way of looking at it. The Nationals were outscored 27-10 in the three games, were outhit 43-23, and made six errors (the Reds made none). And the superpower bullpen that had an ERA of .000 during the first 3 games? The relief pitchers allowed 12 earned runs. Yes, there was Saturday’s game with the five home runs, but overall they played terrible.
What do the Nationals need to do to improve? Here are a few suggestions:
· Bryce Harper needs to learn how to hit the cutoff man when throwing from left field. I know the kid has a new position to learn, but now is not the time to experiment with how far (and how accurately) he can throw to home plate. He’s doing OK offensively, but he has some growing up to do in the outfield.
· Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche need to start hitting. Zimmerman has been stellar at third base so far – it looks like he has fully recovered from his off-season shoulder surgery and is back to his Gold Glove ways. But come on, man; get a hit or two once in a while! And LaRoche? He has hit the ball pretty hard in the 4 games in which he has played, but not hard enough to account for a hit.
· Ian Desmond needs to have an eye exam and figure out why he has committed 4 errors so far this season. He showed tremendous improvement at shortstop last season; let’s hope he’s not regressing .
· The Nationals need a new hitting coach – one who can tell his players not to swing at the first pitch every time they’re at the plate. I swear there’s going to be a day when some pitcher out there is going to throw a 27-pitch perfect game against the Nationals. I’ve never been a fan of Rick Eckstein; I can name a whole list of guys who would be better at his job than him.
The Nationals open a series at home on Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox (now that interleague play happens all season long). The White Sox have committed as many errors as the Nationals so far this year, so it will be interesting to see how each team does defensively. Then the true test of how good the Nationals are will start when they host the Atlanta Braves over the weekend. Let’s hope the Nationals get their acts together and figure out how to play some good baseball before the Upton brothers come to town. It should definitely be an interesting series to watch.
On a positive note (yes, I had to say something nice before ending today’s post), my family and I went to Nationals Park last Thursday and had a great time. Despite having been to Nats Park five times last season with my husband, it was nice (and expensive!) taking the kids (ages 8 and 12). We had great seats, we got there early enough to watch batting practice, we had our picture taken with William Taft and Thomas Jefferson, and the Nationals won. And I have to mention the singing of the National Anthem on that day - it was sung by a 17-year-old boy from Duke Ellington High School for the Arts and it was one of the most beautiful renditions I've ever heard. So if you haven't been to Nationals' Park yet, I strongly encourage to you go. Park across the Navy Yard for $10 or take the green line Metro; regardless of how the team does, you are guaranteed to have a pretty fun time (as long as you can ignore the sudden increase of teenage girls with Harper jerseys that seem to be flooding the park this year. Guess what, honey? He's not going to marry you nor is he going to take you to prom - he's a Mormon and probably already has a wife in mind!).