- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 3, 2005

Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson is setting his sights high as the Nats open the 2005 season this afternoon in Philadelphia. “I think this club is capable of winning at least 90 games,” he told The Washington Times. That’s a week’s worth more victories than the 83 wins the Expos notched in both 2003 and 2004, back when the division wasn’t so stocked with talent. To which we say: That’s the spirit, Frank. Play ball.

We wouldn’t have it any other way. After decades without a club, Washington won a hard-fought battle to beat out Portland, Ore., Las Vegas and other suitors — not to mention the best efforts of Peter Angelos to strangle the new club in its crib. We have rising stars like Brad Wilkerson and established vets in Jose Vidro, Esteban Loaiza and others. The pitching promises to be an adventure, with a mostly untested rotation and injuries to Tony Armas, Jr., among others. We still don’t have a leadoff hitter. But with the Nationals set to become one of the largest revenue-getters in the National League almost immediately, we’re optimistic that the team is here to stay. It certainly improves on what Washington endured the last 33 seasons without a ballclub.

Today’s game is virtually certain to go more smoothly than the Washington Senators’ final game at RFK Stadium on September 30, 1971. On that day, the Senators snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when a horde of riotous fans rushed the field and caused the game to end in forfeit.

The legendary Ted Williams had managed the Senators within an out of victory over the New York Yankees, who they led 7-5 in the ninth inning with two outs. A rousing finish it would have been: Earlier in the game, the crowd of 14,460 witnessed Senators’ slugger Frank Howard’s final home run at RFK. The Senators had rallied from a 5-3 deficit in the eighth with four runs in the bottom of the inning.

It wasn’t to be. Several hundred fans stormed onto the field to grab souvenirs and create havoc. The Nats were forced to forfeit the game — which went into the record books as a 9-0 loss. It marked a distasteful end to the Senators’ 71 years as Washington’s baseball team.

Today’s contest against the Phillies starts the whole business over again. We can also be reasonably confident that whoever ends up owning the team will be a marked improvement over the man who took the Senators to Texas: Bob Short.

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