Like many Americans, I seem to be an “instant gratification” kind of person. I didn’t realize I was – I liked to think that I was a “hard work pays off in the long run”-type of person, but the older I get, the more impatient I get. This is why the Washington Nationals’ recent offensive struggles are getting on my nerves.
In their last three Spring Training games, the Nationals have been shut out twice. They've scored more than three runs in a game only once in their last six tries, are hitting .249 as a team, and have only scored 69 runs so far, which is fourth-worst in the Majors. Not pretty numbers, by any means!
Some fans think it’s OK, because you don’t want your team peaking too soon. Others like to remind us that it’s only March – there’s still a LOT of baseball to be played. And to quote the Nationals’ color analyst FP Santangelo, “They don’t put your Spring Training stats in the back of a baseball card.” But still, after years of watching our Nationals sitting at the bottom of the league in offensive production, we’re getting tired of it.
The team is also dealing with injuries to Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche, and it’s uncertain whether either one of them will be in the starting lineup once the regular season starts. Morse injured part of his lat muscle, which once it’s healed, might affect his swing for months to come. And LaRoche? He was out most of last season with a torn labrum in his shoulder and is now nursing a sprained ankle or something. He’s apparently very delicate.
On the bright side (I’m also a glass-half-full kind of gal), manager Davey Johnson has been able to play around with his lineup, something he wouldn’t normally do during a regular-season game. He has started lefties against lefties, has left many of his veteran players behind when traveling for an away game, and he has given a lot of playing time to guys who will have to be sent down to the Minors before the regular season begins.
And as far as pitching, even the hurlers have been trying out different pitches during games, trying to get their speed up to where it should be, finding their strike zones again, and working on their pickoff moves. Let’s just hope they have it all figured out by the first week in April!
So is it time to get rid of Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein? He’s been the team’s hitting coach since September of 2008, and if you ask me, it’s time to let him go. I know a guy who would fill in very nicely and is currently unemployed – future Hall of Famer Iván “Pudge” Rodriguez. He may actually help Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa get on base, and he wouldn’t be bad to look at! But seriously – Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo has made plenty of excuses for Eckstein, and I think it’s time for a new approach.
So Opening Day is less than two weeks away – I guess I need to take the remaining Spring Training games with a grain of salt and hope that Davey Johnson can put together a starting lineup that can score some runs. The hard work will hopefully pay off – no sense in expecting instant gratification when there will be 162 games to play!