- The Washington Times - Monday, April 24, 2006

Waiting.

Waiting.

And waiting some more.

That seems to be the Washington Nationals’ fate on several fronts these days.

Waiting to learn who their new owner(s) will be.

Waiting to discover whether president Tony Tavares, general manager Jim Bowden and manager Frank Robinson will be retained after the club is sold.

Waiting to find out if Bowden will be singing that old Johnny Cash song, “I Got Stripes,” following his DUI misadventure last week in Florida.

And waiting just to play ball, as they did during a pregame rain delay of 2 hours, 18 minutes Friday night and before Saturday night’s game was postponed beforehand. In fact, the Nats probably were astounded when last night’s nationally televised tussle with the Atlanta Braves started on time despite ominous weather forecasts earlier in the day.

And then there’s John Patterson, the incredibly talented right-hander who is waiting for good fortune to smile on him — or even nod. The way things are going, he might keep waiting for a very long time. Obviously, Somebody Up There (or Down There) has it in for Patterson.

This guy is the unluckiest ballplayer you ever saw, assuming anybody making $450,000 a season for playing a game can be considered unlucky. Game after game, this season and last, he has pitched superbly without collecting wins that should have been automatic. It’s enough to make grown men weep, especially those charged with advancing the cause of Washington’s first major league baseball franchise since Richard Nixon was in full flower hereabouts.

Numbers, you want numbers? In 2005, Patterson started 31 games, allowed just 172 hits in 1981/3 innings, struck out nearly a batter per inning and hung up a glittering 3.13 ERA.

And won just nine — count ‘em, nine — games, with a whopping 15 no-decisions because his teammates left their bats in the belfry, or somewhere, whenever he worked.

Surely, tomorrow, meaning 2006, would be better.

Forget it.

So far this month, Patterson has started four games, allowed 17 hits in 252/3 innings, struck out more than a batter an inning and pitched to a decent ERA of 3.86.

And won one game.

That victory came April 15 — and almost didn’t. After Patterson allowed three hits and struck out 13 Florida Marlins over eight innings, closer Chad Cordero nearly blew it in the ninth before sub second sacker Brendan Harris made a leaping catch of a line drive with two on to save it.

Against the Braves on Friday night, Patterson was just as brilliant. He had a shutout going for seven innings before leaving in the eighth with a 3-2 lead, and reliever Mike Stanton promptly allowed the tying run to score. The Nationals eventually won but, of course, Patterson didn’t.

Patterson reminds a lot of people of Jim Palmer, the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer. Same lanky build. Same scorching fastball. Same total command. Even the same uniform number: 22.

There is, however, one significant difference. Palmer won 268 games; Patterson has won 17. Sometimes there just ain’t no justice.

“Sure, I feel [bad] for him,” said catcher Brian Schneider, who literally is in a better position than anyone else to appreciate Patterson. “But the way he’s pitched, it hasn’t gone unnoticed. And he’s not the kind of guy to harp on not getting W’s.”

Really?

“My job is to give my team a chance to win, and I think I’ve done that,” said Patterson, obviously a master of understatement. “If I’m going to do my job, I can’t afford to get frustrated.”

Not ever?

“Well, last August, things started to pile up a little. I had to sit down, talk to myself a little and get my focus back. I’ve got confidence in myself and the team behind me, so I think I’ve got a chance to win every time I pitch.”

But not, so far, a good chance. For John Patterson’s sake, and ours, we can only hope the law of averages is alive and well.

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