- The Washington Times - Monday, August 20, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Baseball, being as unpredictable as summer rain or Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Washington Nationals have won 55 and lost 69 through three quarters of the 2007 season. This qualifies the Nats for last place in the N.L. East, but only barely. Manager Manny Acta’s squad still has a chance to overtake the fourth-place Florida Marlins. This gives the Nats a certain respectable mediocrity, and that’s a pleasant surprise.

We must dine now on a serving and a half of crow. Back in April, we were quite glum about the Nats’ prospects. “Traditional league doormat” was our prediction, “a year of bloopers and goofs.” We cited an abysmal pitching rotation and a series of lineup question marks. Now it’s mid-August, and things are not nearly as bad as we feared they would be. Four National League teams and five American League clubs have worse records than the Nationals, who have shown heart and grit. In particular, we’ll take back this line from our editorial “Opening Day at RFK”: “[I]t’s also possible that injured first baseman Nick Johnson’s replacement, Dmitri Young, can overcome personal troubles and a diabetes diagnosis in a bid for Comeback Player of the Year. Don’t count on any of it, though.”

Actually, Mr. Young’s comeback is the season’s National League feel-good story. This man is a role model for people everywhere facing health problems, and for those struggling with drug abuse and depression. Mr. Young will be a shoo-in for Comeback Player of the Year.

The rest of the team furnished its own surprises. Second baseman Ronnie Belliard has returned to All-Star form. Rookie starter Matt Chico has shown heart and will only improve. Tim Redding has pitched well of late. Shortstop Cristian Guzman was headed for success until a season-ending injury. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman at times inspires, almost, comparisons to Brooks Robinson.

In short, these are hardly the “Bad News Nats.”

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